College Basketball Preseason Top 25: #6 Oklahoma State

Sophomore point guard Marcus Smart has Cowboys fans thinking Final Four. (USA TODAY Sports)

Sophomore point guard Marcus Smart has Cowboys fans thinking Final Four. (USA TODAY Sports)

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

No disrespect to Le’Bryan Nash, Travis Ford or anyone else in Stillwater, but there’s really one reason why Oklahoma State is ranked this high. When Marcus Smart decided to forgo the millions he was bound to make in the NBA and come back to school for his sophomore year, the Cowboys instantly became Final Four contenders. It’s not hard to see why. Smart was named the National Freshman of the Year last season, a first-team All-American, and Big 12 Player of the Year in 2013. He averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3 steals per game, all while drawing collegiate comparisons to Jason Kidd. He just may be the best player in college basketball this season. If Smart replicates that production again, Oklahoma State will be in the national championship picture.

But it’s not all about Smart. 6-7 junior forward Le’Bryan Nash (14 ppg, 4.1 rpg) was the alpha-dog on this team two years ago, but he’s slid nicely into his role as an explosive second-option. Nash has NBA size and athleticism, and with a breakout year could find himself in the conversation as a first-round pick next year. But it doesn’t end there. 6-3 guard Markel Brown (15.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) is back for his senior season and will add the steady leadership Oklahoma State is going to need in big games. Brown is a terrific three-point shooter and can score in bunches. He could be an NBA Draft pick, too. 5-11 sophomore Phil Forte (10.8 ppg) set a school record for three-point baskets by a freshman last season with 68, and will be another weapon for the Cowboys on the wing.

Things are a little thin on the inside, as OK State only suits three players taller than 6-8. Junior forward Michael Cobbins (6-8, 230 lbs) will be the lynchpin on the interior, as he led the ‘Pokes in blocked shots last season and was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team.

BOTTOM LINE: Oklahoma State boasts arguably the best backcourt in the country in point guard Marcus Smart and two-guards Markel Brown and Phil Forte. Le’Bryan Nash isn’t bad on the wing, either. This team is built to win now, and has all of the tools to get to the Final Four. If someone steps up down low, this team has a legitimate chance at capturing the school’s first national championship since 1945. Either way, things will be exciting in Stillwater. And Smart will be one of the first players hearing his name called in the NBA Draft come June.

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