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Why Oklahoma State Is An NCAA Tournament Team

The four numbers that should indicate an invite to the Big Dance

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With just four regular season games to go, college basketball fans’ attentions are starting to turn to the NCAA Tournament. It’s that time of year, where teams are battling to make their way on, or off the bubble, and into the dance.

Despite an 0-6 start to Big 12 play, OSU is looking like a team with a good chance to go dancing in March. In Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of Bracketology, he has them as 7 seed. That’s up from an 8 seed last week.

While Lunardi’s bracketology is usually a good indicator of whether or not a team will celebrate on Selection Sunday, it’s nice to know where your team stands before hand. I did a little digging, and found four reasons other than Lunardi, for Cowboy fans to feel confident this morning.

26 - That non-conference schedule many of us (myself included) lambasted? Turns out it was actually pretty good. According to ESPN’s RPI (the number most often mentioned when selecting teams), Oklahoma State’s non-conference RPI was 26, which was the 31st best and second-highest in the Big 12.

20 - RPI is widely considered the most important number of determining whether a team will or won’t get into the tournament. However, it’s not perfect. One other number that’s usually a good indicator, is the Kenpom. OSU is currently ranked 20th. The Kenpom rating is predictive, trying to look ahead to determine where a team will end up. 20th in Kenpom, especially this late in the season, is a pretty good indicator of a tournament bid.

2 - Oklahoma State’s record is now 18-9, just two away from 20. That’s usually the goal to get to the tournament. Yes, teams have gotten in with fewer than 20 wins before. The Cowboys did it in 2015 with an 18-13 overall record. Still, you always feel better on Selection Sunday if you’ve hit the 20 win point. For OSU to get there, they need to win two of their last four games, which, will also help them with the final point.

500 - Oklahoma State’s win over Oklahoma on Saturday not only earned the team the Bedlam Trophy and the first season sweep over their rivals since 2004, it also got the Cowboys to .500 in Big 12 play. After an 0-6 start to conference play, OSU finds themselves 7-7 in the Big 12. With the reputation of the Big 12, a .500 league record is sure to get you in. Over the last five seasons, six Big 12 teams have gotten into the tournament with a .500 or lower record in league play. Here’s the full run down:

2016: Texas Tech (9-9)
2015: OSU (8-10), Texas (8-10)
2014: Baylor (9-9), OSU (8-10)
2013: none
2012: Texas (9-9)

Now, those teams’ records in the big dance isn’t great. It’s 2-6 with both wins coming by Baylor in 2014. However, the goal is to get there, and OSU is on track to do that. Win two of the final four and OSU finishes 9-9, and is getting into the tournament.

While all of these points are good, the work isn’t done. Lose the last four games of the season and their first Big 12 tournament game, and Oklahoma State could find themselves on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.

I’m not too worried about Underwood keeping his teams’ eyes on the prize, and locked in on winning one-more-game at a time, starting this Wednesday against Kansas State.