March 11, 2009

Mission OKC: Pokes start Big 12 Tourney

There's been no doubt that things have been pretty bad for Oklahoma State basketball in recent years.

And while there have been a lot of downs over that time, playing on a Wednesday in the Big 12 Tournament has never been part of that.

Until now.

Of course, before this year, the Big 12 Tournament has never been played on a Wednesday, so don't freak or anything. This isn't some odd play-in round. It's just the typical Thursday first round game 24 hours early.

Feeling like the conference has gotten the short end of the stick in the NCAA Tournament seeding game some years, the league moved its tournament to Wednesday-Saturday to remove any doubt on that situation. Now instead of the conference tournament championship game ending mere minutes before the selections are officially announced, the game will end a day ahead of the announcement, theoretically helping Big 12 teams when it came to last-minute seeding questions.

What does all that have to do with OSU? Well, nothing really. This year, at least. But it might someday and it's a good move for the league overall. In the case of the Cowboys and the NCAA, they appear to be in good shape, though some talking heads disagree. Most everyone believes the Pokes will be dancing for the first time in four seasons if they can beat Iowa State tonight at Ford Center in Oklahoma City, the site for this year's conference tournament. The Cowboys (20-10 overall, 9-7 Big 12) received the No. 7 seed in the tourney after a series of tiebreakers went against them. The game is set for a 6 p.m. start and will be televised via the Big 12 Network (KOCB-34 in OKC and KJRH-2 in Northeast Oklahoma).

The Pokes will take on the 10th-seeded Cyclones (15-16, 4-12), a team they beat 86-67 in their only meeting of the year on Feb. 14 in Stillwater. Craig Brackens, a 6-10 forward, is main cog in this team. He averaged 20.1 points per game during the season along with 9.4 rebounds an outing. Other than that, ISU doesn't feature another big scorer, as Diante Garrett is next at 9.8 ppg.

The Cowboys should be able to post a win against the Cyclones. If they do that, a rematch with No. 1 seed Oklahoma looms Thursday at 6 p.m. That would put OSU in position to get some Bedlam revenge and really lock up an NCAA spot. But all that is getting a little head of things.

First thing's first and that's beating ISU. The Cowboys closed the regular season on a very strong note, winning six straight before losing to the Sooners in Norman. OSU has seemingly transformed itself in recent weeks, going from also-ran to postseason contender in a short time. The play of James Anderson, Byron Eaton and Marshall Moses has been key to the improvement. Now OSU finds itself in a position it hasn't been in years. Unfortunately, missing the NCAAs has been the norm in the past four years, so just being at the doorstep of dancing is an accomplishment. Short of winning the conference tourney, OSU won't know for sure if it is in until Selection Sunday, but the Cowboys have to be feeling pretty good about their situation at this point. And while beating ISU tonight might not cinch a bid, it should. Just getting to that point in year one of the Travis Ford administration shows how far the program has come in 2008-09.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!