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NCAA Tournament: OSU vs. Michigan first-round primer

The Oklahoma State Cowboys enter Friday's first round of the NCAA Tournament looking to upset (7) seed Michigan. OSU has dropped its last three games and enters as the (10) seed in the Midwest Regional. The Cowboys and Wolverines tip-off at 11:15 AM Friday morning.

Here's a primer for the game:

Game Center

• 1st Round Opponent: No. 7 Michigan (24-11, 10-8 Big Ten)

• Date/Tipoff: March 17, 2017 / 11:15 a.m. Central

• Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse • Indianapolis, Ind.

• Region: Midwest Region

• Series: Michigan leads 2-1 overall • Neutral: Tied 1-1

• TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery & Tracy Wolfson)

• Radio: Cowboy Radio Network (Dave Hunziker & John Holcomb)

• Satellite Radio: Sirius 134, XM 201

• OSU NCAA Tournament Guide

The Basics

• Oklahoma State (20-12, 9-9 Big 12) is back in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years, and for the 28th time overall. The Cowboys earned the No. 10 seed in the Midwest region, and will face the Big Ten Tournament champions, No. 7 Michigan (24-11, 10-8 Big Ten), in the first round at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The winner between the Cowboys and Wolverines will face off against the winner of No. 2 seed Louisville and No. 15 Jacksonville State.

On the Air

• The matchup between Oklahoma State and Michigan will take center stage on CBS at 11:15 a.m. Central on Friday. The team of Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson will handle the on-air duties for CBS. This will be OSU's first appearance on CBS this season, but the Cowboys are 30-22 all-time on the network. As always, Dave Hunziker and John Holcomb will have the Cowboy Radio Network call.

Oklahoma State Snapshot

• COWBOY QUICK HITTERS: According to KenPom, OSU has faced the nation's toughest schedule with 24 games against top-75 teams (12-12 record) ... The Cowboys beat three teams ranked 32nd or better in the NCAA RPI, and six teams ranked 67 or better ... OSU has won 10 of their last 14 games, and the four losses have come to teams ranked 21st or better in the RPI and by an average of just 5.0 points ... Jawun Evans posted 22 points and a career-high 15 assists against Kansas on March 4, which is the only 20/15 game in the country this season, and only the fourth in Big 12 history ... As a team, OSU has made 82 of its last 92 free throws (.891) ... The Cowboys are 38-26 (.594) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including 12-6 mark in the round of 64.

• A defensive tweak helped OSU rebound from its 0-6 start in Big 12 play, and now has the Cowboys dancing in the NCAA Tournament. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the last team to make the NCAA Tournament field after falling in their first six conference games was 1985-86 Maryland led by head coach Lefty Driesell and All-American forward Len Bias.

• Brad Underwood took over an OSU squad that finished 2015-16 with a losing record (12-20), and a season later the Cowboys are NCAA Tournament-bound. Only two coaches in the history of the Big 12 and five other power conference coaches nationwide since 2000 have accomplished that feat: Rick Barnes (Texas, 1998-99), Bob Knight (Texas Tech, 2001-02), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech, 2000-01), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee, 2005-06), Tony Bennett (Washington State, 2006-07), Trent Johnson (LSU, 2008-09), Mark Gottfried (N.C. State, 2011-12).

• Postseason honors have begun rolling in for Oklahoma State over the last couple of weeks ...

- Jawun Evans: Third-Team All-America (Sporting News, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report), Fifth-Team All-Solid Gold (ESPN's Dick Vitale), USBWA All-District VI, First-Team All-Big 12 (AP & Coaches).

- Jeffrey Carroll: USBWA All-District VI, Second-Team All-Big 12 (AP & Coaches).

- Phil Forte III: Honorable Mention All-Big 12 (AP & Coaches).

• All-American Jawun Evans is one of just four power conference players nationwide to average at least 16 points and 6 assists in conference play. Evans led the Big 12 in assists with 6.2 per game, ranked second with 19.0 points per game, and was third in steals at 1.8 per contest. KenPom currently ranks Evans eighth in their national player of the year ranking. In the final five minutes of the last 14 games, Evans is averaging 5.9 points on 62.9 percent shooting, and is 33-of-38 (86.8 percent) from the free throw line.

