OK State Cowboys Banned from 2021 NCAA Tournament; Will Cade Cunningham Leave?


Cade Cunningham at the Pangos All-American Camp

Cade Cunningham could be reconsidering where to play next season now that OK State has been banned from the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Photo by @coreyevans_10 (Twitter).

  • Oklahoma State has been banned from postseason tournament play in 2020-21 due to NCAA infractions by former associate head coach Lamont Evans
  • Cade Cunningham, the #1 recruit in the country, has signed an LOI with the Cowboys
  • If the 6’7 guard never arrives in Stillwater, where could he wind up?

The 2020-21 Oklahoma State Cowboys are being punished for the sins of a former assistant. Lamont Evans, a recruiting coordinator and assistant from 2016-18, admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in  bribes in return for steering Cowboy players to certain financial advisers. He pled guilty to bribery in Jan. 2019.

Friday, the NCAA finally handed down its punishment. The program will be on probation for the next three seasons and, more significantly, will not be allowed to participate in any postseason tournament in 2021.

OK State was heading into this season with its highest expectations since the Marcus Smart/Markel Brown years. With #1-ranked recruit Cade Cunningham joining Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei, the Cowboys were at a reasonable +800 in the 2021 Final Four odds, ahead of teams like Arizona, Dayton, Purdue, and UConn.

2021 Final Four Odds

Florida State+370
West Virginia+475
San Diego State+513
Ohio State+575
Michigan State+600
North Carolina+600
Oklahoma State+800*

*Indicates odds as of June 4th. OK State is no longer listed due to postseason ban.  

Now, obviously, the team is no longer listed in the Final Four futures or the National Championship odds. This obviously stings for everyone in Stillwater, but the pain could grow in the coming days.

Almost immediately after the NCAA’s announcement, rumors started circulating about Cunningham potentially decommitting from OK State.

Cunningham is a sure-fire one-and-done who will be in the NBA in October 2021. This year was his only realistic opportunity to play in March Madness. That will undoubtedly tempt him to play elsewhere, but just how tempting will it be? There is no reliable public information on how important the NCAA Tournament is to the 6’7 guard out of Arlington, TX.

As 247Sports reminded everyone today, Cunningham’s brother is on staff at Oklahoma State. Family connections may outweigh chasing a title.

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If Cunningham does choose to play elsewhere, there is no guarantee he chooses another college. The G-League route has become more profitable and several high-profile recruits have played overseas for a year after high school recently (Terrance Ferguson, RJ Hampton, Emmanuel Mudiay, etc.).

However, if you are a bettor looking to potentially capitalize on recent events, the one team you will want to look at is Kentucky. The “crystal ball” at 247 had Kentucky second in the race to land Cunningham, sitting at 24.5% before he made his announcement.

John Calipari still has two of his 13 scholarships available and UK is a veritable lock to, not just make the NCAA Tournament, but play multiple games on college basketball’s biggest stage.

If Cunningham’s biggest motivation is to play in March Madness, he is likely to end up in Wildcat blue. But it’s also somewhat unlikely that March glory will be his only focus.

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Sascha Paruk

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