Oklahoma State’s Recent Surge Could Lead to the NCAAs

Posted by Justin Fedich on February 18th, 2017

On January 18, Oklahoma State found itself alone in last place in the Big 12, staring up at the likes of Texas and Oklahoma in the standings with zero conference wins to its name. A team that had through the non-conference season appeared poised to make a run to the NCAA Tournament under first-year head coach Brad Underwood, wondered what had gone so wrong. “We’ve got to show and have some competitive pride,” Underwood said at after his team had dropped 96-88 home game to Kansas State.

Brad Underwood Has Turned His Team’s Season Around (USA Today Images)

Over the past month, the Cowboys have done just that. Since their 0-6 start, the Cowboys have won seven of their last eight games thanks to clear improvement on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma State’s defense will never be considered great, but a team that allowed an average of 85.6 points per game during its losing streak has held every opponent since to 76 points or fewer. On the offensive end, the Cowboys rank second in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, behind only the record-setting group at UCLA. One of the keys for Underwood has been players other than Jawun Evans and Phil Forte contributing more consistently. As a result, Oklahoma State has made an improbable comeback to position itself for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The player who has stepped up the most has been Jeffrey Carroll, who went from averaging 8.2 points per game a year ago to 17.5 points per game this season. He’s had a highly efficient season from the very beginning, but his Offensive Ratings over the last month have been through the roof — over 130.0 in five of the Cowboys’ last eight games. During Wednesday night’s win over TCU, senior forward Leyton Hammonds scored a game-high 21 points, knocking down five three-pointers. Against Texas, sophomore guard Davon Dillard scored a career-high 15 points off the bench. In a road win over Oklahoma, freshman guard Lindy Waters hit all three of his three-point attempts to help lift his team to a two-point victory. The Oklahoma State offense still clearly runs through the very talented Evans, but his supporting cast gives Underwood the chance to weather an off night without it being fatal.

As impressive as the Oklahoma State turnaround over the last month has been, it’s still not enough to guarantee the Cowboys an NCAA Tournament bid. With five regular season games remaining — including three against likely NCAA teams — they need to avoid a letdown against the trio of Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas Tech. Oklahoma State could also use another quality win and opportunities will arise in its last two games at Iowa State and at home against Kansas. If Underwood’s team can manage a 3-2 or perhaps even 4-1 record in its remaining games, the Cowboys should be able to plan for a trip back to March Madness.

Justin Fedich (11 Posts)

Justin Fedich is a sports journalism graduate of the University of Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter @jfedich.

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