Travis Ford (Getty Images)

Kamari Murphy’s transfer another blow to a sputtering OK State program

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Oklahoma State has lost another key piece from last season’s team as Kamari Murphy has decided to transfer out of the program, according to multiple media reports.

As a sophomore this past season, Murphy averaged 6.1 points and 6.3 boards. He became a starter when Michael Cobbins went down with a torn achilles.

Of the eight players that Oklahoma State had in their rotation at the start of the 2013-2014 season, five of them are now gone and four left with eligibility remaining: Murphy and Brian Williams transferred, Marcus Smart went pro, Stevie Clark was kicked out of the program in December and Markel Brown graduated. That list doesn’t include Jared Terrell, either. Terrell was the crown jewel of Ford’s 2014 recruiting class but he got out of his letter of intent last month.

That leaves Travis Ford with a roster that is going to be dreadfully thin once again.

The good news? He does return Le’Bryan Nash for what should be a big senior season, and Cobbins and Phil Forte should be back as well. Add in a five-man recruiting class — headlined by JuCo transfer Jeff Newberry — and the cupboard isn’t completely bare, but it’s still hard to see how Ford is going to be able to get this team into the NCAA tournament.

Which brings us back to a point that was brought up by Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman back when the Pokes were bounced from the NCAA tournament in their first game: Travis Ford’s contract is a doozy. The school signed him to a 10-year deal back in 2009, meaning that Ford still has five years and almost $12 million coming to him.

The most important note?

The school has no buy out.

If they want Ford out, they have to pay him the remainder of his salary, and I’m not sure even T. Boone Pickens is willing to shell out that kind of cash for basketball.

It’s no wonder that the Cowboys can no longer fill up Gallagher-Iba Arena. They have a head coach that the fans hate, that couldn’t get the Pokes out of the opening round of the NCAA tournament despite having two seasons with Smart, Nash and Brown on the roster, and it doesn’t look like it will get any better anytime soon.

Ford’s always been able to recruit, but it will be interesting to see if players still want to join a program that’s clearly not in a good place these days.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
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Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.