Coming off the heels of last season’s brutal 5-27 campaign, Oregon State is seriously looking forward to a fresh start for the 2017-2018 season and with good reason. There’s a chance that the Beavers could be the surprise team in the Pac-12 next season, due to the fact that they might start one of the more formidable five-man units in the conference. However, they must first weather the chaos of any college basketball off-season, that at this very moment begins with two Oregon State stars and their potential NBA Draft status.
Oregon State’s projected starters will rely on both guard Stephen Thompson Jr. and forward Drew Eubanks returning to Corvallis, as the duo have both thrown their names into this summer’s NBA Draft, but have yet to sign with an agent. According to eligibility rules, Thompson Jr. and Eubanks will have until May 24th to withdraw from the draft and early projections for both players (late-second round to un-drafted) will likely keep the rising juniors in tow. That’s part one.
Part two will be mixing some underclassmen talent to the mix, beginning with returning sophomore Jaquori McLaughin and four-star recruit, Ethan Thompson. Both McLaughlin and the younger Thompson brother are likely first-unit players from day one, as McLaughlin is coming off an impressive freshman campaign in which he played more minutes than expected due to a rash of injuries and team missteps, while Thompson is a Top 100 recruit who commandeered one of the best high school teams in the country (Bishop Montgomery - CA) to a 31-2 record.
Below, we project the Beavers potential starting line-up for next season.
2017-2018 Projected Starters (‘17-’18 Class & 2016-2017 Season Stats)
G - Jaquori McLaughlin (Sophomore, 10.5 PPG & 3.3 APG in 32 GP)
G - Stephen Thompson Jr. (Junior, 16.3 PPG & 4.3 RPG in 26 GP)
G - Ethan Thompson (Freshman, 22.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG in High School)
F - Drew Eubanks (Junior, 14.5 PPG & 8.3 RPG in 32 GP)
F - Tres Tinkle (Junior, 20.2 PPG & 8.3 RPG in 6 GP)
When taking a first glance at this group statistically, it looks like Oregon State will have no problem on the offensive end, as every returning player averaged double-figures in scoring a season ago and Ethan Thompson was a scoring machine in high school. However, those totals must be taken with a grain of salt, when looking into the fact that many pieces of last year’s group played extended minutes during Tinkle’s absence and were forced to take on roles that didn’t always serve the long-term success of the team.
So now, let’s back track. Realistically, Tres Tinkle, along with Eubanks and Thompson Jr., can average around 12-15 points per game and take care of the main rebounding focus throughout the year. Additionally, while it’ll mean that the Beavers significantly improved from a year ago, Oregon State has five players who could potentially average double-digits, especially with a bevy on unproven options on the bench.
One immediate concern about this group is definitely this unit’s youth (who even more so now without Malcolm Duvivier), will have no seniors projected anywhere in the starting rotation. With Kendal Manuel’s status up in the air, the next four players on the depth chart for Oregon State will likely be freshman Alfred Hollins, junior Gligorije Rakocevic, freshman Zach Reichle and sophomore Ben Kone, with Hollins and Rakocevic are the next closest starting candidates. The team’s three potential seniors in Ronnie Stacy, Daine Muller and Matt Dahlen are all expected to contribute in minimal roles.
With a long way still to go before college basketball season makes it way around again, it’s easy to already see why there’s so much optimism in Corvallis about the potential of next year’s team. And maybe more than anything, the awful mark of 5-27 will be erased from the forefront of Oregon State’s legacy if the 2017-2018 group can find a way back to the NCAA Tournament.