Why Missing the Big Dance Feels Different This Time Around

Written by Kyle Cox

The Cowboys will not get the validation that they wanted. No hopes of a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. No chance for three seniors to go out the way they probably all imagined at the start of this season.

The Cowboys now face a different path, one that should be easier but provides much less payoff at the end. Getting to the Final Four of the NIT is not a goal, it’s probably the only outcome that doesn’t add insult to injury for the Cowboys’ 2017-18 season.

Blame the RPI or unlucky scheduling or not making a layup in Fayetteville — or whatever ultimately relegated the Cowboys to the consolation bracket, a 2 seed in the NIT. Whatever the reasoning, Oklahoma State will end its latest season much like it has over the last dozen or so years, in disappointment.

Postseason futility is unfortunately not a new thing around Stillwater. And while we can’t grade Mike Boynton’s short tenure based on how his predecessors did (or didn’t) get it done in March, this fact remains.

We can now add another year to the OSU has one NCAA Tournament win since… conversation.

For a program rich with tradition and many of whose fans can still remember when it was a relevant player year in and year out, that pill doesn’t get any easier to swallow.

Here goes. Oklahoma State has one NCAA Tournament win over the last 13 years.

The Cowboys made a memorable run to the Final Four following the 2003-04 season and a Sweet 16 bid in 2005, but have gone 1-6 in the Big Dance since. This year marks the seventh time in that span that the Cowboys were left out of March Madness altogether.

But this year does feel different. Mostly because most saw this as a tournament team and its exclusion seems more like a snub. Especially when juxtaposed to some of those teams that Travis Ford captained to an 0-1 dance that probably shouldn’t have been in to start with.

What a roller coaster of emotion these last 24 months have turned out to be. A new start was filled with hope, and then that hope pulled the rug out from under a fan base and roster, packed it up and headed east chasing Champaign dreams.

Follow that with a second consecutive #BringDougHome campaign that ended with more finality than the first and the hiring of an unknown that sent a big slice of that fan base off of the deep end.

Then, just as the rest of the orange faithful were falling in love with Mike Boynton the man, his lead assistant was mentioned in the same sentence as “corruption” and “bribery” and an FBI investigation became the story.

Through it, we all learned some things, Mike Boynton probably more than any. He could  write a Survivor’s Guide to First-Year Coaching: Apocalypse Edition. The rest of us, we learned that maybe Mike Holder and Co. aren’t completely crazy, and that Boynton might be one hell of a coach.

“We’re gonna remember this moment and never want it to happen again,” Boynton said of his team after learning of his team’s tourney snub on Sunday. “I’ll continue to remind them when I see that there’s something not trending in that direction.”

The story of his tenure is yet to be written but this one feels more like a minor setback, than just another disappointing finish. If we looked at this season as a whole with all that Boynton and his Cowboys were faced with, it’s hard to be disappointed. The Big Dance would have provided some that validation Boynton talked about, but I’ve felt for a month that Boynton has been playing with Allen Fieldhouse money (credit Kyle Porter).

Here’s to a strong showing in the NIT and whatever momentum that could provide the Cowboys moving forward. Hopefully next year, the conversation changes to OSU’s first NCAA win since…