OSU basketball: Cowboys clinging to NCAA Tournament life

ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Stillwater as Oklahoma State takes on Kansas at 8 p.m.
by John Helsley Published: February 28, 2014

STILLWATER – The Cowboys claim NCAA Tournament life yet.

The pulse might be faint, even leaning toward life support, yet it is detectable.

And the Big 12 champion Kansas Jayhawks offer a cure.

A miracle cure?

Perhaps, based on simple perception. Still, inside an energized Gallagher-Iba Arena, with ESPN’s College GameDay on hand and Oklahoma State again playing basketball with confidence and sensing a season-saving opportunity, heartbeats are quickening.

“It’s real important for us,” said Cowboys guard Marcus Smart. “It’s a game we really need to win for our basketball program. It’s going to be a good game, from both teams. Kansas is a great team, obviously, they clinched a (share) of the Big 12. So they’re going try to come in and win it outright right here.

“And we’re going to try and stop them.”

Big-game drama always accompanies Kansas. And so it is again, as the Jayhawks arrive at No. 5 in the rankings, 22-6 overall and already owning at least a piece of their 10th straight Big 12 title.

And for the Cowboys, the bigness extends beyond that, because of the NCAA Tournament implications.

In a season that has spun sideways at times, due to injury and dismissal and suspension, OSU sits 18-10, but just 6-9 with three games to play. They host KU Saturday at 8 p.m., stay home to face Kansas State on Monday, then finish the regular season next Saturday at No. 15 Iowa State.

Most analysts currently project the Cowboys as a tournament team, albeit as a bubble squad.

“I’ve got them in a play-in game, so these last three games are going to be pretty important,” said CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm. “The nice thing about being in the Big 12 is you have opportunities to really improve your profile, because you’re playing good teams all the time.

“All three of those games are a chance to make a statement that they’re a tournament-quality team. They’re 3-9 against the (RPI) top 50. That’s not a good number.”

The Big 12 Tournament champion receives the conference’s automatic bid, but from where the Cowboys will finish, that requires a four-game run to the title. So the best bet is to pad the resume with what’s left of the regular season.

“If they could win two of three,” Palm said, “that would be big for them.”

And beating Kansas, No. 1 in the RPI, would be big, on many fronts.

“It’s very important,” said OSU senior Markel Brown. “It’s a great time to have it – big stage, College GameDay...it’ll be a big win for us. If we get this win, we could possibly be locked into the Tournament. And it would be a great win for us as a team moving forward.”

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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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