Last week at this time, Oklahoma State stood flimsily on the NCAA Tournament bubble, seriously needing wins.
Now a week later – with statement’s made against Kansas and Kansas State – college basketball’s bracketologists like the Cowboys’ status much better.
Several analysts have OSU up to a No. 9 seed, putting it essentially into a tossup opener against a No. 8.
And there’s opportunity for more upward movement, including Saturday’s trip to No. 16 Iowa State, and games next week at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.
The win over then-No. 5 KU made the loudest statement.
“It’s big for them,” CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm said on his weekly podcast. “It’s obvious a huge win in terms of quality. It shows the committee that maybe this is a different team with (Marcus Smart) back now. They’ve started to put that seven-game losing streak in the rearview mirror a little bit.
“It was really a big feather in their cap.”
While the Cowboys said they feel better about their postseason hopes, they also said they must push to finish strong.
“We need to continue to play well,” said coach Travis Ford. “We can’t exhale now. I think we’re in good shape. If you blindly put any resume against ours, I think we’re in pretty good shape.
“We don’t need to relax. We need to play well and keep it rolling through the Big 12 Tournament.”
FORTE FIRES, AGAIN
Guard Phil Forte didn’t get free often against Kansas, finishing with two points on 1-of-6 shooting, including an 0-for-4 effort from the arc.
Against Kansas State, the Cowboys got Forte better looks. And he too advantage, finishing with a game-high 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting with six 3-pointers.
“This is how it goes sometimes,” Forte said. “The team did a good job of getting me good looks. And as a shooter, you just have to be ready, because you never know when you have to knock them down. And that just happened to be one of those games.”
Forte has now scored 20 or more points four of OSU’s last five games.
“His 3s stretch things out a little bit, and they energize us,” Ford said. “He hit big 3s.”
Marcus Smart on his final game in Gallagher-Iba Arena Monday night:
“It was amazing playing in front of this crowd. I got to play with some wonderful guys. Markel (Brown) is one of the most athletic guys I’ve ever gotten to play with. I’ve been playing with Phil since I was in third grade and I got to play with him throughout my college career. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
With his six 3-pointers against K-State, Forte now has 88 treys this season, tying for the fifth-most in a season in OSU history. He tied Obi Muonelo (2008-09) and JamesOn Curry (2006-07).
Brown’s five assists against the Wildcats put him at 299 for his career and move him past Sean Sutton into 15th place on the all-time OSU list.
Over its last four games, OSU is 80-of-98 (81.6 percent) from the foul line.