By Jason Elmquist
SAN JOSE, Calif. —
Postseason isn’t new for Markel Brown. The NCAA tournament, however, is.
Brown will be the only Oklahoma State player to suit up Thursday for OSU’s game against Oregon in the second round game of the NCAA tournament with postseason experience at the college level. But even that experience is limited to two games in the National Invitational Tournament — as a freshman.
Brown, the most veteran Cowboy on Travis Ford’s squad, averaged 27.5 minutes and scored 17 points in those two games. But even Brown knows the NIT is nothing like the NCAA.
“It’s a different feeling, different vibe. It’s like a different level, a different stage,” Brown said. “Everybody looks forward to it. It’s March Madness.”
Le’Bryan Nash said it means a lot to get Brown his first trip to the NCAA tournament after battling through struggles the program has faced in Brown’s first two years in Stillwater.
“I know he’s more excited than me. To be in this program as long as he has and the things he’s been through, I know he’s excited,” Nash said. “I think everybody is excited for him. Being a junior, it’s even more exciting because of how long he’s been here. He’s ready to play, and as our leading scorer, we need him to be ready to play.”
The fifth-seeded Cowboys will have their hands full though with 12th-seeded Oregon. The Ducks are riding high with a Pac-12 tournament title — which likely was the only reason they made the field with being a 12 seed.
“We’re surprised they only got a 12 seed coming off a Pac-12 championship, but it’s a great matchup,” Nash said. “Everybody’s talking about it, and I know analysts are going to be talking about it because of where Oregon got placed. But Oregon, Oklahoma State will probably be the best matchup in the second round.”
While the Cowboys can’t look past the Pac-12 tournament champions, for those looking at potential matchup headlines there is the chance Ford could face is mentor from his playing days at Kentucky — Rick Pitino. Pitino’s Louisville Cardinal squad is the top seed in the tournament, and the teams could matchup in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis if each team wins their first two games of the tournament.
“I hope we get the opportunity. That would be nice,” Ford said. “But I agree with the committee that they are the No. 1 overall seed after watching the play (in the Big East title game). ... But it would be nice to have the opportunity to make it that far and have a chance to play.”