March 14, 2010

Northward Bound: OSU a 7th seed

Coming into Selection Sunday, Oklahoma State fans seemed to be worried about two things: being to a dreaded eight/nine seed and having to go to the East Region - again.

But those fears were unfounded. The Cowboys (22-10) ended up with a pretty solid draw, all things considered. OSU is the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and will face 10th seed Georgia Tech in the first round. That game is set for a 6:15 Central Time tipoff in Milwaukee. If OSU advances, the Pokes will play the winner of the UC-Santana Barbara/Ohio State game on Sunday.

Avoiding the 8/9 position is a big deal, as it keeps OSU away from the No. 1 seed through the first weekend. For head coach Travis Ford, it doesn't matter what number is next to his team's name - he's in the Big Dance, which is all that matters.

"There's not a lot of difference now a days in 7, 8, 9, 10, 1 or 2," Ford said. "We're happy to get a 7. I think that shows some validity to us having a pretty good season thus far."

This will be the 24th appearance all-time for the Cowboys and their second in the past two years. OSU has danced in 15 of the past 20 NCAAs. Their opponent, the Yellowjackets (22-12), got hot in the last week, winning three straight in the ACC Tournament before losing a close one to Duke in the conference championship game, 65-61.

"We're going up against a really, really good basketball team," Ford said. "They're a very well-coached team, a team that went to the Final Four not too long ago. They're a team that's been through the ACC, has been tested. They're a big, athletic team."

Aside from drawing a big-name, ACC opponent, the Cowboys also have a shot at some six-year-old revenge. This game is a rematch of the 2004 Final Four, when OSU and Georgia Tech met in the national semifinals. The Jackets edged the Cowboys to make the championship game, losing to Connecticut.

"Some of the guys know about the history of the Georgia Tech-OSU game (2004 Final Four)," Keiton Page said. "I think that's where some of the noise in the room came from. We've heard some chatter about the old game.

"I remember watching that game back home. I'm glad there's a little history to this game to make it a little more fun."

While the Big 12 was arguably the best conference in the country this year, the ACC is seen as more of a "basketball" league. Translation? This is a chance for OSU to not only prove itself, but to prove how solid the league was this season, too.

"It is the best stage, not only individual-wise, but team-wise, too," James Anderson said. "You get to show everybody how hard you've worked all season. You get to show what you started on in the preseason and have it all pay off now."

For a proud program that has endured some tough times in the past few years, making the tournament for a second-straight season has signs pointing to OSU getting back to where it used to be.

"It's an exciting time of the year to see your name called because there are only 65 teams in this thing," Ford said. "We talked to our team a lot about that today. The best teams are playing today. It's great for us to be able to do this for Obi (Muonelo) and some of the older guys."

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