The first five years of the Travis Ford era at Oklahoma State have been fairly successful, but his sixth season in charge of the Cowboys could be his breakthrough one as a head coach.
Last season, the Cowboys went 24-9 in the regular season, which set a Ford-era high for wins, but they were handed a horrible draw in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and lost to No. 12 Oregon in San Jose in the round of 64.
Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, Ford has eight returnees from his best season in Stillwater as the Cowboys look to challenge the Kansas Jayhawks for the Big 12 title.
Here is a complete look at what the new season brings for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Stevie Clark: The top newcomer for the Cowboys will be Stevie Clark, a two-time Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year.
Clark will be a valuable asset at the guard position for the Cowboys, but he is not expected to be a starter at any point this season.
With Marcus Smart and Phil Forte ahead of him on the depth chart, Clark will get plenty of experience in practice and should be a star in the future in Stillwater.
Jeffrey Carroll: Jeffrey Carroll is a Texas native who has moved up north to Oklahoma State to play college ball.
He is not expected to make a major contribution this season, but he could next season when the Cowboys look to rebuild.
Gary Gaskins: Gaskins last played at Brevard (Fla.) Community College and his 6'10" height could help the post game of the Cowboys.
However, Gaskins' playing time may be limited because of his lack of girth at just 200 pounds.
Marcus Smart: The top returner is Smart, who will challenge for a spot on many All-American teams as well as National Player of the Year.
Smart decided to snub the NBA after his freshman year, but he did make the right decision. He will only become a better player as he preps for the pros this season.
Phil Forte: Forte also stood out as a freshman last season, and just like Smart, he will look to take his game to the next level in his sophomore season.
Forte was one of four players to average over 10 points per game during the 2012-13 campaign and his ability to do that and more this season will help take pressure off Smart.
Le'Bryan Nash: There is a bit of concern about the paint play of the Cowboys given the lack of height that Le'Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins present.
At 6'7", Nash is not going to be your typical bruiser on the boards, but if he can cause trouble on the defensive side of the ball against his taller opponents, the Cowboys should avoid a letdown at any point in the season.
Here is a look at Oklahoma State's roster for the 2013-14 season.
|4||Brian Williams||F||RS Jr.|
|20||Michael Cobbins||F||RS Jr.|
|55||Mason Cox||C||RS Sr.|
Starting Five: Markel Brown; Phil Forte; Marcus Smart; Le'Bryan Nash; Michael Cobbins
Key Figures off the Bench: Brian Williams; Kamari Murphy; Stevie Clark; Marek Soucek
Marcus Smart: This slide could easily be dedicated to Smart, who will attempt to steal the individual headlines away from Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins all season.
But, if you dig deeper into the Cowboys roster, it will be players like Cobbins and Brown who will be the true X-factors this season.
Michael Cobbins: If Cobbins can improve on his 6.1 rebounds per game total from last season, he could hand the Cowboys another deadly asset to their already scary team.
Markel Brown: Brown will be handed the keys to the offense when Smart is shut down, and he will have to develop into a second scoring option once again to keep the Cowboys out of trouble.
The obvious best-case scenario for the Cowboys this season would be to unseat the Jayhawks from their Big 12 throne.
To do so, all five of their starters must not slip up in any game this season, including Smart.
In the best possible case for Ford and company, Smart would average close to 20 points per game and become the favorite to win National Player of the Year.
The worst-case scenario for Oklahoma State would involve Smart being shut down or hurt in his second collegiate season.
Smart denied the NBA to come back and help the Cowboys thrive this year, but if anything significant happens to him, not only will his draft stock fall, the stock of his team will drop as well.
Prediction: 26-5 (14-4 Big 12)
There is a realistic chance the Cowboys could run through nonconference play with an undefeated record.
The biggest challenge, if you want to call it that, facing the Cowboys will come on November 19 against Memphis at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
At the Old Spice Classic over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, they will face a test from either LSU or Memphis in the final, but they should capture that tournament title.
When it comes to Big 12 play, Oklahoma State has two major matchups with Kansas on January 18 in Lawrence and on March 1 at home.
The Cowboys will probably be susceptible to an upset or two along the way against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, but they should be able to split with Kansas and keep their name in contention for the regular-season title.
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