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Cowboys' Marcus Smart Gaining Attention
February 06, 2013
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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

Here's Mike DeCourcy, the national college basketball writer for The Sporting News who Your Humble Correspondent likes to call "The Professor," singing the praises of a Big 12 freshman:

After watching Marcus Smart play at Oklahoma State for a month, I wrote he'd been the best player in college basketball for that segment of the season.

Subsequent to that declaration, I was mocked by ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan and got the full statistical treatment from John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus.

I'm not sure what they might have been saying Saturday evening after Smart shredded Kansas - at Allen Fieldhouse - with 25 points, eight offensive rebounds, three assists and five steals, including one on the game's final play. While all of us who've followed college basketball were running through the question of whether Oklahoma State would foul on purpose or allow Kansas to attempt a tying 3-pointer, Smart disarmed the entire argument by reaching out and snatching the ball from Jayhawks senior Elijah Johnson.

Here's what I do know, though. Another basketball writer equally devoted to analytics, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, was raving about Smart's KU performance on his podcast conversation with Seth Davis. Norlander said Smart "might be my favorite player in college hoops now." No mention at all of the 0-for-5 3-point shooting.

In a couple of hours -- and, in particular, the final 15 minutes of the game -- Smart surged back into the national consciousness and suggested he remains among the most qualified contenders for national player of the year.

Most of the arguments against Smart involve his sometimes on/mostly off accuracy as a perimeter shooter. He is hitting only 42.3 percent from the field and 28.2 percent on 3-pointers. Those numbers are up from when he was dissected by the stat folks, but they're still not good; he is at 48.8 percent from the field in Big 12 games but only 28.6 on 3-pointers.

Obviously, Smart would be a more effective player if he made more deep shots, but there are so many other things he does to dominate a game it almost doesn't matter. He impacts nearly every possession, many of them profoundly.

Think of Smart's search for a better jump shot as God's way of keeping the game fair for the other children.

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