March Gladness: OSU vs. GeorgiaTech

Oklahoma State got what it wanted from the NCAA Tournament selection committee - a No. 7 seed - and the Cowboys will face Georgia Tech in a first-round game of the Midwest Regional Friday in Milwaukee, Wis. The Cowboys, 22-10, and Yellow Jackets, 22-12, have played just three times previously with the most recent at the 2004 Final Four, a 67-65 Georgia Tech victory.

Oklahoma State had been projected by many bracketologists as a No. 8 seed heading into last week's Big 12 Tournament, in which the Cowboys blew out rival Oklahoma in a first-round game before losing to Kansas State in the quarterfinals. The loss to the Wildcats, a No. 2 seed in the West Regional, didn't seem to hurt the Cowboys.

"We're happy to get a 7. I think that shows some validity to us having a pretty good season thus far," Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said.

If the Cowboys defeat the Yellow Jackets, a likely matchup with No. 2 seed Ohio State (27-7) would be waiting in the second round. The Buckeyes, winners of the Big Ten Conference tournament with a convincing 90-61 victory over Minnesota on Sunday, will face 15th-seed UC-Santa Barbara in the first round.

Georgia Tech almost became the lowest seeded team to ever win the ACC postseason tournament, advancing to the championship game before losing to Duke 65-61 on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets were the No. 7 seed in the tourney.

The Yellow Jackets are led by junior Gani Lawal (6-9, 234) and freshman sensation Derrick Favors, a 6-10, 245-pounder who was the No. 1 recruit in the nation a year ago. Lawal averages 13.1 points and 8.7 rebounds for head coach Paul Hewitt's team. Favors is averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting better than 61 percent from the field. Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds against the Blue Devils on Sunday.

The Yellow Jackets had lost six of their last nine regular season games before winning three in a row (over North Carolina, Maryland and North Carolina State) in the ACC tournament.

"It's funny when you get to this time of year because I've watched Georgia Tech a little bit on TV," Ford said. "I was impressed with Favors and they've got athletic guys who can make plays. They are great in the open court. They're a very good basketball team."

Oklahoma State is making its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance under Travis Ford. The Cowboys are led by Big 12 Player of the Year James Anderson (22.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg), senior Obi Muonelo (13.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 43.3 percent three-point shooting), and sophomore guard Keiton Page (10.7 ppg, 87.7 percent free-throw shooting, 37.4 percent three-point shooting),

But the play of post players Matt Pilgrim and Marshall Moses will be critical against Georgia Tech's inside presence of Lawal and Favors. Pilgrim, the 6-8 transfer from Kentucky, has been playing his best basketball of the season in recent weeks, averaging 11.4 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting better than 77 percent from the field in the last 11 games.

"You've always got something to prove every time you go out there," said Muonelo, the only senior on the OSU squad. "Basically, we've got to go play ... play hard and be ready.

"I'm excited to play. We're back in the tournament for the second year in a row. It's a blessing. We're here and we're all excited about it."


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