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Groundhog Day for Oklahoma State Basketball

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Once again Travis Ford is making recruiting news. What remains to be seen is whether or not he can mold a new group of players into a contender.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

I don't think too many of us would argue this assessment of Cowboys basketball under Travis Ford...

The talent available was capable of producing better results than it did.

Here's a look at each of Ford's teams during his tenure, the key players, and the finish:

  • 2008-09
    23-12 (9-7, T4)
    James Anderson, Byron Eaton, Marshall Moses
    Ford's first season would end with his only trip to the what we should consider the "real" 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, and he did it with players who were molded/recruited by other head coaches.

  • 2009-10
    22-11 (9-7, T6)
    James Anderson, Marshall Moses, Keiton Page
    Ford's second season would result in the first of 4 consecutive first round exits from the NCAA Tournament, but would also bring him the mongo contract extension that has now become an albatross.

  • 2010-11
    20-13 (6-10, 9th)
    Keiton Page, Marshall Moses, JP Olukemi
    Arguably one of the weakest rosters under Ford, the team would close by losing 5 of their last 7 regular season games, then go 1-1 in the Big 12 and NIT tourneys.

  • 2011-12
    15-18 (7-11, 7th)
    Keiton Page, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash
    Thus would begin the Le'Bryan Nash era, as well as Ford's penchant for landing higher profile recruits than OSU was used to seeing. This is Ford's only losing record as head coach for the Cowboys, as well as 1 of only 2 seasons with less than 20 wins. It is the only season that the Cowboys have missed the post-season under Ford.

    Those are just about the only positives of his coaching tenure at Oklahoma State.

  • 2012-13
    24-9 (13-5, 3rd)
    Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash
    Ford followed up the signing of Nash by landing Marcus Smart, a recruiting accomplishment that some could say added years to Ford's life as OSU's head basketball coach. The result was without question the best regular season under Ford, the only season with single-digit losses, but once again ended in a first round loss in the NCAA Tourney, although this team arguably got ambushed with a horrible matchup against an opponent that was way better than their seeding.

  • 2013-14
    21-13 (8-10, 8th)
    Smart, Brown, Nash
    This is by far and away the most disappointing season under Travis Ford. Excitement was high as Smart, Nash, and Brown all chose to stay for another season, and fans rightly expected the additional year of experience to bring great achievement. The Cowboys were expected to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title, and some had OSU as a dark horse to make the Final Four. Ford landed another high profile recruit in Stevie Clark, who showed flashes of tremendous talent as the season got underway. The outside shooting of Phil Forte and Clark was expected to help open things up on offense.

    Circumstances intervened, however. Workhorse center Michael Cobbins suffered a season ending injury shortly after beginning conference play, leaving OSU with no presence in the paint. Stevie Clark was dismissed from the team not long after for off the court issues, then Smart was suspended for several games for pushing a fan at Texas Tech.

    The Cowboys would lose 7 consecutive games during the Clark/Smart fiascos before winning 4 of their last 5 regular season contests. That momentum would quickly vanish, as OSU would run into perennial mid-major power Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tourney, and another first round loss.

    This performance would be the turning point for most OSU fans, as many began to call for Ford to be fired. His contract, though, would function as a pretty strong security blanket.

  • 2014-15
    18-14 (8-10, T6)
    Le'Bryan Nash, Phil Forte, Anthony Hickey
    The NBA exits for both Smart and Brown left a tremendous void for Ford to fill, but Hickey's transfer from LSU was probably last season's lifesaver. His job at the point was likely the difference in a winning season for Oklahoma State, but couldn't get the Cowboys past the first round in the NCAA Tourney. Hickey's presence was also an ingredient in helping Ford hang onto his job, although things were definitely in flux until Boone Daddy told Holder he couldn't use his allowance to buy out Ford's ridiculous contract.

  • 2015-16??
    Phil Forte, ???
    With the 3pt gunner returning as the only reliable, established scoring threat, the Cowboys have a LOT of questions to answer. Ford has done another admirable job trying to fill the holes, but here's what the Cowboys have coming back:
    -Two players who started more than 10 games (Forte, 31...Newberry, 20...next is Carroll at 9, nobody else has more than 2 starts)
    -One player out of the top 4 scorers (Forte, #2)
    -Two players averaging more than 5 ppg (Forte, 15.0...Newberry, 6.7...next is Carroll at 3.9)
    -Two players who averaged more than 15 minutes per game (Forte, 33.7...Newberry, 21.0...next is Shine at 13.1)
    -Five of their top six in three point attempts and makes (oh joy.......)
    -Two players who attempted more than 25 FT's (Forte, 156...Newberry, 57...next is Griffin at 23)
    -Two of their top five rebounders (although Solomon and Allen averaged less than 6 rpg COMBINED)
    -No established starter at point guard
    -No established starter in the post

    While the Cowboys have a proud basketball heritage, keep in mind that ALL of that success comes from two coaches. Ford, without question, is the only OTHER coach to experience prolonged "success" at OSU, however that success has been in total wins only. Conference wins and the post-season are the true indicators of the stature of a program, and let me remind you that Ford has just two post-season wins in Stillwater, and only one of those in the NCAA Tourney. Add to that losing conference records in 4 of his last 5 seasons, as well as an overall Big 12 record below .500, and suddenly Travis Ford's achievements look more like the result of non-conference scheduling akin to Baylor Football.

    For perspective, since Ford took over for the Cowboys in 2008, the Cowgirls have 12 post-season wins, 4 NCAA Tourney wins (including a trip to the Sweet 16), and one post-season championship (NIT).

    Listen...Ford will do his usual job of whipping the boys into shape and turning them into fighters and scrappers. That's what he is, and he passes that along to his players. That's a good thing. But outside of that the head ball coach has yet to demonstrate that he is capable of taking his pool of available talent and turning them into something that is greater than the sum of their parts, which is what makes basketball so great. It's one of very few sports where a well coached team with one decent player can compete with a team full of professional talent.

    That is why, IMO, Oklahoma State hoops fans should prep themselves for another messy, inconsistent, and underachieving season, while attendance continues to dwindle.

    We should see lots of 3's, so there is that...