Despite reaching the Final Four, Oklahoma State had a problem with post defense throughout last season. So when Aaron Pettway (right), a record-setting 6'10", 240-pound junior college center, signed to play for the Cowboys in April, the coaching staff believed it had found the missing piece to the national championship puzzle. ‚ÄúHe may be the most important recruit we‚Äôve had in a long time,‚Äù associate head coach Sean Sutton said at the time. So where was Pettway during Oklahoma State‚Äôs 78‚Äì75 loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 29? Right where he‚Äôs been for most of this season: on the bench. Pettway had played a total of 35 minutes in the Cowboys‚Äô first 10 games, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds. His lack of experience (he didn‚Äôt play high school basketball) is compounded by a passive personality. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôll play well for five- or 10-minute stretches in practice,‚Äù Sutton says, ‚Äúbut then he‚Äôll disappear.‚Äù If Pettway is still invisible when the NCAA tournament begins, the Cowboys will be exposed yet again as a very good team with a very conspicuous flaw.
INSTANT MESSAGING WITH ...
... George Washington forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu (below), a 6'9", 240pound junior who was averaging 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds at week‚Äôs end for the Colonials (8‚Äì2), who have upset Michigan State and Maryland.
January 10, 2005
SI: Let‚Äôs start with the obvious: How did you get the nickname Pops?
Pops: Well, my name is Nana Papayaw Mensah-Bonsu; Pops is just short for Papayaw. It is what my parents have called me for as long as I can remember.
SI: You grew up in London. Why aren‚Äôt you a soccer player?
Pops: I actually played soccer for the first 14 years of my life. If I don‚Äôt make it in pro basketball, I might try out for D.C. United. I think I can do it.
SI: I‚Äôm thinking of picking the Colonials as a Final Four sleeper. Am I crazy?
Pops: No, you are not crazy. Anything can happen in March.
1. Steve Alford is doing more than saving his skin. The Iowa coach has been on the hot seat for two years, but the Hawkeyes‚Äô 12‚Äì1 start hasn‚Äôt just relieved the pressure on him, it‚Äôs also made Alford the favorite for the Indiana job if Mike Davis doesn‚Äôt survive.
2. Georgia Tech‚Äôs Jarrett Jack is the best point guard in the country. His size (6'3", 202 pounds) and efficiency (14.3 points and 4.7 assists a game, with a .598 field-goal percentage) give the Yellow Jackets an edge at that position no matter whom they play.
3. N.C. State is worse than anyone thought. Three losses in five games--including a 63‚Äì45 stinker against St. John‚Äôs on Dec. 30, in which the Wolfpack scored 10 points in the first half--show that N.C. State doesn‚Äôt have the chops to challenge for an ACC title.
More Hoop Thoughts from Seth Davis every Tuesday at SI.com.