Already scuffling to form an identity, the Cowboys face a revealing stretch of games — five of six away from home — before Big 12 play opens on Jan. 4:
Wednesday: at Missouri State (4-2). The Bears won 26 games a year ago, finishing atop the Missouri Valley regular season standings, before a conference tournament upset cost them an NCAA bid. Only one starter returns, although it's a good one — conference Player of the Year Kyle Weems.
Saturday: vs. No. 15 Pitt (8-1), at Madison Square Garden. The Panthers' only loss came to No. 3 Syracuse. Senior guard Ashton Gibbs is an All-American candidate on a team that reloaded following a Big East championship run that landed it a No. 1 NCAA seed. Khem Birch, a 6-9 freshman forward, was rated the nation's No. 2 recruit.
Dec. 17: vs. New Mexico (6-2), Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Lobos, picked to win the Mountain West with four starters returning from a 22-13 squad, have been up and down so far. Still, they do own a neutral floor win over Boston College and a win at Arizona State, along with a home victory over Missouri State.
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