Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why Oklahoma State Will Make NCAA Tournament
Oklahoma State Looks to Rebound From Five-Game Losing Streak
Over the last two weeks, there may not be a team in college basketball that has had a rougher time than the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have lost five straight games, with each coming in the Big 12 Conference. During this stretch, the Cowboys have gone from a team that ranks in the top-10 in the country to one that is not even in the top 25, seen star guard Marcus Smart shove a fan and get suspended, and generally looked to have forgotten how to play the game of basketball.
This rough patch has put serious doubt into whether or not Oklahoma State has a chance to make the NCAA tournament, and if the selection committee was making its choice today, the answer would have to be no. Thankfully, the season does not end on February 13, and the Cowboys have seven games remaining in their regular season schedule -- all coming in the Big 12 -- and a conference tournament to get off the bubble and into the tournament.
With a core group of players that has the same top four scorers in Smart, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte III as the team that made it to the NCAA Tournament last season, and a squad that was ranked amongst the best teams in the country for the first half of the season, there is genuine reason to believe this ship can be turned around. Keeping this in mind, I have formed a list of five reasons why Oklahoma State can right the ship in its season and why at the end of the day, voters will include it on the list of the 68 programs who will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
5. Marcus Smart Is Motivated to Prove Doubters Wrong, Improve Draft Stock
Marcus Smart will return to the Oklahoma State lineup on February 22 against Texas Tech, and there is no doubt that he will light things up after returning. This will not only get Oklahoma State into the NCAA tournament, but be enough for Smart to show NBA scouts he can overcome adversity and should be a top-10 pick at the 2014 NBA Draft.
4. The Cowboys' RPI Is Very Good
While a 16-8 record is nothing special, the computers back up the claim that Oklahoma State is quite worthy of making the NCAA Tournament. Currently, the Cowboys rank 21 in BPI and 35 in RPI, two computer analysis projections that the tournament selection committee uses in determining their 68 teams. With good results the rest of the way, these spots will only go up, and Oklahoma State will be an easy choice for the NCAA tournament.
3. All of Remainding Regular Season Games are Winnable
Oklahoma State could very well go undefeated over their last seven regular season games if they play up to their potential. Their two toughest games will be against 11th-ranked Iowa State and seventh ranked Kansas. Fortunately, the Cowboys will have Smart back for these two pivotal clashes, and winning one of these games in addition to all five games against top-ranked competition will ensure a 22-9 record and NCAA tournament participation.
2. The Big 12 Tournament Can Be Won
Oklahoma State could very well go out and win the Big 12 Tournament to ensure automatic participation in the NCAA tournament. Few teams will have as much to prove in the Big 12 Tournament than Oklahoma State, but Marcus Smart will be back, the team will be motivated, and they will surely be amongst the finalists to win the tournament.
1. There Are Not 68 Better Teams Than Oklahoma State
Ultimately, the NCAA Tournament selection committee sets out to choose the best 68 teams in the country, and Oklahoma State is one of them. Even when one takes out the conference tournament champions that wouldn't have otherwise made it, the Cowboys' mix of a dominant late regular-season run, overall talent on their roster and a good Big 12 Tournament run will be enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.