Teams with most potential to improve

Updated: January 10, 2013, 11:58 AM ET
By Fran Fraschilla

I used to tell my players that, after Jan. 1, teams don't stay the same. They either get better or they get worse. Whether a team can overcome injuries, tough losses, inexperience or other adversity will determine how good it can be in March.

The following four teams, for a variety of reasons, have not yet hit their full stride this season. But each has the potential to improve a lot over the next several weeks, which could make them very dangerous teams by the time postseason play kicks off.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

There are several inexperienced teams with room for growth in the coming weeks, including Kentucky, St. John's and Texas, all of which are among the 30 youngest teams in college basketball. But the young team that could improve the most is Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys surprised many when they won the Puerto Rico Tipoff over then-No. 6 NC State, but there is definitely still room for improvement. Travis Ford's team has been hit with the injury bug, losing 6-foot-7 senior forward J.P. Olukemi for the season with a knee injury, and 6-6 junior forward Brian Williams to a wrist injury that will either keep him out just a few weeks, or possibly the entire season.

If Williams can return, he will add to a very athletic lineup that Ford has developed into one of the most efficient defenses in the country. OSU's starting lineup, which has an average height of nearly 6-7, has sneaky defensive length, and the Cowboys currently enjoy the 17th-best block rate in the country. Markel Brown has become one of the Big 12's versatile defenders, bouncy 6-7 freshman forward Kamari Murphy helps inside, 6-11 Philip Jurick is a rim protector and super freshman point guard Marcus Smart could guard all five positions if he had to.