Cardiac Cowboys Need All Seven Contributors

All season long Eddie Sutton and his coaching staff have talked about the loss of Tony Allen and how his departure for the NBA made this almost all senior team much different than the squad we remember from San Antonio and the Final Four a season ago.

Okay, I now completely understand the ramifications of Allen's departure. Tony took with him plenty of points, a lot of rebounds for a guard, and the team's killer instinct. But as the remaining Cowboys proved Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, Allen didn't take their heart and the only addition from last year brings a little moxie to the equation.

These Cowboys don't have the apptitude to put teams away. They had a couple of opportunities, like they have had many times this season, against Texas Tech. Instead they toyed with the Red Raiders and almost got burned. The key word there is "almost." They didn't. There is still "cool hand Luke" in John Lucas, the Incredible Hulk in the form of Joey Graham, and steady warrior Ivan McFarlin. This Cowboys team needs all seven of the guys that play and that was made completely obvious from Sunday's effort.

Lucas hit his treys and finished with 19 points, after a mid-game slumber Joey Graham awoke and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Ivan McFarlin fouled out with just six points. You can now count freshman JamesOn Curry as a star and he had 11 points and five assists. Those four totaled 53 points. Not enough on a good defensive day to get it done.

That's why Terrence Crawford and his eight points and five rebounds, and defensive specialist and now sixth man Daniel Bobik's eight points and five steals, and Stevie Graham's insertion into the starting lineup are needed. Those three have to make up for Tony Allen in numbers or, at least, in spirit. They did against Colorado, Kansas, and finally against Texas Tech.

The "killer instinct" may be gone, but these are the days of total group effort for the Cowboys. All of them except Curry are seniors and all have plenty on the line. Their next loss will be their last game in orange and black, so the motivation is obvious.

If the group effort can continue the Cowboys can likely keep just ahead of NCAA opponents like Southeastern Louisiana (maybe a lot here), Southern Illinois or St. Mary's, Arizona or LSU. Right on through to Chicago and the toast of the town, the Fighting Illini.

CBS Sports' Billy Packer said on the NCAA Selection Show that at the height of Illinois' win streak that he thought the one team out there that would be a good match for the Illini would be Oklahoma State. It would be nice to have that Chicago native Tony Allen back in uniform for that showdown if it materializes, but if all seven of the other Cowboys will show up ready to play, no reason OSU can't win by two or three.

Who needs to put teams away? The Cowboys make it more exciting this way, and everybody gets to feel they contributed.

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