• The Cowboys are currently +8.0 games better than last year's 12-20 season, which is tied for the 17th biggest improvement in the country, and the third largest turnaround by a power conference school (behind only Minnesota and UCLA). OSU won six more league games than last season (3-15), which is tied for the largest turnaround in conference play in school history with the 2012-13 squad.

• KenPom ranks the Oklahoma State offense No. 1 in efficiency nationwide. At 85.5 points per game, OSU ranks eighth nationally (3rd among 2017 NCAA Tournament squads) and is on pace to set a new school record for scoring average (current record: 83.5 in 1988-89). In fact, OSU is on pace to be the second-highest scoring squad in Big 12 history behind only the 2001-02 Kansas team that averaged 90.9 per game.

• The Cowboys rank ninth nationally with 13.69 offensive boards per game and sixth in offensive rebound percentage at 38.0 percent. A true team effort, only one player on the team ranks inside the top 100 in the country in offensive boards - Mitchell Solomon (45th, 3.03). The Cowboys have pulled down 15-plus offensive boards in 13 games this year.

• Jeffrey Carroll is perhaps the nation's most improved power conference player. The redshirt junior is only playing 4.1 more minutes per game, but boasts a scoring improvement of +9.2 points per game over his 2015-16 season. Carroll ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring (17.4), eighth in rebounding (6.6) and third in 3-point percentage (.434). If those numbers hold, Carroll would be just the fourth player in league history to finish in the top 10 in each of those categories, joining Georges Niang (ISU, 2015-16), Jordan Hamilton (Texas, 2010-11) and Kevin Durant (Texas, 2006-07).

• Carroll entered the 2016-17 season with a career high scoring game of 18 points, but has tied or topped that mark 19 times this season. He has 15 20-point scoring games this season, including 10 in Big 12 play, and ranks fourth in scoring in league games at 17.9 per contest. Carroll shot an incredible 46.8 percent from 3-point in Big 12 play, which ranked fourth in the conference.

• A minor shift in defensive philosophy has been at the heart of OSU's recent resurgence. After six straight losses, including five in close games (one or two possession games in the final five minutes), the Cowboys tweaked their defense and the results are staggering. Since the change, OSU has won 10 of their last 14 games, and the four losses have come to teams ranked 22nd or better in the RPI.

• With the win at Texas Tech on Jan. 21, Brad Underwood picked up his 100th career victory in his 122nd game, which tied him for the 10th fastest coach to reach the century mark in college basketball history. At 109-26, Underwood owns an 80.7 career win percentage, which is second among all active coaches. His 89 wins at Stephen F. Austin tied him with Brad Stevens of Butler for the most victories by any coach after three seasons.

• OSU fields one of the youngest and most inexperienced lineups in the country. Even with fifth-year senior Phil Forte and his 134 career games, OSU still ranks 279th nationally in experience according to KenPom. The Cowboys entered the 2016-17 with just 15 combined years of collegiate experience, and currently have just 313 collegiate starts on the roster. OSU's average age of 20.2 years is tied with Texas for the youngest in the Big 12.

Cowboys at the NCAA Championship

• One of the most successful programs in NCAA Tournament history is headed back to the Big Dance for the 28th time. OSU's 28 appearances rank 24th among all schools nationwide, and the program's .594 win percentage (38-26) ranks 22nd among all schools with at least 50 games played in the tournament.

• With two NCAA titles, six Final Four appearances, 11 Elite Eights and 11 Sweet 16s to its credit, Oklahoma State has compiled a rich tradition in its previous 27 trips to the NCAA tournament. Only UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, Duke, Kansas and Louisville have more NCAA championships than Oklahoma State, who won it all in 1945 and 1946. The Cowboys earned a spot in the Final Four in 1945, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1995 and 2004.

• Oklahoma State is 12-6 all-time in the round of 64 and is 6-6 in the round of 32. The Cowboys have fallen in their last four round of 64 appearances, and in their last five NCAA Tournament games overall. OSU last won a game in the round of 64 in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

• Brad Underwood is one of just 17 head coaches to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. Underwood is a veteran of three NCAA Tournament appearances at his previous school, Stephen F. Austin. Underwood becomes just the 38th active head coach to lead two difference schools to the NCAA Tournament.

