Campus Corner

Cowboys charging hard in Big 12

Double Bonus | Weekly look at Big 12, SEC hoops

Updated: 2013-02-12T06:26:01Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Oklahoma State is awaking from a bit of a slumber.

When favorite son Eddie Sutton took over the program in 1990, the Cowboys found a second golden age with 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in 15 years, including two Final Fours. It had been the best run since legendary coach Henry Iba won consecutive national titles in the 1940s.

But the past two years had been forgettable, a combined 13-21 record in Big 12 play, and last year’s 18 losses were the most by an Oklahoma State team since 1987.

This year is a different story. The Cowboys take a five-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s game at Texas Tech and their highest rankings of the season, No. 16 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 17 by The Associated Press.

Three weeks ago, Oklahoma State stood 2-3 in league play. The Cowboys haven’t lost since, and the streak includes Kansas’ second home loss in six years.

The team might have been ripe for a letdown after the KU victory. Instead, Oklahoma State played with great energy in an overtime home triumph over Baylor and broke an eight-game losing streak at Texas on Saturday.

“There was a concern,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said Monday during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “Winning at Kansas, you expend so much physical and mental energy. So it was a step in the right direction for our team.”

Freshman guard Marcus Smart, chosen Big 12 rookie of the week on Monday, is charging hard in a bid to become the league’s player of the year. His scoring average is up to 14.6 points, and he remains in the league’s top 15 in assists (sixth at 4.6 per game), steals (first with 3.0 a game) and rebounding (15th at 5.9).

Along with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, the Cowboys have three go-to sources, and Ford his best player through the current run has been forward Michael Cobbins, who recorded the key block in the Baylor victory.

Ford doesn’t want to speculate on the league race, but Oklahoma State has perhaps the most favorable remaining schedule of the Big 12 contenders with Kansas and Kansas State visiting Stillwater and games at Tech, West Virginia and TCU remaining. The Wildcats and Jayhawks each have two road games remaining among the top six, the Cowboys one.

“I’ve told our team, we’re near the top of the league, let’s stay there,” Ford said.

And bid for a first Big 12 championship since 2004 — the last time Kansas didn’t at least share the championship.

Two quotes

• “If you do either (turnovers and bad shots) against Florida, they make you pay.”

| South Carolina coach Frank Martin on Tuesday’s Kentucky-Florida game.

• “They helped us a lot. I’m not sure they could have played a worse game than they played.”

| TCU coach Trent Johnson, reviewing the Horned Frogs’ victory over Kansas.

Double bonus top 10

School (prev. rank) Overall Conf. Last week
1. Florida (1)19-39-11-1
2. Kansas State (3)19-48-22-0
3. Kansas (2)19-47-30-2
4. Oklahoma State (5)17-57-32-0
5. Kentucky (6)17-68-22-0
6. Missouri (4)17-66-41-1
7. Mississippi (7)18-57-31-1
8. Iowa State (9)16-76-41-1
9. Oklahoma (8)15-76-41-1
10. Baylor (10)15-86-41-1

Projected NCAA Tournament top-four seeds

Heading into Monday night’s games

Midwest Region East Region West Region South Region
Indianapolis Washington, D.C. Los Angeles Arlington, Texas
1.Indiana (Dayton, Ohio)Michigan (Auburn Hills, Mich.)Miami, Fla (Lexington, Ky.)Duke (Philadelphia)
2.Arizona (Salt Lake City)Syracuse (Philadelphia)Gonzaga (Salt Lake City)Michigan State (Auburn Hills, Mich.)
3.Butler (Dayton, Ohio)Kansas (Sprint Center)Louisville (Sprint Center)Florida (Lexington, Ky.)
4.Georgetown (San Jose, Calif.)New Mexico (Austin, Texas)Oklahoma State (Austin, Texas)Kansas State (San Jose, Calif.)

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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