OSU Needs To Emulate Missouri

When Oklahoma State took down No. 2 Missouri on Wednesday, fans flooded the court to celebrate what could be argued as the signature win in the Travis Ford era. Now that the Cowboys have beaten Missouri the next step is to try to be Missouri.

The similarities are there looking into the future. In the postgame coach Ford fielded several questions relating to how similar the two teams are, varying from the fact that both rely on athleticism rather than size to the fact both teams require its players to play multiple roles.

There were really just two huge differences between them: wins and experience. The Tigers had the Cowboys by a landslide in both, having entered the game 18-1 with four senior starters.

If there is a team to point to that the Cowboys should emulate the next two-to-three years, Missouri is it.

I pulled Ford aside after the game and asked him the very same thing.

"We sure hope. It's a good example," Ford said. "That is a team that has had a core group stick together. They've had players leave; a lot of players leave, actually. Kind of like us but that's part of the process, they've stuck together and added a few pieces here and there with Ricardo Ratliffe and players like that.

"There are definitely similarities. I'll tell you this, I wouldn't mind being where they're at right now. I wouldn't mind that at all. But, yes, it gives you hope and it gives you something to look at and an example of it, absolutely. We've got some good players coming in and stuff like that. It's a good example and I have talked to a few people about that."

The goal to emulate Mizzou is not farfetched. Oklahoma State is the youngest team in America and has gone through similar trials endured by the Tigers in the 2009-10 season. While Mizzou's final record (23-11) is almost assuredly going to be better than OSU's (10-10 with 11 regular season games remaining), the Tigers' non conference schedule was not nearly as daunting as OSU's has been this season.

The Tigers had two seniors; OSU has one. Missouri had two juniors; OSU has one and that's injured forward J.P. Olukemi. MU had five sophomores; the Cowboys have just one. And lastly, Missouri had three freshmen to the Cowboys' six.

The Tigers slugged their way through losses both lopsided (19 to KU twice) and questionable (Oral Roberts, Richmond, Nebraska by 15).

But all along the way, MU managed to keep it's core group together and continued to build until it became one of the Top 5 teams in the country this season. Those young contributors were Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Michael Dixon, Steve Moore and Jarrett Sutton. Now the first three are starters for a team that ranks among the national leaders in nearly every statistical category.

Missouri later added Ratliffe and Flip Pressey to create a team poised to make a deep run in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and contend for the Big 12 title.

Those are aspirations that this young group of Cowboys would like to pursue in the coming years and they have the talent to build in that direction if they stay together and add key pieces to the puzzle — pieces like high school All-American guard Marcus Smart, sharpshooting point Phil Forte and athletic power forward Kamari Murphy.

Smart in particular has fans drooling at the possibilities in the future but as we've discovered over the past month, the Cowboys have some young guns already in the fold. Redshirt freshmen guard Brian Williams and forward Michael Cobbins, sophomore guard Markel Brown and freshman forward Le'Bryan Nash are all more than capable of being key figures in the building process. Cezar Guerrero and Marek Soucek have plenty of time to improve and build depth, much like the Tigers' bench features now.

This talent has been building in front of OSU fans throughout January with each successive game giving more glimmers of hope than the one before it, most notably when the fans stormed the court following Wednesday's 79-72 triumph over second-ranked Missouri.

It was a feeling the Cowboys liked and they get their next shot at a potential victory when they face Texas A&M (11-8, 2-5 Big 12) in Reed Arena on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Senior guard Keiton Page said he sees the his young teammates getting hungrier every day, hopefully as hungry as a Tiger, and as the crowd swarmed the country's youngest team on Eddie Sutton Court, that hunger and desire has reached an even greater level.

"I'd like to do that again," Brian Williams said.

If this team models itself after the one it just beat it might happen plenty. Or even better, there might be no reason to.

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