By JASON ELMQUIST
Some may consider having to play an extra game in the Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Championship as a disadvantage. But for the undermanned Oklahoma State Cowboys, they are approaching it as a positive.
Though OSU utilizes a short rotation — with six players still on roster averaging 23 minutes or more of game action — the Cowboys don’t foresee fatigue playing a factor in having to play four-straight games if they are to win the tournament title.
“We have 18, 19, 20-year-old kids, we can hopefully handle four games if we’re in that situation,” Cowboy coach Travis Ford said. “So it’s not a concern.”
Marcus Smart added, “I wouldn’t call it a disadvantage. This is just another part of the season and while all those other teams get to rest, we get to keep grinding and keep getting better. I look at it as an advantage for us because we get to keep working and tuning things up.”
What Oklahoma State should be worried about is history. In the 20-year history of the Big 12, no team has won the conference tournament having to play four games.
With drawing the eight seed, OSU will face a Texas Tech team that already has a victory over the Cowboys — a memorable upset in Lubbock, Texas, that ended with Smart shoving a fan and receiving a three-game suspension.
The draw doesn’t get any easier from there, however. If Oklahoma State does get past the Red Raiders, waiting for the Cowboys on Thursday is 10-time conference champion Kansas.
But the Jayhawks will be shorthanded as freshman center Joel Embiid, a unanimous selection for the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and an All-Big 12 second team member, has been ruled out for the conference tournament due to a stress fracture in his back — which he sustained against Oklahoma State.
“It’s difficult, some would say impossible, to beat a good team once, let alone twice in this conference,” Smart said. “That’s how tough the Big 12 is, that’s how tough it is with any sport. It’s tough enough to beat a team one time, let alone multiple times.
“The Big 12 is very talented, with a lot of great teams with talented players. So this tournament is up for grabs. Anybody could win the tournament.”
Big 12 tournament
At Sprint Center (Kansas City, Mo.)
Game 1: No. 8 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Texas Tech, 6 p.m.
Game 2: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 10 TCU, 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 5 Kansas State, 11:30 a.m.
Game 4: No. 1 Kansas vs. Game 1 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 5: No. 2 Oklahoma vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 6: No. 3 Texas vs. No. 6 West Virginia, 8:30 p.m.
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 8:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.