OSU is 18-12 overall and finished in a three-way tie for sixth place in the Big 12 with an 8-10 conference record. They earned the sixth seed over Texas and Kansas State by virtue of their 3-1 record against the Longhorns and Wildcats.
The Cowboys will face the Sooners (21-9 and tied for second in the Big 12 with a 12-6 mark) for the third time this season in the final quarterfinal game of the day from the Sprint Center. The Sooners defeated the Cowboys 82-65 in Norman on Jan. 17, and OU swept the regular season series with a 64-56 victory on Jan. 31 in Stillwater.
OSU, however, is 3-0 all-time in Big 12 tournament games against Oklahoma.
Travis Ford said earlier this week that the Big 12’s strength from top to bottom makes it almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen over the next three days.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve looked at all the different matches and all the different things that could happen. Everybody has a reason to think that they could be successful in this tournament,” said the OSU head coach.
“I think that’s what makes this league special. Not only is it balanced but it’s balanced with strong play. It’s balanced with a high level of play. Everybody in our league has won big games.
“It would be impossible to try to figure out what’s going to happen this week.”
If the Cowboys can put together a three-game stretch like they did in early February then there’s no telling what could take place. They could become the first OSU team to win a Big 12 tourney title since 2005.
Obviously, that’s a big if for a team that has lost to ninth-place TCU and cellar dweller Texas Tech – and No. 17 Iowa State and No. 20 West Virginia (twice) – in the past month.
But the Cowboys’ play in their final two regular season games – an 82-70 victory over TCU inside Gallagher-Iba Arena and a nine-point loss at West Virginia – give Ford reason for optimism.
The Cowboys are led by senior Le’Bryan Nash, a second-team All-Big 12 selection this week after averaging 16.8 points (second in the league) and 5.4 rebounds. Phil Forte ranks in the top three in the Big 12 in points per game, steals per game, three-pointers made, free throws made, free-throw percentage, and minutes played.
The Cowboys success may rest on how Anthony Hickey and Jeff Newberry play agains the Sooners.
Hickey was named to the Big 12 all-defensive and all-newcomer teams this week. In the losses to OU, Hickey was just 10-of-26 shooting, including 4-of-14 on three-pointers, with four assists and four turnovers.
Newberry scored just two points in the losses to the Sooners, making just 1 of 8 shots from the field (missing all five of his three-point attempts).
Hickey averaged 18.5 points and 6.0 assists in the final two regular season games, and has made 9 of his last 12 three-pointers. Newberry, after playing just five minutes in the victory over TCU last week, scored a career-high 23 points in the loss to West Virginia, going 8-of-11 from the field, including making 3 of 6 treys.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, with the game to be shown on ESPNU.