Oklahoma State basketball abruptly wrapped up its shortened 2021-2022 season with an exciting home victory over twelfth-ranked Texas Tech to finish the year with a record of 15-15, and now that it’s over, I have to commend Mike Boynton and his players despite the disappointing year, because it could have been a lot worse.
The NCAA did its best to make sure the current Cowboys’ team was punished for the actions of one rogue coach five years ago, and it definitely played a role in the team’s weird, forgettable season. Throughout the season, it was obvious that the Pokes’ players played a bit unmotivated, with all of their games essentially amounting to pick-up scrimmages.
With no tournaments to play for, it’s surely easy for players to just worry about their own stats or about putting on a show for scouts, leading to sloppy, undisciplined basketball. Mike Boynton even harped on this following OSU’s loss to Florida in early February.
“I don’t want to make it seem like they shouldn’t have been affected, but this is life,” Boynton said after the loss. “Bad s–t happens. You don’t get to pout about it forever and then turn what’s supposed to be a team game into a game about me.”
And at points, it did seem like guys were focusing more on their own goals than that of the team. The Cowboys lost games they had no business losing (Oakland? seriously?) and struggled to pull out games against inferior opponents. Shooting was the primary culprit all year, as the team shot just 29.8% from three with only two rotational guys shooting above 30%, that being Avery Anderson and Keylan Boone.
On the other side of that coin, Oklahoma State would beat some of the best teams in the Big 12, sometimes by a comfortable margin. They knocked off the No. 1 Baylor Bears in Waco just two weeks after losing by 10 to West Virginia, who finished dead last in the conference. They also beat the No. 3 and 4 teams in the Big 12 in Texas Tech and Texas, while subsequently dropping games to TCU and Oklahoma.
To put it simply, this was one of the more inconsistent OSU basketball teams in recent memory. But one thing that was never inconsistent was the effort the Cowboys put forth on the defensive end of the court. This team could have very well lost a handful more games than they did, but the tenacious and relentless defense by guys like Rondel Walker, Mousa Cisse, and Tyreek Smith made Oklahoma State into one of the best defending teams in the country. They finished 23rd in the country in defensive efficiency. Not bad for a team that just barely made the .500 mark.
A lot of OSU hoops fans will want to put this season in the rearview mirror and understandably so. But I like to look at the positives in times like these. Where a season might not have gone the way you want it, but there are still some silver linings to take away from.
A team with next to nothing to play for was still able to finish sixth in the best conference in college basketball. A team full of young players got another year of experience under their belts and will only get better. Plus, some bracketologists had Oklahoma State in the Last Four In toward the end of the season had they been eligible. I have to believe that the Cowboys easily make the tournament if not for the weight of the sanctions on the players’ shoulders.
As the rest of the conference gears up for the Big 12 Tournament, Oklahoma State players, staff, and fans will be watching dejected from our couches, but when we look back on this odd 2021-2022 season, I think it should be remembered as a season that saw some of the toughest play in school history despite the circumstances. One featuring a Cade Cunningham-less squad with no shooting that was still able to win 15 games and stay within hypothetical March Madness range, and I think that has to count for something.