After the untimely departure of Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, it seemed that the Cowboys once unwavering tenacity had finally succumbed to their precipitous downfall. Although the Cowboys have put themselves in a deep hole in terms of sacrificing seven straight games to conference opponents, this team has still valiantly attempted to reinvigorate themselves. While Marcus Smart’s return to the court may seem to have come a little too late, the Cowboys still have a chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the fact that a conference regular season title may be out of the question, the Cowboys can still salvage what is left of their season by winning out in their next three competitive contests.
Before the Cowboys depressing demise, this teams illustrious success was predicated on high octane scoring (81.1 PPG, 16th in NCAA). Even when the Cowboys star guard Marcus Smart was suspended for three games, this team still had a plethora of shooters who could shoot consistently from within and outside the arch. Between forward Le’Bryan Nash’s dual threat abilities as a reliable shooter (52.7% from the field) and as an aggressive rebounder (5.8 RPG) along with Phil Forte’s ample contributions as a lights out three point shooter (45.8% from the perimeter), the Cowboys are ripe with offensive weapons that can play inside just as effectively as they can from the perimeter.
However, despite the Cowboys impressive offensive out put, they still have struggled erratically in terms of playing defense. During their abysmal seven game losing streak, the Cowboys relinquished 80 points a game while only scoring 72.8 points a game. While the offensively potent Cowboys have never been heavily reliant upon an oppressive defense to motivate them throughout their intermittent successes, once their emotionally driven guard left the building, this teams short comings became exposed and their one dimensional ways finally began to hurt this teams chances at competing in the NCAA Tournament.
Yet, even throughout the Cowboys grueling losses, they still held out hope that the return of their coveted guard could revitalize this team back to their former glory as an offensive juggernaut. Sure enough, the reemergence of Smart was the antidote this ailing Cowboys squad needed to get back to their dominant ways as the sophomore guard shot 50% from the field while scoring 16 points and dishing out ten assists in a rout of Texas Tech. Although any sports fan would be remise if they didn’t acknowledge that the Cowboys first win in nearly a month was against a inferior Texas Tech opponent, it at least allowed the Cowboys to earn back some much needed confidence which will be vital to this teams potential success story going forward.
While the Cowboys last two victories couldn’t have come at a better time to allow Marcus Smart to find his offensive groove, their true test will come against the merciless Kansas Jayhawks. Although the Cowboys are slightly more proficient in terms of their scoring capabilities, the Jayhawks are superior in terms of their jaw dropping accuracy (50.1% from the field, 4th in NCAA) and their graceful ball movement skills that allows this team to score from within the paint or to maneuver the ball to the outside corner to a red hot shooter who can put up an uncontested perimeter shot. Still, despite the Cowboys shortcoming in terms of having a well-rounded offense, they still have given this surging Jayhawks team a run for their money in the past (lost to the Jayhawks 80-78 on January 18th). While the Cowboys have done an exceptional job at shutting down Andrew Wiggins, they have struggled to prevent Joel Emiid’s low post scoring and aggressive glass play. In order for the Cowboys to be able to exact revenge against their conference rivals, Marcus Smart will have to have put on a sensational scoring performance while stifling the Jayhawks insatiable offense. It won’t be easy, but when the Cowboys offense is firing on all cylinders, not even the poised Jayhawks will stand a chance against this teams intimidating albeit streaky shooting barrage.
In the end, the Cowboys still have a lot to prove if they hope to inspire their loyal fan base to rally behind them once again. While the Cowboys last two games have emphatically shown what this teams dominant offense is capable of, their inconsistent defense hasn’t been able to keep this relentless team in crucial games. If the Cowboys can find a way to win against the Jayhawks, they’ll prove once and for all just how determined and driven they really are.