Smart was a unanimous pre-season all-American, though Oklahoma State had a 16-7 record to show for it going into Tuesday night's game against Texas. It’s clear the Cowboys have underachieved this season. To say the same of Smart isn’t a stretch, either.
Now, with Smart serving a three-game suspension imposed by Oklahoma State and The Big 12, the Cowboys’ post-season hopes appear dashed. Even before the shoving incident, analysts were suggesting OSU’s demise and questioning Smart’s less-than-sterling production.
Overall, Smart has hit a modest 42.2 percent of his field goal attempts and a weak 28.1 percent of his three-point tries. He has been averaging 17.5 points a game.
Perhaps even more biting has been Oklahoma State’s recent slump. Headed into Tuesday, it had lost four games in a row and five of six. A team among the nation’s Top 10 a little more than a week ago has dropped out of the Top 25.
Smart must be wondering if he made a mistake by not turning pro after last season’s 24-9 run. This was supposed to be the year where he polished his game in a super-strong sophomore year. Travis Ford, coach at Oklahoma State, has said as much.
The pressure of living up to all-star billing hasn’t been easy. Being the target of relentless defensive pressure – as well as hostile and unruly fans – never is.
Smart’s sanction is far worse than a three-game suspension. As Oklahoma State Athletic Director Mike Holder said, the reputation a person has spent a lifetime building “can be gone in a blink of an eye.”
Smart apologized for his actions, sounding sincere. Is there enough time left to show that he can yet be trusted to do the right things?
In a world that accepts trash talk - where it's commonplace to call a player “a piece of crap," as Smart was, and where athletes' performances are assailed on social media - outrageous actions will replace athletic ones.
Marcus Smart needs to clean up his act. The same goes for loud-mouthed fans.
Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.