by Mike Stewart
And the postseason begins now for the senior-laden Tigers. The Oklahoma State Cowboys hope their senior star - sharpshooting guard Keiton Page - can continue to lead them on an unlikely run to the tournament title, their only shot at reaching the NCAA tournament.
Page had a game-high 20 points in a 76-60 victory over Texas Tech in the first round.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (15-17): The Cowboys began the tournament without Big 12 Freshman of the Year LeBryan Nash, who is sidelined with an injured left (non-shooting) hand, but his classmates picked up the slack. Fellow freshmen Brian Williams and Cezar Guerrero combined for 35 points to complement Page, and Oklahoma State improved to 9-0 all-time in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Nash was the catalyst for the Cowboys' 79-72 upset of then-No. 2 Missouri on Jan. 25 in Stillwater, Okla., scoring a career-high 27 points including 13 during a pivotal stretch in the second half.
Missouri Tigers (27-4): The Tigers saw their hopes of a Big 12 regular season title fall with consecutive losses at home against Kansas State and at Kansas, but they rebounded with wins over Iowa State and Texas Tech to close the regular season. The Tigers have flourished under Haith, who has turned the remnants of the Mike Anderson era into one of the best Missouri teams ever. Senior guard Marcus Denmon (18.0 points) leads four players who average double digits, and sophomore point guard Phil Pressey adds 9.6 points and 6.2 assists per game.
1. The Tigers need only four wins to match the school record set by the 2008-09 team, which went 31-7 en route to the Elite Eight.
2. Oklahoma State is one of only three teams who have beaten Missouri this season along with Kansas and Kansas State (twice).
3. The Tigers are 4-5 all-time in the Sprint Center, but they turned in two impressive performances there earlier this season, beating Notre Dame 87-58 and thumping Cal 92-53 on consecutive nights to win the CBE Classic.
NCAA BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Tigers 76,Cowboys 67.
brian williams - cezar guerrero - frank haith - keiton page - lebryan nash - marcus denmon - mike anderson - missouri tigers - oklahoma state cowboys - phil pressey