In the “First Round” of the NCAA Tournament, Oregon State employed the “survive and advance” mentality of March to get past Long Beach State (23-11). In the “Round of 32”, head coach Scott Rueck instructed his group to “send a message” against Creighton (24-8), proving their season-long dominance was no fluke.
Now, up against arguably their largest test since they battled Stanford (30-5) in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game, Oregon State will have to assert their dominance against a formidable opponent in Florida State (27-6), if the Beavers want to keep their chances of returning to the Final Four alive for one more game.
The question is simple, will Oregon State have what it takes to knock off a talented Seminoles team?
How Did Florida State Get Here?
The Seminoles entered the ACC Tournament as the #2 overall seed (behind #1 seed Notre Dame), after finishing the league’s daunting regular season with an impressive 13-3 conference record. However, Florida State was shockingly bounced by #7 seed Miami-FL (24-8) in the tournament quarterfinals, after squandering a host of late-game attempts to tie the score.
Florida State, who finished the regular season with a 27-6 overall record, received a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they drew a “First Round” match-up against #14 Western Illinois (26-6). The Seminoles easily handled the Leathernecks and then did a similar number on #6 Missouri (22-11) in the “Round of 32”, where head coach Sue Semrau and company thrashed the Tigers by 22-point margin.
Heading into Saturday’s contest against the Beavers, the Seminoles are 4-4 in their last eight contests. Previous to that, Florida State had won 22 of their last 23 outings, dating back to a heartbreaking, early-season loss to UCONN (33-0).
The Beavers haven’t exactly looked impressive so far in the NCAA Tournament, as Oregon State has knocked off a pair of much-lesser opponents by only a combined 13 points in their first two outings. They’ll need to severely pick things up in the “Sweet Sixteen” against a legitimate “Final Four” contender in Florida State.
When talking about the Beavers without regard to opponent, the key for head coach Scott Rueck’s team is to find a way to stay balanced and concise on offense, while allowing the game to be played through the trustworthy hands of play-maker Sydney Wiese. When things were going well for the Beavers throughout the season, Wiese was the one who was controlling things on the court and finding ways to keep everyone involved. When things seem to break down, that mentality has a tendency to go by the wayside.
However, when discussing a superbly gifted team like Florida State, the game-plan will have to be a bit more structured than simply “play hard on defense and take care of the ball”. The Seminoles are an offensive juggernaut, who have broken the 90-point threshold a stunning seven times already this season, including posting a 102-point performance against Wake Forest (16-16) in early February. To slow them down, defensive transition needs to be the name of the game for the Beavers.
Cutting off the Seminoles’ initial break can force Florida State to become a half-court oriented team, which usually disrupts the flow and efficiency of their well-oiled scoring machine. Additionally, forcing Florida State to defend on secondary breaks and in the half-court can place an immense amount of pressure on the Seminoles defense. This strategy, which has been used sporadically by Florida State’s adversaries throughout the season, has shown to hold a value when some of the Seminoles’ more critical players are pushed into foul trouble, altering the team’s rotations.
Overall, Oregon State must be the ones controlling tempo from the tip and not allowing this game to become a track meet (despite the Beavers sometimes finding success, when playing at a break-neck pace and speed). In order to turn Florida State into a poor defensive team, Oregon State must first disrupt their offensive rhythm and that starts with making the Seminoles defend for full possessions.
While the most important four-year group of players in the history of Oregon State women’s basketball may have already played their last game in Corvallis, this Beavers have proven over the past four years with their four straight NCAA Tournament trips, that just when you count these seniors out, they do something completely wild to prove you wrong. Sure, it would be easy to say that Oregon State is simply not in rhythm right now and a slow start against Florida State could doom their Final Four chances but I’m not believing that for one second. The Beavers could stack their trophy case with stunning and shocking victories over the past four seasons and on Saturday in Stockton, California, I think they add another notable win to the pile.
Final Score: Oregon State 74, Florida State 71.
Want More On This Match-Up?
ICYMI: Earlier this week, we were lucky enough to secure a “Q&A” session with Tomahawk Nation (TomahawkNation.com), previewing Saturday’s “Sweet Sixteen” match-up between the Beavers and the Seminoles from the Florida State perspective of things. Be sure to check it out!