With Big 12 conference play just around the corner, expect more solid results from the Oklahoma State basketball team to finish the season.
The Oklahoma State basketball team finished the main out-of-conference portion of their schedule with a 10-2 record, and 6-0 at home. They start Big 12 play on Dec. 30 at 3:00 p.m. CT against the no. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.
Coming off a season where the Cowboys won just three games in the Big 12, fans crave a better result this season. First-year head coach Brad Underwood has OK State trending up. Expectations are much higher than the previous year as well.
Currently, only three teams rank higher than OK State: no. 3 Kansas Jayhawks, no. 4 Baylor Bears, and no. 11 WVU. That projects well for the Cowboys considering the Big 12 Preseason Rankings put them in seventh place. Moreover, they get to open conference play against the third best team in the conference, which helps them start Big 12 play at a high tempo.
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Looking at how well the Cowboys played at home, OK State poses a tough out for any team visiting Stillwater. And with the quality of the Big 12 top to bottom, even just nine or ten wins in conference is good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.
Games that should be won
OK State lands a favorable schedule for conference play. They get West Virginia at home while the team is playing well, and they get Baylor on the road early which is good. Yet, here is the list of games that likely favor the Pokes:
Jan. 11 vs. Iowa State Cyclones
Jan. 18 vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Jan. 21 at Texas Tech Red Raiders
Jan. 23 vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Feb. 11 vs. Texas Longhorns
Feb. 15 at. TCU Horned Frogs
Feb. 25 vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Seven winnable games give OK State a solid foundation for a possible NCAA Tournament and Big 12 Regular Season Title run. Of those game listed above the meetings with Iowa State on Jan. 11 in Stillwater and Jan. 21 against Texas Tech in Lubbock stick out as key games. The Red Raiders beat the Cowboys 63-61 in overtime last season, but OK State has more talent this season. Iowa State had a tough out of conference schedule, not even making it to 10 wins yet. They need a hot start in Big 12 play to get back to what was thought to be a team with the ability to be a four seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament.
On the fence
Most of the Cowboys schedule falls into this category. The Pokes have a very good but not great team so far. They have the ability to upset a few teams, yet the same could be said about them. Any team with a point guard like sophomore Jawun Evans always poses a threat to any team. These are the games possibly going either way:
Dec. 30 vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
Jan. 4 at Texas Longhorns
Jan. 30 at Oklahoma Sooners
Feb. 8 vs. Baylor Bears
Feb. 18 vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Feb. 22 at Kansas State Wildcats
Feb. 28 at Iowa State Cyclones
March 4 vs. Kansas Jayhawks
Saying the Kansas game in Stillwater is on the fence is bold. Yet, the Jayhawks have a three-game losing streak against OK State at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Gallagher-Iba is tough to play in, especially when the Jayhawks come to town. However, KU is ready to end that losing streak. Another game to watch is the Feb. 8 meeting with Baylor. The Bears are undefeated and hungry to prove themselves. They are a tough out for any team playing against them.
You can never count out any quality Big 12 team in conference play. Yet, road games against the top three teams put the rest of the conference at a major disadvantage. These are games that count as probable losses:
Jan. 7 at Baylor Bears
Jan. 14 at Kansas Jayhawks
Feb. 4 at West Virginia Mountaineers
No one blames you if you don’t beat these teams. Yet, an upset in any of those three games makes a statement to the rest of the conference to not sleep on the Cowboys. The last time OK State defeated KU on the road was the 2012-13 season, and the last time they took down WVU on the road was the 2013-14 season.
Expecting between eight and 12 wins in conference play is realistic for OK State fans.