The Oklahoma State men’s basketball program has made six Final Fours. The current Cowboys team can probably tell you a little bit about each of them because that’s what they were assigned to do by head coach Travis Ford.
The Cowboys enter the 2013-2014 season ranked No. 8 in the AP poll, and with the return of player of the year candidate Marcus Smart, this Oklahoma State team is looking to make the program’s seventh Final Four appearance. Although the Cowboys likely won’t mention it.
Ford, during a team dinner the night before practice began, had players research and report on the former Final Four teams. And according to Kelly Hines of the Tulsa World, that’s the last time Ford and his Oklahoma State team will be talking about championships this year.
“We wanted them to learn about the tradition but also the championship-type teams,” Ford said. “We’ve talked a lot about trying to get to that point, trying to get our guys throughout the summer and a little bit of preseason thinking in terms of trying to motivate them to win a championship.”
“Once the night was over, I told our guys, ‘Now we’re done talking about it,’ ” Ford said. “I don’t want to talk any more about it. I don’t want to pinhole it.”
According to Hines, Smart downplayed preseason hype, reminding reporters that this team hasn’t done anything yet.
Last season the Cowboys were sent home early by No. 12 Oregon in the NCAA tournament. The early exit was part of the reason Smart decided to return for his sophomore season, which will be his last in Stillwater. Another reason Oklahoma State shouldn’t be talking titles is because of the nine-year dominance Kansas has had over the Big 12, winning at least a share of the title in each of those seasons. The Jayhawks, like the Cowboys, are the favorites to top the conference standings this season. The two meetings between Kansas and Oklahoma State — Jan. 18 and Mar. 1 — have only been heightened by Smart’s recent comments about KU freshman Andrew Wiggins.
Ending KU’s reign of conference dominance could be the start to something special for OK State. The last time Kansas failed to win at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title was 2004 … the same year the Cowboys made their sixth and final trip to the Final Four.
Oklahoma State begins the season on Friday against Mississippi Valley State.