Cade Cunningham is playing at an elite level, but could it result in a deep run in the NCAA tournament?
On an annual basis, there is always one player to watch in the NCAA tournament. The most recent example was Zion Williamson with the Duke Blue Devils in 2019, who went on to become the first-overall pick of the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Draft. In 2021, the player to watch is Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, the consensus top pick in the upcoming draft.
Cunningham is currently competing in the Big 12 tournament with the Cowboys. On Friday, Oklahoma State pulled off a massive upset by defeating the No. 2 Baylor Bears 83-74 in the Big 12 semifinals, where Cunningham scored a team-high 25 points.
With a NCAA Tournament berth a certainty, just how far can the Cowboys go in the big dance? The easy answer is they can go as far as Cunningham can take them.
Oklahoma State: Can Cade Cunningham carry the Cowboys?
Cunningham scored those 25 points while shooting 7-for-16 from the field, while also recording eight rebounds and five assists. As it turns out, this was a rather historic performance for the perennial top pick in the NBA Draft. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Cunningham is the third Big 12 player in the past 20 years to go 25-5-5 in a tournament game. The only other players to do so were Alec Burks and Georges Niang.
While Cunningham is a fantastic player, Oklahoma State is not a one-player team. In that same game, sophomore guard Avery Anderson III tallied 20 points (8-for-13 from field, three-for-three free throws) and five rebounds while sophomore forward Kalib Boone recorded a ridiculous six blocks.
The Cowboys now set their focus on the No. 3 Texas Longhorns, their opponents in the Big 12 Championship Game. In their previous two meetings, the games went down to the wire. Cunningham scored 25 points (9-for-19 from field, six-for-eight free throws) in the 77-74 loss on Dec. 20, while recording 19 points and eight rebounds in the 75-67 double overtime win on Feb. 6.
Regardless of the outcome of the Big 12 Championship Game, Oklahoma State is going to be a problem for the opposition. An overall solid team with an elite NBA prospect is a good combination to have entering the annual NCAA tournament.
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