Football is literally one week away. The Pokes will be in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan come this time next week getting ready to square off with the Chippewas in the prettiest state in the country. But until then. I need you all to keep caring about basketball here at Oklahoma State.
The Pokes will have a whole new look with Le'Bryan Nash gone. The focus of the Cowboys will now shift to Phil Forte who will be tasked with leading the Cowboys to a successful season. But he won't do it alone as he'll have help in Jawun Evans, a top 50 recruit, and also in Jeff Newberry who showed signs of great potential last year.
The Pokes have a strong non-conference schedule that features contests against Florida, Minnesota, Tulsa and Auburn. The Cowboys will also play in the Gildan Charleston Classic that will potentially pit them against teams like Ole Miss, George Mason, Bradley or Virginia, who was a #2 seed in the tourney last season.
If the Pokes can get through that stretch relatively unscathed then they'll be in good position to make a push for the postseason as they head into conference play.
Let's take a look at the draw.
|Jan. 9||West Va.||Morgantown|
|Feb. 3||Tex. Tech||Lubbock|
|Feb. 6||Iowa St.||Stillwater|
|Feb. 8||TCU||Ft. Worth|
|Feb. 20||Tex. Tech||Stillwater|
|Feb. 27||West Va.||Stillwater|
|Feb. 29||Iowa St.||Ames|
One of the great things about college basketball is that, at least in the Big 12, that you play each team twice in a home-and-home so every team plays everyone on their home floor one time. The only differences in the schedules are, obviously, the order in which the teams play.
Oklahoma State starts their conference play off with a bang as they'll play TCU in an empty arena in Stillwater because the students will still be on Christmas break. Let's remember that TCU has gone 4-32 in conference play since joining the conference, including a strong 0-18 performance two seasons ago. Admittedly, last season they were better as they started the year 14-0 and were ranked in the AP poll for a week midway through the year.
OSU will then go on a tough road trip as they'll head south to Waco and then east to Morgantown for showdowns with two teams who are bound to be tough yet again. This is the first test the Pokes will have in their conference schedule and it'll be crucial that Travis Ford keep his men focused in both games.
Once back in Stillwater the Pokes will begin their prep for the first bout of Bedlam as the Sooners come into town on the 13th. I haven't seen Oklahoma State beat the Sooners since an OT win during my freshman year in February of 2013. The Pokes have lost 5 of 6 in the Bedlam series but anything can happen in rivalry games. That being said, Lon Kruger will have Oklahoma stacked once again as he has rebuilt that program from the ground up.
Afterward, the Pokes head to Austin against a Texas team that has experience all around the floor that features Cameron Ridley and company who should be able to handle most opponents. UT's talented and experienced roster should be enough to get them into the postseason by itself but when you combine that with their first year coach, Shaka Smart, this Texas team could be lethal.
The Cowboys will then take on the two Kansas teams back-to-back as they'll host Kansas in Stillwater before traveling to Manhattan for a showdown in the Octagon of Doom with the Wildcats.
The succeeding four games will be somewhat of a lull compared to the rest of the schedule as the Pokes will compete against Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State and TCU as they fight to stay relevant in a conference that was ranked the best in the country last season. I have the Pokes at 3-4 heading into this stretch and there is a good chance that they'll get out of this four game series of games at 7-4 as they get Baylor and Iowa State at home.
After the TCU game the Pokes get the one-two punch of the Kansas teams again as they'll host the Wildcats before traveling north to Lawrence for a showdown with the Jayhawks that will probably lead to disappointment and no backflips.
After the two games against the Kansas teams the Pokes will get a chance to bounce back against a Texas Tech team that will struggle this year, as they did last season and the year before that.
What awaits Travis Ford and his team after their visit to Lubbock is what should be the biggest game of the regular season for the Pokes as Oklahoma State will be able to boost their resume with a win if they can knock off the Sooners in Norman. I've got a gut feeling that this game will be one for the ages that will speak volumes for where OkState is as a program.
Oklahoma State will finish their conference schedule by hosting West Virginia, traveling to Ames, and then hosting Texas on Senior Night. If Oklahoma State can win two of these three games then it should be enough to get them into March Madness as that should get them to 20 or 21 wins on the year.
Regardless, the Big 12 is going to be a dogfight this year once again but anything is possible if Travis Ford can get his team together in big moments. I've got the Pokes finishing 11-7 in the conference with quality wins over OU in Stillwater and Iowa State in Ames. Those 11 conference wins should be enough, on top of their non-conference wins, to push them into the NCAA Tournament.
If the Pokes miss the tournament, which is what some of you want, then get ready for absolute chaos in Stillwater as there will be mobs in the street calling for Travis Ford's job. But for now, let's enjoy the uncertainty and the hope of a new season before we actually get there. But there is always a silver lining, at least the Pokes don't have to play Oregon this year.
Great! Now you've read this and you can forget about basketball until the 13th of November when the Pokes open the season against the Skyhawks of UT-Martin.
Now, enjoy the football season and Go Pokes!