I would say that we have reached the point with this team where our season goal has officially settled into the vicinity of "making the tournament would be a job well done". Now before you think that we don't even have a shot at that, keep in mind that outside of Kansas and A&M (and Texas I guess), the rest of the conference teams have been just as volatile as the Pokes, especially on the road. This looks to be a conference that ends up with a solid RPI, and with a lot of teams finishing with 7-9 wins. You could honestly make a case for every team except OU and Tech to make the tournament, which means another season of the middle tier teams beating each other up, with the teams that end up on the high side of the bubble being the ones that don't blow an easy one to OU or Tech, break even against the middle tier teams, and get an upset or two against the top tier (KU, UT, A&M, MU for now), to serve as a nice RPI boost and marquee wins on the tourney resume.
So what does Oklahoma State need to do to get to 9 wins which would pretty much guarantee a tourney spot? Let's look at the schedule, and what needs to happen with each game. (I'll also include KenPom's predicted chances of OSU winning each game as a reference)
|Date||Opp||KenPom||What we need|
|Jan 19||ISU||47%||It is hard to say that a game this early is a must win, but this is pretty much a must win. At the very least, we must hold serve against the lower part of the middle tier at home.|
|Jan 22||@BAY||26%||A ridiculously inconsistant team that ISU and KU just dismantled. I would say we have a better than 26% chance of taking this one|
|Jan 26||TEX||27%||Tough to see us beating them this season, but at some point you have to pull out a tough one at home
|Jan 29||@TTU||70%||Must Win|
|Feb 02||MIZZ||40%||Winnable game - out of all the potential marquee wins, this and A&M are the most doable|
|Feb 05||OU||89%||Must Win|
|Feb 12||@NU||22%||I don't care that they have kept a few games close and that KenPom likes them, this is a game that a tourney team needs to win.|
|Feb 19||A&M||39%||See Mizzou game|
|Feb 26||TTU||89%||Must Win|
|Mar 01||BAY||56%||Probably need this one as well|
|Mar 05||@OU||70%||Must Win|
So basically it breaks down like this:
- Must wins over OU (2) and TT(2) get the Cowboys to 5 wins
- Then there are the pretty-close-to-but-not-quite "Must Wins" of @NU, @BAY, BAY, ISU where the Pokes need to take 3 of 4 to get to 8 wins
- Lastly there are the home games against MU, A&M, and UT where they would need to pull out one to get a decent marquee win and get to 9 wins.
Obviously this is all pretty flexible. A much better 9-win tourney resume would be wins over KU, UT, A&M and some losses to Baylor and ISU. But if we are looking for the Pokes path of least resistance to the tournament, it is outlined in those bullet points above.
If I had to predict our chances, I honestly think the toughest part will be going 3-1 in those games listed in the 2nd bullet point above. OU and TT are barfingly awful so bullet #1 should be easy enough, and the Pokes are always good for at least one nice upset every season so I'm not too concerned about bullet point # 3, but that middle one is what separates a team from the pack in the middle-loaded Big XII.