Check my Twitter timeline. I’ve been critical of this basketball team just like everyone else. It’s hard to sit through four losses in six games without feeling like the wheels are falling off, or even convincing yourself that the wheels were never really on (Travis Ford is convinced that we have young wheels).
That said, I feel like OSU fans are turning on this team too early in the season. Plenty of time remains to get things turned around. I said in a previous post that this year’s team reminds me of the three teams from 2001 to 2003. Each of those teams finished 10-6 in the Big 12, made the tournament, and all failed to make a run in the dance. While that seems like a grim outlook for a year where we had so much promise, I would love to simply hear our name called on Selection Sunday and take our chances with strong guard play and a good defensive team.
To be kind, those post-Mason, pre-Graham teams were offensively challenged. Maybe it’s just nostalgia (I was in the student section for the 2001 and 2002 seasons), but they were still fun to watch because they played their fannies off on defense — at least that’s how Eddie would have described it on the post-game. I contend that this year’s team is very similar, it’s just hard to see it because we’re not winning the 50/50 games.
Let’s take a look back at the 2003 season…10 long years ago. Bobby Reid was
peaking as a senior in high school, Tony Allen was putting together a season where he would be named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, and some people were whispering that maybe Eddie was getting a little too old for the game — yes, this conversation was taking place on the OSU message boards. Remember, at this point OSU was three seasons removed from the Elite Eight season, JLIII was playing for Baylor and the Graham brothers were in street clothes at the end of the bench. Going in to the 2003 season, OSU had not won a tournament game in two years.
It is January 31, 2003. OSU is 17-1 and 6-0 in conference play, ranked #9 in the country. The team has been winning with defense. The biggest win of the season has been the 48-46 win over eventual NCAA #1 seed and Big 12 champ Oklahoma (thank you Victor Wiliams). OSU has the 7th-best offense in the conference and the 2nd-best defense. This was the prototypical Eddie team where he made the most out of what he had.
OSU would go on the road to Texas and drop one — no crime, as Texas would go on to the Final Four that year. After a home win against K-State, the Pokes would then lose 6 out of the next 8 games, 4 on the road and 2 in GIA. Before the automatic senior day win against Texas A&M, Eddie would say:
It’s disappointing to me that our four seniors haven’t given us better leadership than what they have. I just feel like we got to a point where we were 15-1 — and I don’t want to use the word selfish — but some of the guys started thinking about their game instead of understanding that basketball is a team sport.
When these guys came into our program, we had the second-best program in the Big 12. At that time, we probably were gaining on Kansas. Not that we have a bad program now, but while they’ve been here, Texas and Oklahoma probably have gained on us. And then you look right behind us and there’s Missouri, Colorado and some of those other teams.
That team would finish 10-6 in league play, good for the 4 seed in the Big 12 tournament. The Cowboys would be a 6-seed in the dance. After the victory over Penn, OSU would have Syracuse down by 17 points before the Orangemen starting pressing the Pokes, forcing 22 turnovers on their way to a 68-56 win. Melvin Sanders cemented his claim as one of the all-time great OSU defenders by holding Carmelo to his worst outing in his championship run. Anthony was 5-16 for only 13 points.
Okay, so how does this tie back in to 2013? First, let’s look at some numbers:
Offense 118th 116th
Defense 6th 3rd
Tempo 174th 144th
FG% 201st 138th
Opp. FG% 5th 19th
This team, like the 2003 team, is playing elite defense and poor-to-average offense. If anything, this year’s team has more offensive weapons than the 2003 team. Remember, Tony was still pretty raw in 2003…Victor Williams led that team in scoring.
The 2003 team was 21-8, 10-6 in conference play heading into the postseason. This year’s team is projected to be 21-9, 11-7 — granted, in a much weaker Big 12.
When the 2003 team won, they did it with grit and a HOF coach on the bench. I don’t know if this team has what it takes to grind through the conference schedule, but we will find out very soon. The way I see it, the only given for the rest of the season is a loss in Lawrence. That leaves the following 12 games, of which OSU must win 9 to get to 11-7 in conference play. Games are listed from most difficult to easiest.
Wed. Feb 20 – Kansas (Home) – 43% chance of winning per Pomeroy
Wed. Mar 6 – Iowa St. (Away) – 44%
Sat. Feb 9 – Texas (Away) – 66%
Wed. Feb 6 – Baylor (Home) – 71%
Wed. Jan 30 – Iowa St. (Home) – 72%
Sat. Feb 23 – West Virginia (Away) – 74%
Sat. Mar 9 – Kansas St. (Home) – 75%
Sat. Feb 16 – Oklahoma (Home) – 77%
Sat. Mar 2 – Texas (Home) – 86%
Sat. Jan 26 – West Virginia (Home) – 90%
Wed. Feb 27 – Texas Christian (Away) – 94%
Wed. Feb 13 – Texas Tech (Away) – 94%
Eddie was counting on Vic, Tony, Melvin, and Ivan in 2003. Travis Ford is counting on Marcus, LeBryan, and Markel. I know most of our fans are rolling their eyes right now, but I think this group can put together a run just like the team that played ten years ago. That team had an early-season run…this team will have a late-season run that will put them 4th or 5th in the league with a good shot at making the tournament. Don’t give up on them just yet.