Oklahoma State's perfect timing

The Cowboys are peaking at a time when there's room among Big 12 elite

Updated: January 3, 2013, 12:22 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus
Marcus SmartWilliam Purnell/Icon SMIMarcus Smart is a big reason for Oklahoma State's early-season success.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys are poised to make a clean break from recent history in more ways than one this season. They haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 2009, and in Travis Ford's four seasons in Stillwater his team has compiled a rather unsightly 6-27 record on the road in Big 12 play.

I'll go out on a limb and predict that OSU will beat that 18 percent winning rate this season in Big 12 away games. In fact, for a team that was buried deep in the "also receiving votes" section of the preseason polls, the Cowboys greet the new calendar year looking like a surprisingly solid pick as the second-best team in the conference, behind only Kansas.

Give Ford credit. This team has improved markedly from last season, and the Cowboys are getting the job done with defense and youth, in that order. In a season when the Big 12 is weaker statistically than it's been in a decade, Oklahoma State's going against that grain and doing the league proud. Here's why Ford has the perfect team to bring the rowdy back to Gallagher-Iba Arena.