As the Cowboys begin peering ahead to next season — and their fans are already doing so — one key issue will remain.
Who mans the point?
Keiton Page will be gone. And while Markel Brown has provided some positives as a part-time point guard, it's not his natural position, nor a spot that fully utilizes his skill set.
And it's not a role Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford envisions for Brown.
“I do believe at this time next year Markel will be averaging a whole lot more points,” Ford said. “Markel will take up some of the scoring for Keiton. Markel can do it.”
Just not so comfortably at the point.
Re-enter Cezar Guerrero.
Or maybe incoming recruit Marcus Smart, whom Cowboys coaches are increasingly beginning to believe can handle the point.
Or perhaps a mystery candidate, such as Fabyon Harris, who is currently leading one of the nation's top junior college programs at the College of Southern Idaho.
The Cowboys seem to have projectable pieces for a rebound in 2012-13.
But do they have a playmaking piece?
It's an ongoing question, one that has been problematic since Byron Eaton's senior year and Ford's first season ended in 2009. Since then, the Cowboys have used no fewer than six point guards in the three seasons: Ray Penn, Fred Gulley, Reger Dowell, Page, Brown and Guerrero.
Lately, Guerrero seems to be restating his candidacy for the job, showing that he's finally understanding what Ford wants in his point guards — passing and playmaking over scoring.
“We've been happy with C.J. the past couple of weeks,” said Ford. “He's done better. He's turning in positive minutes.”
Guerrero set a high bar of expectations with his 29-point outburst against Texas-San Antonio, spinning a sure defeat into a wild rallying win. But he never again approached that, instead seeing his playing time shrink as he struggled to grasp Ford's preferences at the point. Guerrero regularly played with a carelessness that Ford couldn't stomach.
Beyond the spotlight, however, Guerrero has been working and adapting in practices. And it's paying off in the form of an increased role.
Guerrero's minutes have been on the rise over the past six games. He's shooting — and most importantly looking to shoot — less, with more of an emphasis on facilitating the offense.
That showed against Kansas, when Guerrero actually turned down shots and pleased Ford with his attention to details.
“Little things, from rotations (off screens) to toughness,” Ford said. “He made his mistakes, but he did a lot of the little things. It wasn't just about, ‘Oh, he made a shot.' Or a fancy pass. It was a lot of other things he used to not do that he's starting to do.”
Guerrero played a Big 12-high 34 minutes Saturday at Kansas State, partly out of necessity with Philip Jurick lost to a torn Achilles. He also scored more, also out of necessity, getting 15 points while making 6 of 11 shots. He also contributed five assists and three steals, although four turnovers tempered the overall outlook.
It's still a work in progress for Guerrero, but then, he's a true freshman still very much in transition after arriving as an elite high school scorer in Los Angeles.