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Thrill of the Ride

The astounding adventure that’s been the Cowboy 2016-17 basketball season.

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

I am astounded, and I think we all are and should be.

When the Travis Ford era came to an unceremonious conclusion last year and Brad Underwood took over the reins of the Oklahoma State men's basketball program, I had hoped things would turn around...over time.

Surely the glory days of Cowboy basketball would return someday—after a couple seasons and some solid recruiting classes.

I didn't expect it this quickly, and I'm pretty sure no one else did either. After all, turning around a loaded 18-wheeler headed downhill in the wrong direction isn't as simple as pulling the emergency brake and cranking hard on the wheel.

Perhaps we've learned the vehicle the program was cruising in was a little more agile than we assumed. It might not be a 'Vette, but it's not a tractor trailer either. Something sensible, but with enough playfulness to bring a smile to your face and give you a good time as you travel.

No, the journey isn't complete. A fifth-place finish in the conference isn't cause to hang a banner from Gallagher-Iba's rafters, but it feels like it could be after the cloud of recent seasons and following expectations that the current roster lacked the consistency, star power and experience to withstand the Big XII gauntlet.

We've seen the transition, and the story has been rehashed time and again here at CRFF and elsewhere.

An 0-6 start to the conference season gave way to a string of wins—both on the road and in the friendly confines of the GIAnt—that reignited a fan base and brought hope for this season and for March Madness.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Oklahoma State’s Big 12 turnaround began with an 83-64 win over Texas Tech back on January 21st.
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This coaching staff, like a master mechanic, tweaked the system to allow it to run at optimal performance levels. The players, like a young and raw professional driver rediscovering the thrill of the road, learned how to use the throttle and the brake together to make the ride all the more adventurous and fun. They've discovered how to drive on the edge and use all the options available to slide back the sunroof, slip on the shades and put the wind in our hair.

And what a ride it's been.

To be sure, no one is expecting a deep tournament run. No one is calling for the scissors sharpener to prepare to sever the nets. We can hold off on the banner makers and trophy polish. But if this season has taught us anything, it's that it's possible this team can cause a ruckus on the postseason roads.

I didn't expect it. At least not yet.

But I'll be buckling in for the ride on Saturday and for each adventure to follow until the final horn sounds.