The Cowboys, 18-13, will be looking to end a four-game NCAA Tournament losing streak when they face Oregon, 25-9, in a West Regional Round of 64 game at 5:50 p.m. Friday (Central Daylight Time) in Omaha, Nebraska.
Since defeating Tennessee 77-75 in Ford’s first NCAA Tournament game as head coach of Oklahoma State in 2009 the Cowboys have lost four straight games, including losses to Oregon and Gonzaga the past two years.
The nearly six-year streak without an NCAA victory is the longest such streak without a win since OSU went from 1965 to 1991 without one.
Ford, now 1-4 in the NCAA Tournament as head coach at OSU, is aware that Cowboys fans are frustrated with going one-and-done in 2010, 2013 and 2014.
“Every year is different. We’re going to do everything we possibly can (to win),” said Ford, whose Cowboys are a No. 9 seed in the West Regional. “If I could wave a magic wand, we’d be sitting in the Final Four. That’s not the way it works. Now to the normal fan it is.
“Every year is different. One year doesn’t correspond to the next year, it just doesn’t go that way. Every year is different. Whether it was our first year, second time, third time or this is our fifth time, I want to make it to the second round not because we haven’t made it before. That has nothing to do with it. Zero for me. I want to do it because I want to try to advance.”
The Cowboys coach says losing in previous years does not add to the motivation for him or his team.
“We don’t need any motivation. We’re there. It doesn’t guarantee you anything,” Ford said. “We’re a lower seed and we’re going to have to beat a higher seed. We’re excited.”
OSU enters Friday’s game with six losses in its last seven games, and its lone victory since Feb. 10 is over a TCU team that finished ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12. Ford will tell his players that the 31 previous games mean nothing on Friday in Omaha.
“This is a fresh start for everybody, for every team, because there are teams coming in that are maybe not playing so well. It doesn’t matter. You can throw that aside,” he said. “You get a fresh start. It doesn’t matter how you made the NCAA Tournament for any team, it matters that you made it. Now what are you going to do with it?”
Although the Cowboys and Ducks played two years ago and the two coaching staffs will study plenty of game tape this week, OSU is anxious to go against a team other than Kansas, Texas, West Virginia or any other Big 12 opponent.
“The Big 12 takes a toll on you mentally and physically. I think it is a little bit exciting to play against somebody different,” Ford said. “We don’t know them as well, they don’t know us as well. Now we’ll all study film and by Friday we’ll all know each other as well as I know the Big 12 teams.
“It is a different feel, there’s no question. It is a different feel. We’ll be happy to see anybody but a Big 12 team, that’s for sure.”
If the Cowboys have an advantage over the Ducks it would be that seniors Michael Cobbins and Le’Bryan Nash and junior Phil Forte have the experience of playing in two previous NCAA Tournaments. The Ducks do not have anyone remaining on their roster that played in the 2013 tourney.
“It’s great, especially since we’ve got three guys who have led us to three straight NCAA Tournaments after a tough year for them four years ago. That’s an accomplishment in itself,” Ford said. “Now we’ve made three straight, which a lot of teams haven’t done, and we’ve been to five of the last seven. We want to go further. There’s no doubt. There’s not a fan out there wants to go and compete more than I do or this team does.”