John Klein: Victory at KU makes Cowboys a team to watch
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, February 04, 2013
2/04/13 at 12:17 PM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Suddenly, O-State is a player
Oklahoma State went to two Final Fours, three Elite Eights and six Sweet 16s with Eddie Sutton as coach.
None of those teams won at Kansas.
In fact, the 1995 Final Four team closed the regular season with a 16-point loss at Kansas.
Thus, no one should underestimate the significance of Oklahoma State's victory at Kansas on Saturday.
No, it is not the greatest victory in OSU basketball history. The Cowboys have won two national championships and been to six Final Fours.
OSU has a terrific basketball history.
However, it is not a stretch to call it the biggest road upset in school history.
Putting the historical significance aside, the victory was important because of what it means for the current Cowboys.
The 85-80 victory at KU, punctuated by Marcus Smart's midcourt celebration flip, was huge because it reaffirms what many believe about the Cowboys - they are potentially a serious player in March.
"This is just a start for us," said Smart.
Perhaps no other team in the nation has two better victories away from home than OSU has this year.
The Cowboys have won at Kansas and beat North Carolina State on a neutral floor.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee puts more emphasis on road or neutral court victories than any other factor.
It also continues to give OSU reason to believe this could be a special team.
"We're still starving for more," said OSU's Le'Bryan Nash.
During the last 10 minutes of a victory over Iowa State and the 40 minutes at Kansas, the Cowboys played as well as any team in the country.
"They were better than us," said KU coach Bill Self.
Smart was as good as any player in the country.
"A man against boys," said Self.
OSU's Final Four team in 2004, with a similar makeup of new players and terrific perimeter players, had a similar awakening. The Cowboys were winning but somewhat floundering when they went to Kansas State, rallied out of a huge hole to a 1-point victory, and took off from that point.
O-State was a different team in 2004 after that victory at Kansas State.
One wonders if the victory over Kansas will have a similar effect on these Cowboys.
The Cowboys have marvelous players capable of fabulous offensive nights, who have shown a knack for playing at their best against the best.
Smart has gone from an All-Big 12 player to serious national player-of-the-year consideration in recent weeks. It was reported some NBA scouts now have Smart ranked among the top five in college basketball.
It is true. His play against the Jayhawks was pretty much off the charts for excellence.
Markel Brown, who was dominating against Kansas, has moved onto the NBA radar. Phil Forte is a deadly shooter and smart player who makes game-changing plays. Le'Bryan Nash can be a superstar on any given night.
This is a very good team. Sometimes.
The reason for much of the grumbling about coach Travis Ford has been OSU's erratic play. The Cowboys have not played consistently at the high level they did in the second half against West Virginia, final 10 minutes against Iowa State and the full 40 minutes at Kansas.
The victory at Kansas was more about the Cowboys than it was the Jayhawks. This was about confidence, consistency and momentum.
"It is one of the greatest environments in college basketball against a great basketball team," said Ford.
Kansas has terrific players and Self, who will use the loss to OSU as a teachable moment and ready KU for another long run in the NCAAs.
It will be interesting to see how OSU reacts.
The victory at Kansas will raise the expectations for these Cowboys. It should.
As has been proven in recent years, especially since the one-and-done rule became the law with the NBA, having freshmen play key roles is no hindrance to success.
In fact, if anything, Kentucky, Memphis, Kansas and others have flourished with freshmen in key roles.
Thus, there is no drawback to having Smart and Forte, high school teammates just a year ago, be the leaders on a team that is very capable.
This is OSU's best team since 2005, when the Cowboys had three future NBA players on a team that spent much of the year ranked in the top 10 before losing in the Sweet 16 to Arizona.
How far the Cowboys can climb in the final month of the season, and what they are capable of doing in March, should make OSU one of the teams to watch down the stretch of this college basketball season.
Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown blocks a shot by Kansas forward Perry Ellis during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday. ORLIN Wagner / AP Photo