Oklahoma State on outside looking in

Jimmy Gillispie/Stillwater News PressOklahoma State players walk off the court after suffering an 82-68 loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament.

Shock. Disbelief. Silence.

All of the above sum up the emotions and reactions from the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Cowboys learned their fate as a team and it was tough to watch, especially for the seniors.

“All of the above,” Mitchell Solomon said of the emotions. “Mostly just silence. We had high hopes, and they didn’t come to fruition.”

“Disappointed. We had some pretty high hopes,” Jeffrey Carroll said. “We all felt pretty good about today. We just didn’t make it.”

The Cowboys (19-14) weren’t selected as one of the 36 at-large bids chosen for this year’s NCAA Tournament. The teams were announced in alphabetical order on the TBS selection show.

“The guys who are here that will be back next year, as well as the guys who have signed to come here next year or that we’re recruiting, will continue to hear the message of we’re going to remember this moment and never want it to happen again,” first-year OSU coach Mike Boynton said.

The OSU seniors shared the emotions in the locker room.

“It was just quiet,” Carroll said. “We saw the (Oklahoma) Sooners pop up and then I think Providence popped up right after. My stomach just kind of dropped. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I thought we had done enough to make it, but we just came up short.”

Solomon was also stunned.

“Obviously, it was really disappointing,” Solomon said. “I thought we played a good year with the team that we have and put together a good resume, but it wasn’t good enough.

“… I’m feeling everything. When you play and put that much passion into something and it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, you kind of feel a lot of emotions.”

Boynton also addressed the NCAA Tournament snub and what he told his players following the announcement.

“I told them I understood how their minds and hearts are hurt, and how they they’re probably disappointed,” Boynton said. “I think they should feel that way. They played well enough to be represented on that stage today and to feel like that could have given them a little bit more validation to the work they’ve put in this season.

“However, it wasn’t the case, and we still have more basketball to play. Certainly for our seniors, another opportunity to still continue their careers before they take those jerseys off for the last time. For the young guys that will continue in our program, an opportunity to continue to lay the foundation for what will be the future of a program that’s headed in the right direction.”

The Cowboys were viewed as a bubble team by many, but whether they were in or out was split. In the end, they weren’t even one of the final four teams out of the tournament.

“Obviously, I was way off,” Boynton said. “We weren’t even kind of close to the bubble, as most people thought. Part of me thinks that maybe if we beat Kansas a third time, we would have got on the bubble, and I don’t know if that’s ever been the standard set. It is what it is.

“We understand that were probably some things that we could have controlled better over the course of the season. I’m not going to the schedule part, because I don’t necessarily believe that, but maybe some of the games in the Big 12 that we didn’t perform as well that didn’t give us the best opportunity.”

The Big 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament are Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma.

OSU learned of its postseason fate more than two hours after the NCAA Tournament field was announced. The Cowboys were chosen as a No. 2 seed in the National Invitational Tournament. They hosted Florida Gulf Coast Tuesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena. 

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.