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Once-vaunted Oklahoma State now finds itself on the bubble

(Cooper Neill/Getty Images) With star guard Marcus Smart suspended, Oklahoma State suffered an embarrassingĀ  87-68 loss at Texas. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

A nightmare second half of season continued for Oklahoma State last Saturday when Marcus Smart went into the stands and shoved a Texas Tech fan. That led to a three-game suspension, which began last night at Texas. Without Smart the Cowboys got drilled, 87-68, on Tuesday putting them firmly on the bubble.

The selection committee will give the Cowboys some leeway for the three games Smart misses, the same way they do when a team loses a key player for a handful of games due to injury. Still, Oklahoma State was trending downward even with Smart in the lineup, having lost five straight, including Saturday's defeat to the Red Raiders, a team ranked 121st in RPI. Oklahoma State is now 4-7 in the Big 12, 36th in RPI, 3-6 against the top-50 RPI teams and 6-8 against the top 100. The Cowboys have yet to show they can beat an NCAA tournament team on the road, with their best win in a true-road game coming at West Virginia. No matter the circumstances, that's the resume of a bubble team.

It won't get any easier in Smart's absence. The Cowboys host Oklahoma on Saturday, a team that already beat them by 12 with Smart. Smart will also miss next Monday's game at Baylor before making his return against none other than Texas Tech.

At the start of the season, Oklahoma State was considered a Final Four contender, and Smart was an easy choice for the preseason All-America team. Now, the Cowboys are fighting for their NCAA tournament life and Smart is trying to put an ugly incident behind him and get back to the task of winning. A three-game stretch against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State that ends the season may just determine whether the Cowboys earn a bid to the big dance or are relegated to the NIT.
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