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Does No. 8 Oklahoma State have an issue with foul trouble?

Jan 28, 2014, 12:18 AM EDT

Oklahoma State v Kansas Getty Images

Kansas is the best team in the Big 12. They are far and away the favorite to win the conference at this point in the season, and it’s not really debatable as they are currently sitting two games in front of everyone else in the league.

What’s surprising about that statement is that Oklahoma State isn’t actually involved in that conversation. Heading into the season, the expectation was that this league would be decided by the Pokes and the Jayhawks, and that it may come down to that final battle between the two on March 1st.

As we round the corner of January and head into February, the No. 8 Cowboys in a tie with Kansas State for fourth in the league, a full three games behind the Jayhawks, after Monday night’s 88-76 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma, and it’s quickly becoming clear that Travis Ford’s team is just another team fighting for second place.

As a result, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the Cowboys lost their tenth straight Bedlam road game.

Because that’s just the way that it works in this league this year.

For all intents and purposes, the difference between the five teams currently sitting within a game of second place — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State — is negligible. The respective rankings my throw you for a loop, but you should more or less expect Oklahoma to hold serve on their home court against Oklahoma State at this point, the same way you should expect Kansas State to lose at Iowa State or Texas to get dropped in Stillwater.

And vice versa.

For Oklahoma State, things are going to remain that way unless a couple of things change. Ironically enough, the biggest issue for this team isn’t the loss of Michael Cobbins. It hurts their depth inside, but Oklahoma State’s rebounding numbers are actually slightly better in Big 12 play than they were in non-conference play with Cobbins healthy.

What’s hurting the Pokes more than anything is foul trouble. On Monday, Le’Bryan Nash fouled out and Marcus Smart had four fouls. On Saturday, Nash and Smart both fouled out in the win over West Virginia. Last Saturday, in the loss at Kansas, Markel Brown fouled out and Nash had four fouls.

The issue isn’t just the disqualifications. It’s the fact that, when they’re in foul trouble, they sit the bench, taking themselves and the team out of a rhythm and, quite often, digging early holes.

Foul trouble isn’t the be-all and end-all of their issues — Smart and Brown settle for too many jumpers, they don’t get Nash enough touches on the block, too often their offense devolves into isolations — but it sure would help to have