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Five Reasons Why the Oklahoma State Cowboys Will Win the Midwest Region

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Five Reasons Why the Oklahoma State Cowboys Will Win the Midwest Region

Brendan Maloney - USA TODAY SPORTS

After a short hiatus, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are right back where it seems they’ve always been -- in the mix for a deep run in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. With one of the most talented and athletic teams to play in Stillwater in some time, Travis Ford has all the tools at his disposal to make the 2013 tournament run the school’s most memorable.

I’ll be willing to argue with anyone that the Cowboys trio of National Player of the Year candidate and likely NBA lottery pick Marcus Smart (15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists per game), LeBryan Nash (14.1 points, 4.1 rebounds per game) and Markel Brown (15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds per game) is as talented as any in the country. In almost every single game this season, one of these three gentlemen led the Cowboys in scoring, rebounding, or both with very few exceptions.

Figuring out a way to control this trio will first be the task of Oregon Ducks Head Coach Dana Altman, and presumably Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews, presuming they can hold off a pesky New Mexico State team which has gotten plenty of attention lately with the rise -- no pun intended -- of their 7’5” center Sim Bhullar.

We just don’t see how either Oregon or Saint Louis has the firepower to prevent the Cowboys from reaching the regional semi-final potentially against the Louisville Cardinals that would be one for the ages. Obviously, that’s all conjecture, but one thing is for certain the Cowboys have the right elements to win the Midwest Region, and here are five reasons why.


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Marcus Smart is Talented Enough to Carry Oklahoma State Himself


Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart is truly a freshman phenom -- one that has established himself as one of the country’s best players, not just its best freshmen. Averaging 15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in the regular season, the 6’4”, 225 pound Flower Mound, Texas native, has shown the ability to take over games at the drop of a hat -- possessing a second gear which he seems to just flip when he’s ready to.

This second gear is a hallmark of players that can carry their teams, and Smart certainly falls under this category, given he’s a no-brainer lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and one that NBA scouts will be watching and opposing coaches will be wringing their hands over.

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Marcus Smart Won’t Have to Carry Oklahoma State Himself


The thing is, however, even though Marcus Smart can carry the Cowboys himself, he won’t have to. Markell Brown and LeBryan Nash are more than capable of carrying the load both in scoring and rebounding should Smart happen to have an off-night -- something which has been exceedingly rare so far this season. This trio will be very difficult to handle for Oregon and Saint Louis -- and could even be a challenge hard to overcome for a talented Louisville Cardinals squad in the regional final.

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The Cowboys’ Stifling Defense Often Goes Overlooked

Brendan Maloney - USA TODAY SPORTS

When you hear talk about Oklahoma State, you typically hear about their ability to score points in bunches, and with some flash and style. You rarely hear about the quality of their play on the defensive side of the ball -- but the facts are, they are a great defensive team, holding their opponents to an average of 39% shooting from the field, and 32.2% from three point range. Oklahoma State’s opponents are averaging only 62.8 points per game this season -- giving them a typical 10-point scoring differential. In my books, any team with a double-digit scoring differential, and with OSU’s defensive attributes has the ability to win their regional.

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Oklahoma State’s Depth is Deceiving


With guys like Michael Cobbins, Phil Forte and Kamari Murphy all able to make an impact when called upon, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have some deceiving depth beyond their Big Three. Few teams play more than a 6-7 man core when it comes to tournament time, and the Cowboys’ core seven players is as strong as any in the Midwest region, if not stronger. It’s certainly stronger as a whole than Oregon or St. Louis -- their likely first two opponents -- and matches up favorably against a Louisville team they could battle in the Sweet 16.

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The Tendency Will Be to Take the Cowboys Lightly


Although they play in the Big 12 Conference and consistently have national television attention, it’s highly likely the tendency will be to take the Cowboys lightly -- given they didn’t win the Big 12 tourney and have resided in the shadow of the Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats over the course of the past few seasons. Oregon, being the buzzy team they are, could easily enter their first-round matchup with OSU assuming they can pull the upset on the backs of their buzz. There’s more to that, however, and teams beyond Oregon should be advised to respect Travis Ford’s squad at the risk of their own peril.