STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma State's bracket for the NCAA tournament features some familiar foes - and not necessarily the kind that bring back warm and fuzzy memories.
The Cowboys learned Sunday that they'll be seeded eighth in the East Regional and open with a Friday game against ninth-seeded Tennessee. It'll be a rematch of a pair of contentious neutral-site games played in 2005 and 2006, with each team winning in its home state.
Oklahoma State beat Tennessee 89-73 in the first meeting in the All-College Classic in Oklahoma City, with players talking after the game that they'd been fired up because of some verbal sparring that occurred when the teams ended up staying at the same hotel.
It escalated when Oklahoma State's Marcus Dove was knocked out of the game on a hard foul that some Cowboys felt was dirty.
The Vols got revenge the next year in Nashville with a 79-77 victory that knocked a No. 15 Oklahoma State team from the ranks of the unbeaten after an 11-0 start. After that game, players from both teams had to be separated in a hallway outside their locker rooms because of some trash-talking.
"I don't think there's no bad blood with us. I just think it's going to be a competitive game regardless," said Cowboys guard Terrel Harris, who was a freshman for the first meeting. "That's just how it is. They don't back down. We don't back down.
"I just think it's going to be a tough, hard-fought game."
Fellow senior Byron Eaton remembered the first Tennessee game as a breakout game for him. He scored 16 points, then a career-best, and had 10 points in the Cowboys' 22-7 run to close out the game after Tennessee closed to one.
"It's not a rival but it's certainly building (into) one," Eaton said. "I've played them every year I've been here except one and every game has been a close game. It's going to be a tough game. We've just got to come out and have fun."
The bid ends a three-year NCAA tournament drought for Oklahoma State that started after runs to the Final Four in 2004 and the round of 16 the following year. The Cowboys have lost in the first round of the NIT each of the past three years.
If the Cowboys were to advance, their likely second-round opponent would be another recent nonconference opponent in No. 1 seed Pittsburgh. The Panthers split another set of neutral-site games with Oklahoma State over the past two seasons.
The Cowboys won in double overtime against the Panthers in Oklahoma City in 2006, then lost the rematch 75-59 the following year in Pittsburgh.
"I do kind of like it because I'd rather play against somebody that we already kind of have a feel for. It'll make the scouting report and things like that easier," Harris said.
It took a six-game winning streak late in the regular season to salvage any hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament, and an upset of No. 6 Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament left no doubt that the Cowboys would be on the bracket.
"It was just great to hear our name called," first-year coach Travis Ford said. "I know it means a lot to these seniors. Byron and Terrel have been here for four years and have always been asked the question why haven't they been to the NCAA tournament. I'm very proud for those guys to hear their name called and just very proud of how they ended the season to be able to accomplish this."