Marcus Smart made it official on Wednesday afternoon: he will be returning to Oklahoma State and will not be entering his name in the NBA Draft.
“I think I made the right decision,” Smart, who had a chance to be a top five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, said at a press conference. “I am aware of how much money I am giving up.”
As long as he was fully informed and educated about all his available options, Smart’s decision to return to school was the right one. And it creates what will end up being one of the most intriguing storylines throughout the 2013-2014 season: Can Oklahoma State end Kansas’ nine-year run of consecutive Big 12 regular season titles?
On paper, it looks like they have a great chance to do so.
The Pokes not only bring back Smart, but he’ll be paired with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, giving Travis Ford one of the nation’s most talented perimeter attacks. Throw in role players like Brian Williams, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte, and Oklahoma State has the makings of a top ten team.
But is that enough to take down Kansas?
There’s a reason that the Jayhawks have won at least a share of nine straight regular season titles, and his name is Bill Self. Remember, this isn’t the first time that Kansas has had their roster devastated by graduation and early entry to the NBA Draft. In 2006, they started all freshmen and sophomores. In 2009, they lost six players to the NBA Draft and returned just Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. 2012 was supposed to be a rebuilding season, and the Jayhawks made the national title game. With Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor gone, 2013 was supposed to be a rebuilding season as well, but the Jayhawks still managed to earn a No. 1 seed.
So what will happen next year?
Kansas will have a roster loaded with highly regarded recruits, and they are still in the mix to land the No. 1 prospect in the country in Andrew Wiggins.
Oklahoma State will be talented, but NC State was talented this season as well. A lot of people predicted the Wolfpack would be a top ten team and would win the ACC. Look how that worked out. Baylor was predicted to be the favorite in the Big 12 in 2012 and they ended up finishing third in the conference.
And while Travis Ford isn’t necessarily regarded as a markedly better coach than Mark Gottfried or Scott Drew, he does have Marcus Smart at his disposal once again.
Smart’s one of those guys that earns all of the cliches — winner, coach on the floor, etc.
He’s gets all of them.
NC State and Baylor didn’t have a player like that on their rosters.
Is that enough to be a difference?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.