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Oklahoma State couldn't have asked for a much better end to what had been an inconsistent 2008-09 season. The Cowboys entered the NCAA tournament having won eight of their previous 10 games, then defeated Tennessee in the opening round. Even though they lost two of their top three scorers in Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris, there's a chance the Cowboys could be even better this season under second-year coach Travis Ford. While the majority of the optimism centers on high-scoring guard James Anderson, there are plenty of other pieces that make this team a threat. Sharp-shooting guard Keiton Page and forward Marshall Moses moved into the starting lineup during the second half of last season and were huge keys in the Cowboys' surge. Swingman Obi Muonelo is a senior with an 11.1 career scoring average.
James Anderson reached double-figures in all but three games last season.
The Cowboys are incredibly undersized in the paint. Moses is an aggressive, 235-pound bruiser, but he's just 6 feet 7. The situation will force guards and wings such as Anderson and Muonelo to help out on the boards once again. Last season, they averaged 5.7 and 7.2 rebounds, respectively. Don't be surprised if freshmen such as Torin Walker (6-9) and Roger Franklin (6-5) are thrown into the fire early.
More than anything, Eaton's loss hurts the Cowboys from a leadership standpoint, but players such as Anderson should help fill that void. Anderson averaged 18.2 points per game last season and was brilliant down the stretch. He reached double-figures in all but three of Oklahoma State's games. Page is a fearless shooter who connected on 40 percent of his 3-point attempts as a freshman; that number should improve. One of the biggest question marks for Ford will be at point guard, where 5-9, 150-pound freshman Raymond Penn likely will start. Penn signed with the Cowboys after spurning offers from Mississippi State and Missouri. Freshman Fred Gulley is another candidate to log minutes at the point.
The Cowboys ranked second in the Big 12 in scoring last season (80.9 points) and again should be among the conference's best offensive teams. To take that next step, though, Ford's squad must ratchet things up defensively. Whatever happens, Oklahoma State should be fun to watch as long as things are going well for Anderson -- who could leave Stillwater after his junior season for the NBA draft. Strong play from returnees such as Moses, Muonelo and Page is imperative for a squad that has seven newcomers.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.