OSU basketball: Cowboys' late-game ability could overcome lack of NCAA Tournament experience
STILLWATER – Oklahoma State is back in the NCAA Tournament.
Back where they belong, according to Cowboys captain Markel Brown.
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“It means a lot to this school,” Brown said. “I feel like this is a basketball school and we need to get back to playing the way the Cowboys are used to playing.”
Their play this season has produced a 24-8 record, good for the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region and a first-round pairing with No. 11 Oregon in San Jose on Thursday.
While OSU's been missing from the big bracket the past two years, and much of the past decade played out as a rough patch for the program, OSU stands as a familiar face on college basketball's big stage, with 25 tournament appearances and six Final Fours, which ties for seventh all-time.
These faces, however; this roster of mostly freshmen and sophomores? Not at all familiar.
In fact, none of these Cowboys have played a single tournament second. Only Brown has even played in a postseason, appearing two seasons ago during OSU's brief NIT experience.
So, how will these Cowboys respond in managing the school's return to the spotlight? Can they navigate a run deeper into March, despite such a lack of postseason experience?
Plotting such a course, they do have one proven and valuable asset: late-game toughness.
In wins over Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State, they trailed late or in overtime and found ways to pull through. OSU is 3-1 in overtime games and 7-2 in games decided by two possessions or fewer, with the losses to Gonzaga and KU, each awarded No. 1 seeds this postseason.
That should project as a valuable trait.
“We've won a lot of close games,' said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “We've won games in different fashion – up-tempo, slow-down. We've won on the road. We've won at neutral sites. We've done a little bit of everything.