STILLWATER, Okla. — Marcus Smart is quite the villain in some circles of the college basketball world.
The Oklahoma State star, already disliked for the perception that he is a flopper, received a far greater level of scorn when he shoved a Texas Tech fan and was suspended for three games.
His antics, combined with his status as a likely lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft, make him an easy target for fans away from home. A TCU student brought a sign that read “Free Shoves” with the outline of a pair of hands, and another wore boxing gloves. Iowa State’s student section pulled off choreographed mass flops several times during the regular-season finale in Ames.
“It just comes with the territory,” Smart said. “It’s always going to go that way. You can’t really focus on that. You can’t let that determine how you play and let it distract you.”
Oklahoma State (21-12), the No. 9 seed in the West Region, will play No. 8 seed Gonzaga (28-6) Friday in San Diego in its NCAA tournament opener. How far the Cowboys go will depend largely on the play of their talented guard.
Smart will leave school after this season — he was introduced on Senior Night, even though he is only in his second year of college. Teammate Markel Brown says Smart should play along with the bad-guy role in his final games in college.
“It’s college basketball,” Brown said. “It’s a fun atmosphere. Everyone’s gunning for him. I think he should embrace the fact that he’s being looked at in that type of way.”
“I’m just focused on this team right now,” Smart said. “We’ve got Gonzaga Friday, so that’s really our main focus.