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Oklahoma State's Phil Forte the 'x factor' in OSU's Tournament run

Oklahoman Modified: March 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm •  Published: March 18, 2013

We think alike in this matter. Had the Cowboys won that game, another grinding, emotional matchup with KU would have only wore on this team more. Ford is playing eight or nine guys, but he really leans on seven. And he can't afford to have Smart on the sideline very long. And Smart is perhaps showing the wear as much as anyone. Following his high school season, he went on to the McDonald's AA game, then joined Team USA in Brazil, then joined the Cowboys in time for their added exhibition trip to Spain ... And as we all know, he plays hard every second. I think the extra days off were much needed.

What is needed for OSU to be considered a serious national championship threat?

This year, knocking off Louisville. But should Marcus Smart decide to come back — and don't count it out — the Cowboys would enter next season as the Big 12 favorite and a legit Final Four contender. Maybe that’s reason FOR him to return.

While Cobbins may be the "X-Factor," I believe our tournament hopes are tied to Le'Bryan Nash. He needs to be a dominant force and can't disappear.

Solid analysis. Nash definitely has the ability to be a gamechanger for OSU. We saw it again in the Big 12 Tournament against Baylor. He has played more consistently of late. And going against teams that don't know him and his tendencies as well, that could help.

Who are your picks for the Final Four?

I honestly haven't even studied the bracket in depth yet. But my quick glance picks: Duke, Gonzaga, Miami, Florida.

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What was the cause for OSU's lack of offensive execution at the Big XII tourney starting in the 2nd half against Baylor? The ball movement was horrendous and we played too much one on one in my opinion.

As mentioned above, I think they may have run out of gas. The K-State coaches said they noticed fatigue as a factor for sure, starting with that second half against Baylor.

How would you grade Travis Ford as an in-game coach? His game plans, adjustments, etc.

Not sure I'm fully qualified for such a thing, but the people I talk to say he's more than solid as an Xs and Os coach. Remember, he's dealing with mostly sophomores and freshmen, guys who are not yet fully developed, so it doesn't always look smooth. But there have been many games were an adjustment flipped a game in OSU's favor. Another thing, his teams have frequently gotten better as seasons progress. Happened again this year.

Marcus Smart's future at OSU is a hot topic, as you have mentioned. Do you feel there is a better chance for his return if OSU is a one or two and done in the tourney or if they make a deeper run? A deep run to the Elite 8 or Final Four may make him feel he accomplished his goals at Stillwater whereas a short stay may influence him to stay in order to take care of unfinished business.

This is an interesting topic, because most players don't stick around. But as I've said, Marcus is different. He's not focused solely on the cash. And I do know that he's having fun, playing with his best friend and teammate since the third grade (Forte), and valuing friendships on the team. It's an interesting decision: Go for it all next season, or go to the NBA. May not be a wrong answer.

Will the OSU men or women go further in their respective tournaments?

Tough question. I'm going with the men, because over the course of the last month and a half, they've been more consistent. The women are so up and down. Still, the Cowgirls have the talent to do damage, so wouldn't be surprised if they go deep.

Any ideas on where the OSU women are likely to go? I think the bracketology I've been reading has been a 6 vs. Gonzaga in Spokane. Any chance they come closer to home?

I think there's a chance they go to College Station, which would be a positive with their familiarity in that arena. It's really a crapshoot, however.

How about an update from spring practices for football? Any good water cooler info out there?

It's still pretty early, with limited practices so far. And now it's Spring Break, so we're taking a break from the action. The QB competition is going to be fascinating. Chelf enters No. 1, but the other guys will get their chance. There are some great position battles, too: DE, SS, CB.

by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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