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Cowboys’ Road to Final Four Includes Early Matchup with Brad Underwood

Looking at teams OSU could face in Indy.



[Photo via Denny Medley/Big 12 Conference]

Depending on who you ask, the Cowboys were a seed or two lower than expected, but the Pokes now have a roadmap to what would be their third national championship in program history.

Fourth-seeded Oklahoma State will play 13th seeded Liberty in the First Round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The eyes of OSU fans will get big about a potential Sweet 16 matchup against former coach Brad Underwood and Illinois, but the Cowboys will have to work to get there.

Here is a breakdown to OSU’s road to the Final Four.

First Round — No. 13 Liberty

The Flames haven’t lost a game since Jan. 15.

Liberty enters the NCAA Tournament 23-5 and winners of the Atlantic Sun Tournament.

TCU is the only common opponent OSU and Liberty share. The Flames also lost to the Horned Frogs, falling 56-52 on Nov. 29.

Darius McGhee, a 5-9 guard, leads the Flames with 15.6 points a game. He shoots 41% from 3-point range.

OSU is 2-0 against No. 13 seeds all-time. This will be OSU’s first meeting with Liberty.

Second Round — No. 5 Tennessee or No. 12 Oregon State

If the Pokes get past Liberty, they’re most likely to see Tennessee.

The Volunteers are 18-8 this season and coming off a loss to Alabama in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Tennessee and OSU have two common opponents this season in Arkansas and Kansas. The Volunteers beat both of those teams, beating the Razorbacks 79-74 on Jan. 6, and Kansas 80-61 on Jan. 30.

The Volunteers have a balanced offensive attack with Jaden Springer (12.5), Keon Johnson (11.2) and Victor Bailey (11) averaging double figures.

OSU is 1-1 against 5 seeds in the Tournament. OSU is 3-1 against Tennessee all-time, most recently beating the Volunteers in 2012.

The other option is Oregon State, a team that surprisingly won the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend to steal a bid.

Along with both being orange and black OSUs, the Beavers have a former Cowboy on their roster in Maurice Calloo. Calloo was dismissed from OSU during the 2018-19 season. He scored 15 points in the Pac-12 championship game and is averaging 5.2 points a game on a 17-12 Beavers squad.

OSU is 1-3 vs. 12 seeds all-time. The Cowboys are 2-5 against the Beavers all-time, most recently beating Oregon State in 2014.

Sweet 16 — No. 1 Illinois

Teacher vs. student, sensei vs. grasshopper, Jedi vs. Padawan, Brad Underwood vs. Mike Boynton.

Underwood isn’t a popular man in Stillwater after jetting (literally) after OSU’s most recent NCAA Tournament game. He was OSU’s coach for just one season, coming from Stephen F. Austin.

Boynton, OSU’s current coach, was an assistant on Underwood’s staff at Stephen F. and OSU before Boynton was hired as Underwood’s successor in Stillwater.

After two rough seasons in Champagne, Underwood was able to turn the Fighting Illini around. Illinois is 23-6 this season and won the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday.

Illinois played Baylor on Dec. 2 and lost 82-69.

Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn are guys to watch. Dosunmu is a 6-5 junior guard who is averaging 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game.

Cockburn is the final boss in big-bodied post players that OSU has struggled with this season. At 7-0, 285 pounds, Cockburn is averaging 17.6 points and 9.6 rebounds a game.

OSU is 2-4 against 2 seeds all-time. OSU and Illinois have met four times, where the Cowboys are 1-3. Their most recent game was a 65-49 Fighting Illini win in 2007.

If Illinois were to get upset before the Sweet 16, the Cowboys could play either No. 8 Loyola-Chicago, No. 9 Georgia Tech or No. 16 Drexel.

Elite Eight — No. 2 Houston or No. 3 West Virginia

Houston and West Virginia are the most likely to make the Elite Eight from their side of the region, but they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.

Houston is 24-3 this season after winning the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Cougars share three common opponents with OSU this year. Houston beat Texas Tech 64-53 on Nov. 29, beat Wichita State 70-63 on Jan. 6 and lost to Wichita State 68-63 on Feb. 18.

Oklahoma State traveled to Houston and beat the Cougars last season 61-55 in a game that former walk-on Dee Mitchell started in.

Former Kansas Jayhawk Quentin Grimes leads the Houston, averaging 17.7 points a game.

OSU is 13-8 all-time against Houston and 1-0 against 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cowboys have more wins than West Virginia, fewer losses than West Virginia and beat West Virginia twice in the week leading up to Selection Sunday, but the Pokes finished a seed behind the Mountaineers somehow.

OSU is 2-1 against West Virginia this year, beating the Mountaineers last weekend and Thursday. The Cowboys and their fans will know plenty about West Virginia if the two teams were to meet in the Elite Eight.

OSU is 1-3 against 3 seeds in the tournament.

If it isn’t Houston or West Virginia in the Elite Eight, watch out for six-seeded San Diego State. The Aztecs are 23-4 this season and won the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles.

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