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Trendy Topic: Can the Cowboys snap their NCAA skid?

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Denny Medley - DM200565.jpg

The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Longhorns compete during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Championship at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri on March 10, 2021. (Denny Medley\Big 12 Conference)

Oklahoma State hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009 when it beat Tennessee in the first round.

That’s a long time for a program with a rich basketball history, and 2005 stands as the last time OSU last made the Sweet 16, meaning it won more than once game.

Oklahoma State is a 4-seed in the Midwest Region, where the Cowboys have an opportunity to end the skid when they take on 13-seed Liberty on Friday evening.

“We’re going to have to really focus on having a good game plan and preparing well to give ourselves a chance to move on," coach Mike Boynton said.

Will this be the year that OSU can win an NCAA game? OSU does have one trend on its side: roughly a third of the teams that made the Elite Eight the last decade had a primary ball-handler who was an All-American. OSU has that with Cade Cunningham, who was named AP First-Team All-American on Tuesday.

They have another thing on their side too: a coach who has been on the other side of a few upsets. Boynton was an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin when it beat 3-seed West Virginia in the first round.

“I’ve focused on getting our guys to understand how this thing can turn quickly,” Boynton said. “If you're not playing well, there's real pressure on you to not have one of those upsets happen to you.”

Since Selection Sunday, OSU’s seeding has caused some controversy, with many believing the Cowboys deserved better.  Why does it matter?

A deep dive into how 4-seeds have fared in the big dance since the year 2000:

There have been 80 4-seeds since the 2000 NCAA Tournament, with a path to the Sweet 16 involving beating the 13-seed first, then the winner of the 5-12 game after that.

Over the past 20 tournaments, the 13-seed has upset the 4-seed in the first round 17 times, which is good for 21%. Of the 63 teams, or 79% that have advanced, the 4-seeds have lost in the second round 24 times, or 30%. This means that of the original 80 4-seeds, only 39 of them have made it to the Sweet 16.

So, what happens when they do make the Sweet 16?

Of those 39 that made it, only 11 advanced to the Elite Eight. Beyond that, only five have gone to the Final Four. None have made the National Championship game.

Cowboy fans have been intrigued by a potential matchup with Brad Underwood and N0. 1-seed Illinois in the Sweet 16, yet a No. 4 seed has only won those matchups six times. The most recent was 2014, when Michigan State took down Virginia, but then lost to 7-seed UCONN in the Elite Eight.

The last thing to look at: how has OSU fared as a 4-seed in the past?

It has happened twice, and it was back-to-back years in 1994 and 1995. In 1994 the Cowboys were upset by 12-seed Tulsa in the second round. Most OSU fans fondly recall what happened in 1995, as the Cowboys advanced to the Final Four, led by Bryant “Big Country” Reeves.

So, some of the trends are in OSU’s favor and some are not. How will the Cowboys do this time around? We’ll have to wait and see.