Early schedule didn't live up to billing

The reasons given for Oklahoma State's disappointing basketball season are pretty easy to name. There were the roster defections in December, the overall youth, the long list of injuries and the schedule. The schedule was a very common one, in fact, citing the brutal nonconference in particular. But how hard was that nonconference schedule really?

When the NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Sunday afternoon, there were familiar faces across the board. Two-seeds Kansas and Missouri, three-seed Baylor, eighth-seeded Iowa State and 11th-seeded Texas representing the Big 12 Conference. OSU's record against those five teams: 3-8.

Fairly respectable considering six of those defeats came at the hands of the Bears, Tigers and Jayhawks, who all spent the lion's share of the 2011-12 regular season inhabiting the national top 10.

OSU's final strength of schedule rank was No. 3 nationally. Those conference foes are a major reason why.

But how about that vaunted nonconference slate? Well, it ranked 92nd.

OSU trudged to a 7-6 record in nonleague games, which, at the time, appeared to be acceptable; maybe even expected. It didn't end up the way OSU might have hoped.

Not to say it wasn't hard at the time, it just doesn't look good now that the regular season is over and people have filled out brackets from coast-to-coast.

UT-San Antonio looked like a sure-fire bet to take the Southland Conference after OSU needed a Reggie Miller-esque performance out of Cezar Guerrero to stave off the upset bid. UTSA went 18-14, tying for fourth in its league.

How about Stanford, a team that whipped the Pokes by 15 in Madison Square Garden and launched out to a 15-3 start on the year? Nope, the Cardinal went 7-8 the rest of the way to land in the NIT.

Let's stay in New York City. Virginia Tech, a team that bested the Cowboys twice this season and looked to be on the verge of an ACC breakthrough, lost seven out of eight games after winning in Stillwater on New Year's Eve. VT finished 16-17 and posted just a 4-12 record in the ACC.

Missouri State, who appeared to be OSU's biggest win of the season until an upset of Missouri, finished just 16-16 and seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference.

The most baffling of all: Pitt. Then-No. 15 Pittsburgh handled OSU for the majority of the game but the Cowboys made it close, losing by six and inspired some hope. The Panthers were not all they were cracked up to be, finishing 17-16 and 5-13 in the Big East.

Of OSU's hyped pre-Big 12 foes, only eight-seed Alabama and five-seed New Mexico made the tourney. That's right, just two.

A disappointing 15-17 season — the first losing season in 24 years in Stillwater — was the byproduct of many factors. The imposing nonconference schedule just got too much of the attention and blame in hindsight.

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