At the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, a return trip to the NCAA Tournament seemed like a possible destination for the Oregon State Beavers. Despite losing a wealth of talent in the off-season, headlined by star player Gary Payton II, head coach Wayne Tinkle looked to have a roster that could both compete and develop throughout the course of the season and likely exceed their Pac-12 preseason poll prediction of a ninth place finish. Then came a match-up with Lamar.
A 2-0 squad heading into a showdown with the Cardinals, Oregon State squandered their chances against an upstart group from the Southland Conference in a three-point loss, which would eventually trigger a downward spiral of epic proportions. The Beavers would be blown out two nights later at Nevada, struggle to find a flow in a defeat at the hands of Tulsa and then finish a five-point slip-up to Fresno State without star forward Tres Tinkle, who broke his wrist during the game. From there, it didn’t get any better.
Oregon State would lose their next five games to Division I opponents, eventually ending the steak with 69-50 win over Kent State, just two nights ago. But could it be too little too late for the Beavers? Already, Oregon State has the 324th worst RPI (0.3826) in all of college basketball, a slim 0.0002 points ahead of an 0-12 Arkansas Pine-Bluff team, and the lowest of any power conference team on the list.
Case in point? The Beavers will likely not be making the post-season at all this season unless something changes dramatically and quickly. So in preparation of the Pac-12 schedule quickly approaching, we broke down the five possible scenarios for what may happen for the rest of the Oregon State basketball season.
Scenario I: The Dreamer’s Life
Even in a dream scenario, it’s farfetched to think that there’s anything that Oregon State could do to fix their tournament resume to the extent that they would punch a ticket to the big dance, but you never know. Regrouping for Pac-12 play is a solid option but it probably couldn’t happen enough to push the Beavers over the edge. What should Oregon State be focused on then? With UCLA, USC, Arizona and Oregon all likely being locks for the NCAA Tournament without a Pac-12 Conference Tournament title, the Beavers just need to be hitting their stride at the right time later in the year and make a run at the crown during the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. It might be the only time all season long that we may lay eyes on a healthy and fluid Beavers group.
Scenario II: Playing The Optimist
If you can’t buy in to the dream scenario of winning the Pac-12 Conference Tournament (and we understand why), then maybe the less optimistic and more realistic (but still optimistic) scenario of just “playing the optimist” is more of your flavor. The Beavers would become the “giant killers” of the Pac-12 throughout the season, ruffle some feathers in the conference tournament and show that as a program, the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. When Tinkle returns, he mixes with Eubanks to form one of the toughest inside combos in the league and some of the young talent severely develops, while the Beavers gain some respect in the Pac-12 heading into next season. Maybe a post-season trip is in the cards (non-NCAA Tournament) and momentum is heading upwards this off-season. Hey, you never know.
Scenario III: Mister Vanilla
The 4-9 non-conference record shows that is wasn’t a fluke and the Beavers struggle mightily against all their opponents, even as the grind of conference play wears on and on. Maybe they steal a win here or there against some of the lesser teams in the league and manage a big win occasionally but they fall just short of their predicted ninth place finish in the Pac-12 and it’s one of those seasons that is looked back upon with a head-scratching scowl. Congrats Mister Vanilla. You’re still boring.
Scenario IV: Playing The Pessimist
Oregon State’s rough start to the season becomes a huge precursor to the awful chain of events that continue to play themselves out all season long. Defensively, the team never finds an identity and continues to let opponents of all ability levels score at will, while offensively, the team remains erratic and without a set tempo, feeding into whatever system their opponents choose to play on a nightly basis. In this scenario, Tinkle may return but his impact is irrelevant with the team’s struggles and issues and he never finds his true form after his second major injury in the past eight months. The young talent on this roster doesn’t see the minutes needed to develop. The upperclassmen continue to miss the bigger picture and next year’s highly-touted recruiting group has a fresh set of chaos to waltz itself right into. Not fun times to be had in Corvallis.
Scenario V: Doomsday
Tres Tinkle doesn’t return from injury. The Beavers continue to tank and never reach the double-digit win plateau. Wayne Tinkle’s job status begins to waiver. Future players de-commit. Current players flee town. Oregon State finishes dead last in the conference with absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel and the 2016-2017 team becomes the laughing stock of college basketball. You say it’s impossible but remember, this team did lose to the likes of Savannah State already this year.