USA TODAY Sports
It'll smart to see Smart in the wrong shade of orange.
The Texas Longhorns (10-12, 2-7) limp into the back nine of conference play at home against the Oklahoma St. Cowboys (16-5, 6-3). The Cowboys are coming off two huge wins--at Kansas and at home against Baylor--meaning they're ripe for an upset. Can Texas pull it off?
Oklahoma St. is led by freshman All-American (not to mention POY) candidate Marcus Smart. The former McDonald's All-American is more of a combo guard, with a size/athleticism combo leading to a well-rounded statline: 14.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.7 APG. Smart considered Texas, but eventually picked Oklahoma St. when the Cowboys offered a scholarship to his childhood friend Phil Forte. Forte plays the bench triggerman role, and he shoots 36.6% (52-142) from distance this year.
Flanking Smart in the backcourt is leading scorer junior Markel Brown (15.3 PPG). It's a lethal combination that has caused multiple backcourts fits this year. Add in former five-star sophomore Le'Bryan Nash at small forward, and the Cowboys have a variety of ways to score from the perimeter. Both Smart and Nash are potential NBA first round draft picks this year.
The frontcourt isn't nearly as talented, but senior center Philip Jurick provides size and is an elite rebounder (7.1 RPG). Sophomore Michael Cobbins and freshman Kamari Murphy split duties at power forward.
The Cowboys are big at every position, meaning they're pretty good at defense. And while their shooting percentages aren't great, there are multiple threats to score on the floor at any given time. I was bullish on Oklahoma St. in the preseason, predicting a top 3 finish in conference. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if they end the year as conference champions and make a fair bit of noise in the NCAA Tournament.
RECRUITING NOTE: Texas is expecting an official visit from uber-prospect Julius Randle from Plano Prestonwood Christian. Randle is a top 5 prospect overall in the class and would be the best player on campus since Kevin Durant, if he chose Texas. The Longhorns might also get an unofficial visit from Kendal Yancy-Harris, a combo guard from Richardson Berkner. Yancy-Harris signed his LOI with the USC Trojans but may request a release after the school fired head coach Kevin O'Neill.
TEXAS (10-12, 2-7)
vs. Oklahoma St. (16-5, 6-3)
Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 • 12:45 p.m. CT
Austin, Texas • Erwin Center (16,540)