The Beavers embodied the phrase “survive and advance” in their First Round match-up against Long Beach State and heading into the “Round of 32” against #7 seed Creighton (24-7), Oregon State will need to refocus to keep their Final Four hopes alive. They’ll get a tough test against the Bluejays, who at the moment, are one of the hottest teams in all of college basketball.
How Did Creighton Get Here?
Despite losing in the semi-finals of the Big East Tournament to Marquette (25-7), Creighton earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with help from their season resume, which featured a nine-game winning streak from January 29th to March 5th. Overall, Bluejays have won 20 of their last 23 games, while developing a reputation one of the country’s most intriguing programs.
In the first round of NCAA Tournament, Creighton knocked off #10 seed Toledo (25-9) from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), 76-49, with help from a strong performance from senior guard Marissa Janning (19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists).
It’s hard to gauge these tournament opponents after how mightily Oregon State struggled with Long Beach State, but the one thing to definitely expect from the Bluejays on Sunday is Creighton’s best impression of Long Beach State’s aggressive defense, which severely disrupted a usually fluent Beavers group. Against the 49ers, Oregon State was a sloppy and turnover-prone outfit who couldn’t seem to ever find their flow.
Creighton may not be considered one of the best defensive teams in the country but I expected the Bluejays to work to keep the ball out of star player Sydney Wiese’s hands as much as possible and force the Beavers to become a perimeter-oriented team. On offense, some of Oregon State’s help/rotation defense was lackluster through large stretches of the game against Long Beach State, which Creighton will also likely pick out on their scouting reports as well. Expect the Bluejays to spread the floor offensively and make the Beavers defend a variety of different offensive schemes and actions.
How Does Oregon State Win?
To prepare for Long Beach State, I wrote two paragraphs of thoughts on what the 49ers do and how Oregon State could combat it and a whole lot of other things that really didn’t end up mattering too much when it came to game-time. Why? Because at the end of the day, the NCAA Tournament forces teams to engage the aforementioned “survive and advance” mentality and that’s what the Beavers absolutely must do. They must defend with passion like they’ve done all-season long and value the ball on the offensive end of things. As long as they do those two things, head coach Scott Rueck and company should be much more pleased with his team’s effort and the Beavers should find a way past Creighton.
After an upset-scare against Long Beach State, it’s hard to gauge how focused this Oregon State group will be heading into this match-up against a very confident Bluejays group. Beware Beaver nation, we may have another slow first half on our hands. At the end of the day, I see Oregon State finding their flow in the third and fourth quarters to get by Creighton but this one could have it’s fair share of nerve-wracking moments again.
Final Score: Oregon State 63, Creighton 51.