The Oklahoma State Cowboys have a long history in the NCAA Tournament. Here we dive into that history and other notable facts about the Cowboys’ appearances in March Madness.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1945, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1958, 1965, 1983, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2021.
Final Four Appearances: 1945, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1995, 2004
National Championship Game Appearances: 1949
National Titles: 1945, 1946.
Remember This About Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament
Back in the ‘A&M’ Days: Only Kentucky could claim a firmer hold on the NCAA Tournament and its championship in the immediate post World War II-era than the Oklahoma A&M Aggies (now the Oklahoma State Cowboys). Then a part of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Aggies won the 1945 and 1946 national championships under head coach Henry Iba, and did so in the ‘church’ of basketball, Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1945, the Aggies beat New York University, 49-45, and in 1946 the Aggies beat North Carolina, 43-40. The Aggies were the first to win back-to-back national champions and were led by the college game’s first seven-footer, Bob Kurland. Iba took the Aggies to the national championship game in 1949, losing to Kentucky, 46-36, and back to the Final Four in 1951, where it lost to Kansas State, 68-44, in the national semifinals. From 1945 to 1951, only Kentucky won more titles (three) and the Aggies made just as many title game appearances (three). The Aggies never went back to the Final Four under Iba after 1951.
READ MORE: March Madness Big 12 Conference Rewind: 2004
The Long Drought: Iba’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament was an Elite Eight trip in 1965. After that, the Cowboys had four out of five losing seasons before Iba stepped aside after the 1969-70 season. Unfortunately, the losing didn’t stop. The Cowboys had losing seasons for the next 10 seasons until Paul Hansen made the program respectable again. He guided the Cowboys to 18 wins in 1980-81, and 15 wins in 1981-82, and then back to the NCAA Tournament in 1982-83 with 24 wins. The NCAA Tournament selection committee installed the Cowboys as a No. 5 seed and pitted them against Princeton in the first round. The Tigers and their head coach, Pete Carill, were a pesky out long before they pushed No. 1-seeded Georgetown to the brink in the first round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. Back in 1983, the Tigers beat Oklahoma State, 56-53, giving Carill his first career NCAA Tournament win.
Sutton Fosters the Cowboys’ rise: Eddie Sutton resigned from Kentucky in 1989, and shortly after the program was slapped with three years of probation and a two-year postseason ban. It took a year for Sutton to find a new job at OSU. He inherited a 17-win team from Leonard Hamilton (who left for the Miami Hurricanes), and Sutton turned the Cowboys into a winning program the likes of which would make Iba envious. The Cowboys won 368 games under Sutton, went to the NCAA Tournament 13 times and the Final Four twice — 1995 and 2004. Unlike Iba, Sutton was unable to get the Cowboys to a national championship game, losing in the national semifinals both times. In 1995 the Cowboys fell to eventual national champion UCLA. In 2004 they fell to Georgia Tech.
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