It's been eight years since Oklahoma State won the Big 12 tournament. The presence of Marcus Smart might be enough to end that drought.
The freshman phenom will try to help the 14th-ranked Cowboys advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2009 with a win over Baylor on Thursday night.Oklahoma State (23-7) won its only Big 12 tournament titles in 2004 and 2005, but Smart could be ready to help the Cowboys add another crown after joining an elite list this week.The guard became the third person to be named conference player of the year and freshman of the year along with Kevin Durant in 2007 and Michael Beasley in 2008."This is definitely motivation for me and my team to keep going," Smart said.To advance in the conference tournament, Smart and the third-seeded Cowboys will have to get past a Bears team that's trying to get off the NCAA tournament bubble and looking to build on an impressive win.The sixth-seeded Bears are coming off an 81-58 victory over then-No. 4 Kansas on Saturday, as Pierre Jackson had 28 points and shot 11 of 13 while adding 10 assists.Despite averaging 19.4 points and a Big 12-best 6.6 assists, the senior guard was left off the all-conference first team."Our team can beat anybody in the nation, and as everybody has shown in college basketball, anybody can lose to anybody. We just need to keep the execution going," coach Scott Drew said.Baylor (18-13) played Oklahoma State tough while splitting both matchups this season.The Bears won 64-54 at home Jan. 21 as Jackson had eight of his team-best 18 points during a key 83-second span of the second half. When the teams met in Stillwater on Feb. 6, Oklahoma State needed Markel Brown's layup with 0.2 seconds left for a 69-67 overtime victory that snapped a three-game skid in the series.Smart had a team-best 14 points in that win along with eight rebounds and seven assists, but he went 4 of 21 from the floor. He finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the January meeting."We're going to see a different Baylor coming out especially because they need this win. They're going to bring the fight to us. We've got to come ready," Smart said.Oklahoma State is coming off a 76-70 victory over No. 11 Kansas State on Saturday. Le'Bryan Nash scored 24 points and shot 10 of 12, while Smart had 21 points, six rebounds and six assists.The Cowboys are 10-1 all-time in neutral-site games against Baylor and won the two previous meetings in the Big 12 tournament, the most recent coming in 1999. They're 5-8 in the last 13 matchups with the Bears but 13-2 all-time when facing them as a ranked team.Baylor has never won the Big 12 tournament, having lost to Missouri in the championship game last year. The Bears have reached at least the semifinals in three of the past four years.