Oklahoma State Basketball: Will Cowboys Survive Marcus Smart Suspension?

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Oklahoma State Basketball: Will Cowboys Survive Marcus Smart Suspension?
BRODY SCHMIDT/Associated Press

In case you haven't heard by now, things are really bad right now for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Travis Ford's team are in the midst of a season-crippling four-game losing streak, but that is the least of their concerns after the Marcus Smart incident on Saturday. 

As has been well-documented by everyone in sports media, Smart was provoked by a Texas Tech fan and shoved him towards the end of the Cowboys' upset loss to the Red Raiders on Saturday night.

While the Smart story stole the headlines, the real newsmaker from Saturday night in Lubbock was the fact the Cowboys are on the verge of missing the NCAA men's basketball tournament because of their lowly February. 

Oklahoma State has lost four straight and five of its last six games, and the team currently sits at 4-6 in the Big 12, a streak and record no tournament hopeful wants to have at this time of the season. 

Now, with Smart suspended for three crucial games against Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor, the Cowboys have reached crisis mode and may not be able to salvage their season. 

Before Smart was ruled ineligible for the next three contests, the Cowboys were already suffering depth problems because of Michael Cobbins' season-ending injury and Stevie Clark's removal from the team for disciplinary reasons. 

Five days before they lost to Texas Tech, Ford and company fell in three overtimes at home to Iowa State, a game that saw just six players see significant playing time. 

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Add to that problem the departure of a player who produces 17.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for three contests and you could easily declare the Cowboys as being royally screwed. 

In all honesty, Oklahoma State is in a very deep hole they dug themselves, and the only way to start climbing out of it is to win a game against a ranked opponent, a designation Texas happens to have heading into Tuesday's clash in Austin. 

Ford is going to have to piece together his bench behind a starting five of Phil Forte, Markel Brown, LeBryan Nash, Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy, which will be no easy task. 

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No player outside the five starters for Tuesday's game has averaged more than 6.3 minutes per game this season. 

The player with the most minutes out of that mix of players that in a normal season would not see the court at all is Leyton Hammonds, who has contributed one point and 1.2 rebounds per game in 20 appearances. 

If Ford cannot get any production out of his reserves on Tuesday, he may have to pick volunteers from the student section to earn playing time against rival Oklahoma on Saturday, a task every fan in the Bedlam rivalry would love to take on.

The reliance on the remaining five key contributors will be a massive one, and while those players are fully capable of delivering an improbable win against either Texas or Oklahoma, the chances of that happening are slim.

Too many variables, whether it be foul trouble, fatigue or some other unknown, are at play in this type of situation and we may see Oklahoma State in the midst of a seven-game losing streak when Smart returns against Texas Tech, the same team that may have stuck the final dagger in the Cowboys' coffin. 

Oklahoma State is at a major disadvantage with Smart gone, and with its season already on a downward spiral, it will be hard for the Cowboys to recover from this latest massive blow to a season that started with plenty of expectations, none of which the team has lived up to as of now. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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