NEW YORK — As much as they’ll always try, coaches can’t cure a team’s ills with one locker room speech.
I’d love to know what Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said/scolded to his team Friday night after his Cowboys lost 82-67 to Stanford in what amounted to one of the laziest, most careless performances by a team I’ve seen this season.
I don’t know what Ford said because I didn’t get the chance for him to tell me. I and others couldn’t wait any longer in the press conference room after he left us twiddling our thumbs 40 minutes after the game had ended. I’ve waited less time to speak to state championship-losing football coaches following the biggest games of their lives. (Officially file this under “#sportswriterproblems,” by the way. I only offer up the anecdote so you realize why I don’t have any quotes from Ford in this blog post.)
Ford eventually did come out and speak to the media, but the Syracuse-Virginia Tech game was already halfway through the first half.
As for Ford’s team, I didn’t think it was NCAA tournament-worthy before the season started. After the lackadaisical effort at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, the feeling’s only reinforced. It can be a team with athletic and fun potential, a team that steals some games in a Big 12 that’s not top-heavy like normal.
Even if improvement comes (and I think it will), take a look at the Pokes’ schedule before Big 12 play begins in January.
Nov. 30: Tulsa
Dec. 4: Langston (NAIA)
Dec. 7: at Missouri State
Dec. 10: Pittsburgh (at Madison Square Garden)
Dec. 17: New Mexico (in Oklahoma City)
Dec. 21: Alabama (in Birmingham)
Dec. 28: SMU (in Dallas)
Dec. 31: Virginia Tech
How many of those wins are achievable? That’s still to be determined, but not one, not even SMU, is a gimme. Tulsa’s an underrate group right now. The Virginia Tech battles could ultimately be bubble deciders.
And it’s not like — let me pause here and say I respect Oklahoma State and Ford for this — the majority of those games are at home. Even without true road games mixed in, outside of the Missouri State one, the Pokes have to get on the plane or bus and pick up Ws.
It’s going to be tough. Oklahoma State has the sort of opportunities that a team like Virginia Tech doesn’t. I just can’t help but wonder if the bad loss against Stanford Wednesday night was an early sign, the first big heap of dirt ripped out of the ground in what amounts to the hole Okie State could be in by the time you put up your Christmas tree. Stanford’s not that great, folks.
Wednesday night, it looked great. A team that lost its best player from last season (Pac-10 First-Teamer Jeremy Green) made little ordeal out of the Cowboys.
Le’Bryan Nash is still raw and will probably play like the freshman he is on more nights than not for the next month, the most critical month of OSU’s season, by my estimation.
The Friday game lines up as a big one, whether it’s Virginia Tech, which would be the first of two matcups this season, or Syracuse — an opportunity OSU needs desperately to capitalize one.
At 3-1, no reason to panic, but seeing the schedule line up the way it does, things look daunting for Oklahoma State if it plays even close to the way it did tonight.