Cowboy Basketball Adds High Profile Doubleheader

Wednesday, July 24th 2013, 1:58 pm
By: News 9

MGM Grand will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. to announce a college basketball doubleheader featuring Oklahoma State, Colorado, Marquette and New Mexico. Sources tell that the event will take place Dec. 21 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and will initially pit OSU against Colorado and Marquette against New Mexico. All four teams are expected to be ranked at the start of the 2013 season.

Travis Ford is rapidly building one of the strongest non-conference schedules in the history of Oklahoma State basketball. Last week the Cowboys announced a Nov. 19 contest with Memphis as a non-bracketed portion of the Old Spice Classic. OSU will face Purdue in the first game and either Butler or Washington State afterward. Winning both games would likely create another matchup with Memphis in the finals.

Oklahoma State returns everyone from last year's squad with the exception of starting center Philip Jurick (graduation), Jean-Paul Olukemi (medical redshirt denied) and backup point guard Kirby Gardner (transfer). Marcus Smart and company will try to improve on a 24-9 season that saw the Cowboys fall to Oregon in the first (technically second, I know) round of the NCAA tournament. The last time OSU played Colorado was during the 2010-11 season, the Buffaloes' last as a member of the Big 12. National preseason rankings have the Cowboys from No. 8-11.

Colorado lost Andre Roberson to the NBA (pick 26 to the Thunder), but the Buffs also return an impressive crew that has made two straight NCAA tournament appearances and went 21-12. Leading scorers Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are the main reason basketball pundits have Colorado ranked from No. 19-25.

New Mexico returns four starters from a 29-6 season a year ago. The Lobos earned a three-seed in last year's NCAA tourney only to fall to 14-seeded Harvard in the first round. Coach Steve Alford is gone, leaving first-year coach Craig Neal in charge of the Mountain West favorites. UNM is ranked No. 16-18 in early polls.

Then there's Marquette. The Golden Eagles seem like a perennial contender after going 26-9 and making yet another deep run in the Big Dance before getting waxed by Syracuse in the Elite 8. Leading scorer Vander Blue left for the draft but big men Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson are back, and four-star shooting guard Jajuan Johnson is rated as one of the top freshmen at the position. The Big East may have changed, but one certainty is coach Buzz Williams hasn't, and that's the primary reason Marquette is looking at a preseason ranking from No. 15-22.