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Final Stretch Can Bolster OSU's Tournament Seeding

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Wednesday's loss in Gallagher-Iba against Kansas meant a lot but it certainly wasn't devastating to Oklahoma State.

The contest represented an opportunity for an upper hand in the Big 12 title race down the stretch, possibly a deciding factor in the Big 12 player of the year race between Marcus Smart and Ben McLemore, and for the Pokes it could have been a seldom-seen season sweep of the Jayhawks.

But most importantly, it impacts NCAA Tournament seeding down the line.

Oklahoma State lost a heartbreaker in double overtime, dealing a blow to those Big 12 title hopes and also knocking OSU's likelihood of landing a No. 3 seed or better.

Make no mistake about it, barring a monumental and unlikely collapse in their final five games, the Cowboys are heading to the Big Dance for the first time since 2010. That alone should have Cowboy fans giddy but adding to the excitement is the potential this team possesses to make a deep run in the Tourney; something fans haven't been able to enjoy since the Pokes made the Sweet Sixteen in 2004-05.

But one thing that aids the potential for a deep run is the tournament seeding, and that's what needs to be examined. Let's take a look at what the Cowboys need to do to get in the best possible position and how OSU's body of work this season will be viewed by the selection committee.

Oklahoma State NCAA Tournament Resume

Record: 19-6 (9-4 Big 12)

RPI: No. 30, SOS: 42

Oklahoma State has definitely played itself into consideration for a high seed but its computer profile isn't helping its case. A weak nonconference schedule has adversely impacted the Pokes, leading many national pundits to put OSU in the No. 5-6 seed category despite its excellent play as of late in the tough Big 12. Teams like Portland State (7-16), Missouri State (8-20), Central Arkansas (9-16), UC Davis (11-14), etc. don't do much to bolster your tournament resume.

W-L vs. RPI top-50: 5-4

Oklahoma State split its season series against Bedlam rival Oklahoma (RPI No. 18) and Kansas (RPI No. 5) and its early-season Puerto Rico Tournament title was highlighted by a victory against then-No. 6 N.C. State, which has since dropped to No. 22 in the RPI. All three of those rank as Top 25 RPI wins, which will go a long way toward helping the Cowboys' case for the tourney. The other two top 50 wins came against Iowa State and Akron, the latter was also in Puerto Rico. OSU has a chance to add two more to this list if it can beat ISU again and get revenge against Kansas State, which beat OSU 73-67 back on Jan. 5.

W-L vs. RPI top-100: 7-5

This is what hurts OSU the most. The Cowboys are only 2-1 against teams ranked between Nos. 51-100 in the RPI. The low number of games in this category is a direct result of the weak nonconference scheduling. It shouldn't make too big a difference but it could cost OSU at least a seed, potentially taking it from a No. 4 to a No. 5-6 in the Dance. The lower the seed, the tougher the road. It could come back to haunt them.

Best wins: Kansas (RPI: 5), OU (RPI: 18), N.C. State (RPI: 22)

Worst loss: Virginia Tech (RPI: 172)

Remaining Schedule (With RPI): @ West Virginia (97), @ TCU (241), vs. Texas (128), @ Iowa State (43), vs. Kansas State (19)

Oklahoma State has a chance to really improve on its resume down the stretch with meaningful contests against WVU, Iowa State and K-State. The bad news is the first two of the trifecta happen to be on the road. TCU and Texas won't do much to help should the Cowboys win but losses to either would be devastating this late in the season.

In reality, should OSU win out, it could potentially land a 3-4 seed. Should Kansas slip up and OSU win the Big 12 regular season title and/or OSU win the Big 12 Tournaments, it would virtually lock a No. 3 seed.

The worst case scenario, while remaining realistic, would be OSU going 2-3 in the final five, dropping road games at WVU and ISU and then losing at home against a stout KSU team. That type of finish would be bad, bad news and could drop OSU anywhere from a No. 8-10 seed.

As of right now, expect the Cowboys to play themselves into a No. 4 or No. 5 seed. Avoiding the always dangerous 5/12 game in the opening round would be beneficial so winning the final five games and representing themselves well in the Big 12 Tournament would not only be more fun for Cowboy fans, it would aid the team's chances of making a serious run in March.

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