Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton can't wait for the season opener — for more than the typical reasons.

As Boynton still was adjusting to his offseason promotion to head coach, the school fired assistant coach Lamont Evans after he was named as part of a federal bribery investigation. Since then, Oklahoma State has started an internal investigation.

All of this has created a distraction that prevents Boynton from focusing the conversation on basketball. Boynton said his players are handling the situation well as they prepare for Nov. 10 opener against Pepperdine.

"The kids are pretty resilient, and really, for the most part, all they want to do is play basketball and go to school," Boynton said. "Because of that, being able to get to practice pretty quickly after this all happened was something that was really beneficial to us because we got back to being able to focus on the things that we were trying to focus on before this ever happened, which was trying to be the best Oklahoma State basketball team that we could be this year."

The Cowboys went 20-13 last season and reached the NCAA Tournament, but all-Big 12 point guard Jawun Evans left early for the NBA. Fortunately for Boynton, forward Jeffrey Carroll decided to return after considering leaving. Carroll averaged 17.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season and is a preseason All-Big 12 selection this season.

Another key returnee is senior center Mitchell Solomon, a steady player who started 22 games last season. Boynton said Carroll and Solomon help cushion the blow of losing Evans.

"Certainly going into my first year as a head coach, if I've got Jawun Evans to practice with this afternoon, I feel better than not having him, but Mitchell Solomon and Jeffrey Carroll have been good in terms of leadership and continue to preach the message that it's always about our program and our team and trying to get better than we were the day before," Boynton said.

Here are some things to watch for the Cowboys this season:

SCOTT SUTTON

The son of former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton is the winningest coach in Oral Roberts history and he is now on Boynton's staff. He has 328 career wins and led the Eagles to eight postseason appearances.

"I'm thrilled to have a man of Scott Sutton's pedigree joining our coaching staff," Boynton said. "The Sutton name certainly means a great deal to our program and the Oklahoma State family, but it's just as respected nationally."

REPLACING UNDERWOOD

Coach Brad Underwood was supposed to be the man to bring Oklahoma State basketball back to prominence, but he left for Illinois after one season. Underwood's success and sudden departure plus Oklahoma State's longtime success adds to the pressure on Boynton.

KEY NEWCOMER

Freshman guard Zack Dawson, a four-star recruit, averaged 26.5 points and 8.0 rebounds as a senior at South Miami High School.

3-POINT VOID

The Cowboys will be without Phil Forte, one of the best 3-point shooters in Oklahoma State history. Forte led the team with 85 3-pointers last season. Carroll was second, but the team's No. 3 and 4 3-point shooters from last season, Evans and Leyton Hammonds, have moved on. Sophomores Thomas Dziagwa and Lindy Waters III are likely candidates to fill the void.

PICKED LAST

The coaches picked Oklahoma State to finish last in the Big 12. Boynton said it's not a big deal.

"Preseason polls really don't mean a whole lot," he said. "I've never been into that. I haven't read a single preseason college basketball magazine, probably haven't done so since I've been a coach."

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .

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