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Where things stand for Oklahoma State basketball before Big 12 play

Here are a few things to know about the Cowboys’ quest to make the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Wichita State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State tips-off Big 12 play Saturday when they face reigning conference champs Texas Tech in Lubbock. While there is still a Big 12/SEC Challenge road game later this month at Texas A&M, the non-conference is wrapped for the season.

So with the Cowboys entering the brutal Big 12 slate, what have we learned about this OSU team through 12 games so far?

Likekele is the MVP

Isaac Likekele is the most important player, and it’s not even close. The Cowboys are 8-0 with their starting point guard and 1-3 without him. What’s really bad is how brutal some of those losses were. The Cowboys looked outclassed by Wichita State and Minnesota. This OSU team has some talent across the roster. But while they have depth at most positions, there is simply no real replacement for Likekele, no one who can replicate his value to the team. With him, OSU is a top-25 team. Without him? They miss the NCAA tournament by a mile.

Despite losses OSU is in a good spot

The losses were frustrating, especially during the stretch of the schedule that offered OSU some opportunities to build an impressive resume. But, despite the losses, the Cowboys are in a good spot heading into Big 12 play. As of writing this, OSU’s NET ranking is No. 33. Here’s how the NET’s quadrant system — which replaced the RPI in deciding which team’s make the dance — is broken down.

Quad one is good, Quad four is not.

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75.
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135.
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240.
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353.

And here is OSU’s record in each quad.

Quad 1: 2-2 (Ole Miss, Houston, Wichita State, Minnesota)
Quad 2: 3-1 (Charleson, Yale, Syracuse. Georgetown)
Quad 3: 1-0 (Oral Roberts)
Quad 4: 3-0 (UMKC, Western Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana)

That’s solid considering all 10 teams in the Big 12 are currently in the top 100 in the NET (for now), there are plenty of opportunities for more quality wins, while few options for bad losses.

Big 12 isn’t as good as we thought

I would be shocked if the top four teams in the Big 12 at the end of the regular season weren’t Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia and Texas Tech. All four are for real, for a variety of reasons, and have the talents to make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.

After that?

Oklahoma and Texas are solid, but not significantly better than OSU.

Iowa State and TCU? They’re both players with one really good player and nothing else.

Kansas State? Just not good.

The Big 12 offers plenty of opportunities for good wins, but the conference isn’t as deep as it has been in years past. It’s still deep and the top might be the best it has been in years, but it’s not going to be the gauntlet we’ve seen in the past.