Final exams are over and the Oklahoma State Cowboys shipped out by bus at noon Friday, box lunch in hand and a pretty active pregame practice awaiting once they arrived in Tulsa.
New Cowboys coach Brad Underwood wasn't here last season but you can bet he is still chapped that Tulsa came over to Gallagher-Iba Arena last season and beat a team that included some of the players on his team 66-56. It was the first win for a Tulsa team in Stillwater since 1985. Tulsa just isn't supposed to win over Oklahoma State, especially in Stillwater, according to certain coaches and count Underwood among that coaching club.
This is not the same Tulsa club as Oklahoma State is 6-2 with the only losses on a neutral floor to North Carolina in Hawaii and at Maryland, two highly ranked and talented opponents.
Tulsa with a virtual new line-up and team is 4-3 fresh off a 14-point comeback on Wednesday in beating Illinois State 70-68. Tulsa added NJCAA All-American Jaleel Wheeler and that has helped as TU is 4-1 since his debut and that includes wins over Oregon State to go with Illinois State.
Cowboys forward Leyton Hammonds has the right approach as he sees blue, gold and red and thinks a loss in GIA last season.
"They're right down the street and they're a really good basketball team," Hammonds said. "They got the best of us last year and it's like playing against your brother and you never want to lose to your brother, for sure. We have to give it our all on Saturday. We go out there and play our game and give it our all then I just believe things will go our way."
Underwood is ready for this post-finals period as he figures to do some grinding and reminds old timers of the post-finals practices conducted by Mr. Iba and Eddie Sutton. Underwood sees everything as a progression to getting better before the Dec. 30 Big 12 opener at home with West Virginia.
"It's another road game for us," Underwood said of the Tulsa game. "It's going to be a great environment and they were an NCAA Tournament team last season. Frank (Heath) has won 20 games or more every year that he's been there. It is a tradition-rich program and they have a culture of winning. I'm sure there will be a good crowd there. That is a great opportunity for us and they play in the American and that is a very good league."
Tip-off is 4 p.m. Saturday and in an interesting twist it is on the CBS Sports Network, a network that has a contract with the American Athletic Conference. Former OSU guard Doug Gottlieb, who at one time was a candidate for the OSU coaching job, will be the analyst on the broadcast.
"They are a good basketball team and they are playing their best basketball right now," Underwood said of the Golden Hurricane. "They have got better since the start of the season and we are going to have to play well to be in that game."