Marcus Smart, Steven Pledger, Romero Osby

Oklahoma State in great position to make a run at Big 12 title

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At this point, you should expect that every single game that Oklahoma State plays will end up being a thriller, and it was no different on Saturday night as they took on in-state rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam Rivalry.

Marcus Smart finished with 28 points, seven boards, four assists, two steals and seemingly every big play down the stretch of regulation to lead No. 17 Oklahoma State as they knocked off Oklahoma 84-79 in OT.

The win bumps the Sooners into sole possession of first place in the Big 12 — as of now, they are a half-game in front of Kansas and Kansas State, both of whom have yet to play on Saturday — but there’s much more at play here.

For starters, we now know that Le’Bryan Nash isn’t, in fact, hibernating. He’s had an up-and-down season, partially due to how good Smart and Markel Brown has been this season. But on Saturday, his team needed him, and he responded with 26 points and five boards. More importantly, Nash took over in overtime, scoring the first seven points and giving the Pokes a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

It was also nice to see the versatility of the lineups that Travis Ford has at his disposal. Phil Jurick is the rim-protector on this OSU team, but in a situation where the Cowboys were forced to play against a team with two periemter-oriented big men, Ford was able to use Kamari Murphy and Michael Cobbins together, even sliding Nash over to the four spot for stretches.

Oklahoma State has put themselves into a position where they control their own destiny in the Big 12. They still need to play Kansas and Kansas State once more, but they’ll get both the Jayhawks and the Wildcats in Gallagher-Iba. Their one tough road trip — at Iowa State — is a doozy, but the Pokes have already won at Phog Allen fieldhouse.

Oh, and should I mention that they just got Brian Williams back?

Keep an eye on this Oklahoma State team. They’re going to be dangerous in March.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Details of Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State contract released

Gregg Marshall (AP Photo)
Gregg Marshall (AP Photo)
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Back in the spring, back before Alabama had hired Avery Johnson and Texas had decided upon bringing in Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall was the hottest name on the coaching carousel. He had turned Wichita State into a top 15 program, one that had reached a Final Four and won 35 straight games in the previous three seasons.

There was speculation that the Longhorns would make a run at him, but it was Alabama that tried first, reportedly offering Marshall a blank check, telling him to tell them what he was going to get paid.

Marshall turned it down, accepting a deal to remain at Wichita State that was reported to be worth $3.3 million annually for the next seven years.

This week, the Wichita Eagle obtained a copy of Marshall’s contract. The details:

  • Marshall will be getting paid $3 million annually until 2018, when that number jumps up to $3.5 million. He’s under contract through 2022.
  • He has performance bonuses that could¬†reach more than $450,000.
  • Not that Marshall would ever be fired by Wichita State, but his buyout is massive: $15 million until he’s owed less than $15 million on his contract, at which point the Shockers would have to pay him the remainder of his salary.
  • But if Marshall decides to leave, he only has to pay the school $500,000.

So if you were wondering why Marshall decided not to leave Wichita, it’s because he’s making more than Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan and slightly less than Indiana head coach Tom Crean this season.

Arkansas returns to underdog role after offseason arrests

Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson (AP Photo)
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas coach Mike Anderson says he was “blindsided” by a tumultuous offseason for the Razorbacks, one that included the arrests of three players on allegations of using counterfeit money.

Still, entering his fifth season at Arkansas – his 22nd overall at the school, including 17 as an assistant – Anderson remains optimistic the program can build on last year’s second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference.

Led by SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis, the Razorbacks finished 27-9 last season and reached their NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.

The excitement-filled season was the culmination of four years of rebuilding for Anderson, though the school took a step back afterward following the early departures for the NBA of Portis and second-leading scorer Michael Qualls.

That was only the first step in a difficult offseason for the Razorbacks.

Starting point guard Anton Beard, forward Jacorey Williams and transfer Dustin Thomas were arrested by Fayetteville police in July, accused of using counterfeit $20 bills and exchanging counterfeit $50 bills for $100 bills.

Williams was dismissed in August, while Beard and Thomas have been suspended from the team and remain enrolled in school awaiting trial.

“I think if you’re in it long enough, you’re going to have some of those things take place,” Anderson said. “I was kind of blindsided by some of it, I’ll say that. … When it happens, I think the measure of, not only the person but the program, is how you deal with it. And I think we’re dealing with it in the right way.”

With Portis and Qualls’ departures, as well as the graduation of Ky Madden and Alandise Harris, Arkansas enters this season without four of its top five scorers from a year ago.

The lone returner in that mix is senior shooting guard Anthlon Bell, who averaged 7.9 points per game last season while shooting 35.1 percent on 3-pointers.

Bell’s outside ability is something the Razorbacks expect to use often this season without the interior scoring touch of Portis, and because the revamped roster features several top shooters – including Texas Tech transfer Dusty Hannahs and heralded freshman guard Jimmy Whitt.

Anderson said they’re also likely to run more this season in order to try and manufacture easy offense through defensive pressure.

“We’re still going to play Hog basketball, 40 minutes of Hell,” Bell said.

Anderson wouldn’t comment in detail on the arrests of Beard or Thomas, but he did say he talks with the two while they’re on suspension. He also said they are continuing to work out on their own, with the hope of being reinstated after the legal process plays out.

In the meantime, Anderson is embracing a return to the underdog role after last season’s breakout – calling the reversal a “challenge” and insisting “We’re not going backward.”

“It’s unfortunate that we had some individuals that, No. 1, they (did) some things that hurt the team,” Anderson said. “But at the end of the day, let’s see how these other guys respond.”