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14. Oklahoma State The Cowboys may be small, but they figure that by season's end they'll be standing tall as Big 12 champs

Eddie and Patsy Sutton celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary
in June, which meant two things: The Suttons got to spend a
night at the White House (in the Lincoln Bedroom, no less), and
Eddie got to play golf with the President, an old buddy from the
days when Sutton coached at Arkansas in the late '70s and early
'80s. As they rolled down the fairway at the Army-Navy Country
Club, the Prez got down to business. "So how does your team
look?" he asked. Replied Sutton, "We'd be the best
6'6"-and-under team in the country."

The graduation of 6'11" pivotman Brett Robisch has made the
Cowboys lineup look even smaller, but all the other starters
from last year's team return, which scared the devil out of Duke
before losing by six in the second round of the NCAAs. Oklahoma
State's unknown soldier is Adrian Peterson, a 6'4" senior guard
who, almost entirely without national recognition, has become
the best player in the Big 12.

Sutton switched to a three-guard offense last year, and Peterson
had more rebounds (193) than in his previous two seasons
combined (186), although he gave his coach fits by sleepwalking
through the first halves of games. "At halftime Coach would
always come in and say, 'I don't know what's wrong with you, but
we need you to play right now,'" says Peterson. "Then the second
half would come, and I'd do really well. I can't figure it out."

He does figure to get plenty of help this year. Sutton considers
forward Desmond Mason the best athlete he has ever
coached--better even than Sidney Moncrief--while the timely
shooting of Joe Adkins last year justified Sutton's change to
the three-guard attack. Ace distributor Doug Gottlieb handed out
a school-record 6.9 assists per game, but his shooting was so
bad (41.4% FG, 48.6% FT) that he worked with three coaches,
including Marquette's Mike Deane, over the summer to improve his

Unfortunately for Sutton, though, the Big 12 isn't a
6'6"-and-under league. His starting center will be Alex Webber,
a 6'10" junior whose play has never quite recovered after he
underwent back surgery in February '97. If Webber falters, 6'10"
freshman Fredrik Jonzen from Uppsala, Sweden, will get a shot.
Neither will dominate, but will it make any difference? "You win
championships with guard play, defense and rebounding," Gottlieb
says, citing Arizona and Kentucky as examples. "Look at Kansas.
They've depended on big men, but they get beat in the tournament
because their guards haven't been as good as they used to be."

That remark will probably end up on a bulletin board one state
to the north, home of the four-time defending conference
champion Jayhawks, whom Oklahoma State will visit on Feb. 22. No
matter. Gottlieb refuses to wear last year's Big 12 South
Division championship ring for a reason. "That's a second-place
ring," he says. "If there's any year Kansas is going to be
taken, this is the year."


COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN SUTTON'S SECRET Peterson has gotten little exposure, but his game is the Big 12's best. [Adrian Peterson in game]



SF [*]Adrian Peterson 6'4" Sr. 17.7 ppg
PF [*]Desmond Mason 6'6" Jr. 14.6 ppg
C Alex Webber 6'10" Jr. 2.6 ppg
SG [*]Joe Adkins 6'2" Jr. 12.6 ppg
PG [*]Doug Gottlieb 6'1" Jr. 6.9 apg

'97-98 record: 22-7 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked
[*]Returning starter