At the midway point of the conference season, it’s becoming clear which teams have a real shot at the Big 12 conference title and NCAA tournament berths.
While Kansas has put itself in position for another title and the likes of Baylor and Texas Tech (among others) are headed to the tournament again, there’s one specific team that I find intriguing to watch.
It’s not because of a strong record, or championship-caliber play.
This team doesn’t even have a top-15 scorer in the conference and ranks between 5-9 in many categories.
But this team plays with a passion, spirit, and grit that can’t be measured or ranked.
Oklahoma State has seemingly nothing to play for this season – not a Big 12 conference tournament or NCAA tournament berth.
All because a 17-month NCAA investigation concluded a former assistant coach illegally recruited players. None of the current players or coaches were involved in the scandal uncovered by the FBI.
Head Coach Mike Boynton has helped this team believe in themselves and to play for more than championships. They play for each other.
A 4-6 conference record, good for seventh in the conference, is not overly impressive. However, the Cowboys could easily be 7-3 since three of those losses (Texas, Iowa State, and Kansas State) came by 5 points or less.
A 61-54 win over then-No. 1 Baylor in Waco on the end of a three-game road trip showed the resilience this team has developed.
Oklahoma State also took out in-state rival Oklahoma this past weekend in an ugly game. The teams combined for 33 turnovers and less than 60 points at halftime.
The Cowboys’ usual leading scorers, Bryce Thompson and Avery Anderson, combined for just 15 points. Kalib Boone and Moussa Cissee led the charge with 12 points each while Rondel Walker put up 11 and Keylan Boone had 10.
Contributors turned into the leaders.
The Cowboys have relied heavily on defense in conference games, holding opponents to 64 points and 40.9% shooting. Oklahoma State’s shooting (40.4%) and scoring (62.6) woes have made that defense even more important.
The wins are not always pretty, but Oklahoma State finds a way.
Oklahoma State has just eight games left in the 2021-22 season and can cause problems for the rest of the conference.
TCU, Iowa State, and Oklahoma are among the teams with another match-up left against the Cowboys. These teams in particular need wins to impress the tournament selection committee.
The Sooners have dropped seven of eight, Iowa State looks lost after a 13-0 non-conference start, and TCU recently lost at home to Kansas State.
Oklahoma State will try for the season-sweep of TCU this upcoming Tuesday. The Cowboys are not playing in any postseason tournaments, but their efforts and impact could still be felt in March.