As if you needed any more evidence that Marcus Smart was off to the NBA after this season, the talented sophomore guard will be treated like a senior during Oklahoma State's home finale against Kansas State Monday night.
ESPN's Andy Katz has the news:
From our crew on site at Oklahoma State: Sophomore Marcus Smart will walk with Markel Brown and Mason Cox on senior night tonight vs KState.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 3, 2014
In what may have been his final game at the Gallagher-Iba Arena, Smart poured in 18 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists in the Cowboys 77-61 win.
It was always assumed that Smart, who somewhat shockingly returned to Stillwater after a successful freshman campaign, would declare for June's draft, and this is basically the unofficial official confirmation of that belief.
Still, for as much as Smart has meant to the Cowboys over the past two seasons, Sporting News' Troy Machir doesn't believe he should be given the same celebration as the seniors:
No offense to Marcus Smart, but why should he get to participate in Senior Night activities if he didn't put in the four years?— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) March 4, 2014
Smart has fought through a roller-coaster season in 2013-14.
On the one hand, he has improved his effective field-goal percentage (48.1), true-shooting percentage (54.7), assist rate (29.2) and turnover rate (15.9) despite increased usage from his freshman year, per kenpom.com (subscription required).
Although Oklahoma State has struggled since late January, the Pokes have won three in a row, including a crucial victory over then-No. 5 Kansas Saturday. Smart struggled early in that contest but took over down the stretch to help secure the win, showcasing why he's still such a tantalizing prospect:
Marcus Smart had 20 second-half points to help Oklahoma State upset Kansas. Highlights: http://t.co/ufi2BlNr8t— ESPNU (@ESPNU) March 2, 2014
However, on the other, he has struggled with his shot selection (shooting 29.3 percent on 5.4 three-point attempts per game), gained a reputation for flopping and was suspended three games after shoving a Texas Tech fan.
According to one NBA general manager, via Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, the latter negatively affected his draft stock:
His stock is going to take a hit. He has shown in the past few months that he is prone to outbursts. He kicked a chair (against West Virginia). He's under a lot of pressure. The team is not doing well, struggling.
Fans say things in the NBA every day. He has a history of letting people get under his skin. The NBA fans will test him.
When will Smart be drafted?
Smart was seen as a top-five lock after his freshman season, but now it's highly unlikely he'll hear his name called before Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle or Dante Exum.
Nevertheless, a quality performance under the bright lights of March would go a long way in reversing some of the negative moments he has created this season.
Either way, one thing is clear. Enjoy Smart in college basketball while you can, because like the other seniors, he'll be gone in a month.