The Oklahoma State Cowboys shape up as top contender in this year’s Big 12 Conference hoops action, hoping to improve from last year’s subpar stretch run.

Travis Ford’s troops hope to light it up through their early schedule, while showcasing the right mix of talent to be an NCAAB rising program.

Cowboys slide to end year

Image previewOklahoma State was bounced early in last season’s “Big Dance,” dropping a 68-55 defeat in its tourney opener to the Oregon Ducks. The Cowboys finished 1-4-1 ATS in their final six contests, with two of three victories coming by six points or less.

Cowboys center Philip Jurick departed the team after being its top rebounder (5.8 RPG), while Marcus Smart returns after a standout freshman year (15.4 PPG, 4.2 APG). Oklahoma State’s Michael Cobbins and Le’Bryan Nash remain in the team’s arsenal, following top numbers in blocks (1.5 BPG) and shooting (46.2 percent), respectively.

Clark checks in with local buzz

OSU’s top recruit Stevie Clark hopes to spark the team’s three-point shooting, staying close to his Oklahoma City roots. The “Sooner State” Player of the Year piled in 36.8 PPG for the Douglass Trojans, including a 51-point showing in the team’s title game.

Texas natives Jeffrey Carroll and Leyton Hammonds make their way north, adding to the team’s depth in the front court. Both forwards come in with three-star ratings from Rivals, while each turned down offers from other Big 12 schools – including Oklahoma and TCU.

Oklahoma State also adds Gary Gaskins at center, looking for the big man to share duties in the middle with Marek Soucek and Mason Cox. Gaskins arrives under the radar from Brevard Community College, finding the hoop at a 69 percent clip.

Cowboys look ahead to 'Bedlam' 

OSU faces the Memphis Tigers in their first month of action, leading into Kissimmee’s Old Spice Classic. The Cowboys open the tourney against the Purdue Boilermakers, while starting December with a Big 12/SEC Challenge duel against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Big 12 Conference play begins with home contests against Texas and TCU, with road dates meeting West Virginia and Kansas. Oklahoma State will have its “Bedlam” matchups against Oklahoma circled, meeting first in Norman on Jan. 27 and the rematch at Stillwater, three weeks later.

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Back OSU throughout the year

The Cowboys shot out to a 7-2-1 spread record in last year’s first 10 ‘board’ matchups, including five covers as double-digit ‘chalk.’  OSU also surprised North Carolina State in a 76-56 upset as a 10-point underdog, with Smart and Nash uniting for 43 points.

Smart should impress even more this year, while Clark’s addition should lift the roster’s scoring further. Look for the Cowboys to cash their share of tickets throughout the season’s slate, while also being worth an early futures wager at a 27/1 price on 5Dimes’ NCAAB betting odds board.