• Some of the NCAA Tournament's most iconic players suited up for OSU. The title-winning 1945 and 1946 squads were led by Hall-of-Famer Bob Kurland, who was recognized as the most outstanding player of the tournament both times. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves and John Lucas also earned NCAA tournament glory during their time at Oklahoma State, with Big Country earning most outstanding player honors at the 1995 East regional as well as a spot on the 1995 Final Four all-tournament team and Lucas recognized as most outstanding player of the 2004 East regional.

• The Cowboys also have an outstanding coaching tradition when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. One of the game's great innovators, Mr. Henry Iba was the head coach during the program's two national titles, and his four Final Four appearances still rank 13th among all coaches. Eddie Sutton led OSU to the 1995 and 2004 Final Fours, and his 25 combined NCAA Tournament appearances rank seventh all-time.

• Underwood and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks engineered a pair of NCAA Tournament upsets. In 2014, SFA's Desmond Haymon hit an improbable four-point play with 3.6 seconds remaining to send their opening-round game against No. 5 seed VCU to overtime, where they took down the Rams, 77-75. Two years later, Underwood and SFA routed No. 3 seed West Virginia, 70-56, in the opening round. The Lumberjacks were on the verge of taking down No. 6 Notre Dame to advance to the Sweet 16, but a tap-in with 1.5 on the clock ended SFA's season.

• Overall, Underwood owns a 2-3 record in the NCAA Tournament, and joins Eddie Sutton and Travis Ford as the only Oklahoma State head coaches to lead their team to the NCAA Tournament in their first season in Stillwater.

• Since seeding was introduced to the NCAA Tournament, Oklahoma State has never been a No. 10 seed and only once has OSU been seeded lower than it is this year (11-seed in 2001). OSU has only faced a No. 7 seed on two occasions, and is 2-0 in those games (2004 Rd 32 vs Memphis & 2005 Rd 32 vs Southern Illinois).

• This is Oklahoma State's third trip to Indianapolis for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and the Cowboys won their round of 64 games in each of the previous two trips. In 1993, OSU defeated No. 12 seed Marquette, 74-62, before falling to No. 4 Louisville, 63-78, in the round of 32. OSU returned to Indianapolis in 1999, and managed a 69-61 win over No. 8 Syracuse before falling to No. 1 Auburn, 74-81, in the second round.

Michigan Connections & Snapshot

• Michigan entered the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 8 seed, but reeled off four straight victories over Illinois (75-55), No. 14 Purdue (74-70 ot), Minnesota (84-77) and No. 24 Wisconsin (71-56) to win the title. The Wolverines were the lowest seeded team to ever win the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan earned the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and a date with OSU in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

• This will be the fourth overall meeting between Oklahoma State and Michigan, and the first since the second round of the 1997 NIT in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Wolverines own a slight 2-1 edge in the series. The two programs also met in the 1992 Sweet 16 in Lexington, Ky., and in a non-conference tournament in Toledo, Ohio in 1982.

• According to KenPom, two of the nation's top-five most efficient offenses will take the court in this matchup, although they have very different approaches to offense. The Cowboys lead the nation in offensive efficiency, and use an up-tempo attack (64th nationally in tempo) and a speedy transition game to average 88.5 points, which makes OSU the eighth highest scoring team in the country. Michigan ranks fifth in offensive efficiency, but is 339th (of 351 teams) in tempo and 335th with an average possession length of 19.5 seconds.

• The Wolverines offense is so efficient because they rarely turn the ball over. In fact, Michigan turns the ball over just 9.4 times per game, which are the fewest turnovers in Division I basketball.

• Derrick Walton, Jr. leads the Wolverines in scoring with 15.2 points and 4.7 assists per game, and was named the Big Ten Tournament MVP for his accolades in Washington, D.C. Walton has 28 double-figure scoring games, including 29 points against Minnesota in the Big Ten semifinals and 22 points in the finals against Wisconsin.

• Michigan is led by head coach John Beilein, who is in his 10th season in Ann Arbor. Beilein and the Wolverines are appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament title game in 2012-13. This is Beilein's 25th season as a Division I head coach, and he has amassed 689 career victories. Beilein is one of 12 coaches to take four different Division I teams to the NCAA Tournament (Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan). He also guided Le Moyne College to the NCAA Division II Tournament in 1988.

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