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It’s too early to write off Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State

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Gregg Doyel of wrote a column today on Marcus Smart, the gist of which I agree with.

Doyel’s point?

“Bad guy does something bad, victim responds in a way we don’t like … we blame the victim. … All [Marcus Smart] did was shove a guy who yelled something horrible right into his face. It was a mistake, but the punishment continues to be meted out, and it will never fit the crime.”

There’s a lot more to it than that, but generally speaking, that’s what he’s saying.

And to a point, I think he’s right. If Smart isn’t careful, that shove could end up defining his career as a basketball player, and that would be sad. And unfair. He’s 19-year old frustrating by losing reacting to what he thought was someone using a racial slur. Anyone worth knowing would be able to forgive Smart for that, even the guy that got pushed.

Here’s where I disagree with Doyel: he’s already written Oklahoma State and Smart off, and that’s wildly premature.

Remember, Oklahoma State’s RPI is currently 47. They have wins over Memphis, Texas and Colorado, which came on a neutral court. They have just one bad loss on the season, and that was a road game in conference. The 4-9 league record and seven-game losing streak? That certainly doesn’t help, but it can be quickly forgotten with games remaining against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State, not to mention the Big 12 tournament.

The Pokes aren’t in an ideal spot, but they A) aren’t all that far from the (admittedly weak) bubble’s cut line, and B) they have plenty of time and a number of chances to turn this around.

I think they will.

I think this will be a wakeup call for Smart. I think the exaggerated flopping and the whining to officials will stop. I think he’ll play just as hard as his teammates did the last two games, when they lost to Oklahoma by three and at Baylor in overtime. I think they’ll do enough to make the NCAA tournament, and I think they could even end up winning a game there.

And as far as the idea of his draft stock tumbling? That’s true, but it has a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that the can’t hit a jumper than the fact that he shoved a fan.

This season is far from over for Oklahoma State.

Let’s not act like it is yet.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.