Stanford Cardinal (19-15) at Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-14)
What an insane day of upsets it was yesterday in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament! The day started out with Purdue barely surviving against Butler, and then all hell broke loose! The Syracuse Orange, a team that many didn’t even think belonged in the tournament, knocked off perennial title contender, Michigan State.
The seven seeded Aggies of Texas A&M absolutely blew out the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels, 86-65. Then, University of Nevada-Reno made one of the better comebacks in NCAA tournament history, as they surged back from twenty-two points down late in the second half to shock two seed Cincinnati. Clemson blew out four seed Auburn.
And to top it all off, the Florida State Seminole overcame a late double-digit deficit to beat the one seed Xavier Musketeers. If anyone’s bracket wasn’t busted before today, it is now! The Sweet 16 looks a lot different this year than in years past. No North Carolina, no Michigan State, no Wichita State, no Arizona. Instead, we get Loyola Chicago, Kansas State, Florida State, and Syracuse.
We knew coming into this tournament that there was going to be a lot of parity, but I am not sure anyone expected what we seen unfold on the first weekend of the tournament. Today I look at a team that I believe should have gotten into the tournament, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, as they battle it out with Stanford in the NIT.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are still playing in March, just in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), and not the NCAA tournament. Many people, myself included, thought the Cowboys should have been playing in the Big Dance.
The Cowboys will try and prove the committee wrong as they battle it out with the Stanford Cardinal on their home floor tonight. The Cowboys are -7.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 153.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys deserved to be playing in the NCAA tournament this year. They had a lot of losses on their resume, but they had some huge wins that proved they could compete with any team in the country on a given night.
We have seen what Syracuse, a team with a very similar resume, has done in the tournament. Syracuse was the last team into the field according to the committee, and they have gone on to win three games and are now in the Sweet 16. This Oklahoma State team could have had a similar run.
Oklahoma State beat Florida State, Kansas, West Virginia, and Texas Tech this year. All four of those teams advanced to the Sweet 16. If anyone had any doubts about how good the Big 12 was this year, or how quality the wins were for Oklahoma State, those questions have been answered. So, we know this team is good enough to win the NIT, the question is, will they have the motivation after being snubbed by the selection committee? They looked focused and determined in their first-round matchup with a decent Florida Gulf Coast team. The Cowboys won that game by double-digits.
Stanford was a very mediocre team in a very mediocre league this year. The Cardinal finished 11-7 in the Pac-12, good for fifth place, but finished just 19-15 overall. Stanford played a decent non-conference schedule. They played North Carolina, Florida, Ohio State, and Kansas. The problem for Stanford is that they got blown out in all of those games.
We all have an idea of how good a league is before the NCAA tournament starts, but it is how well each league plays in the tournament that defines just how good it was that year. A lot of people thought that the ACC was the best league in the nation this year. But now that we have seen Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami, and N.C State all have their season’s end on the first weekend of the tournament, you have to wonder how good this league really was this year.
The Big 12 has fared much better. They advanced Kansas State, Kansas, West Virginia, and Texas Tech to the Sweet 16. Maybe it was the Big 12 that was the best league in the land this year. The Cowboys managed to beat a who’s who of what might have been the best league in the nation. I like them in this matchup tonight, a lot.
Look, Stanford stinks. They managed to scrape together a decent league record in what was likely the worst of the major conferences. They played several elite teams this year, and by and large weren’t even competitive. This Oklahoma State team absolutely deserves to be mentioned amongst that level of teams. They were inconsistent this season, but to me, your talent is measured by who you can beat, more than who you lose to.
This feels like a mismatch to me. Sometimes in the NIT the teams that feel they got snubbed for the real tournament barely show up. But usually, they flare out in the first game, too upset at getting left out of the Big Dance to focus on the loser’s tournament.
But now that OK State has shown me that they are playing to win this tournament, they looked great in their first-round matchup, I like them to do just that. They are the most talented team in the field. That doesn’t always guarantee a win, but it’s the side I want to be on.
I like the Oklahoma State Cowboys in this one in a big way. I don’t see it being all that competitive and expect Stanford to basically lay down on the road. You have to remember, these NIT games are true home court games, they aren’t on a neutral floor. The Cowboys have been really good at home, and I expect to see more of that tonight.
Give me the Oklahoma State Cowboys -7.5-points tonight!