The college basketball season may still sit almost half a year away but already, ESPN resident bracketologist Joe Lunardi has been hard at work trying to project who will make the “big dance” at the end of the 2017-2018 regular season. However, despite an overwhelming wave of optimism surrounding the Beavers program heading into next season, Lunardi doesn’t see Oregon State as one of the teams projected to make the final cut for the “Field of 68”.
While the outlook is not necessarily stunning, considering on a national front, the Beavers still have a lot to prove coming off last year’s tumultuous 5-27 campaign, the belief around the Pac-12 Conference is that Oregon State may be a surprise team, considering the league’s top-heavy projection for next season. Already, Arizona is being forecast as one of the best teams in the whole country (Lunardi had them as the #1 seed in the West Region), while programs like UCLA (#4 - South Region) and USC (#6 - Midwest Region) are also due for breakout years. Although, after those three, the league looks to be a completely wide-open race.
So where is the love for the Oregon State in all this?
Lunardi also has projected a fourth team from the Pac-12 to make the tournament, as he believes Oregon will solidify their place as the #8 seed in the East Region. While sure, the recent track record of the Ducks program (Final Four, Elite Eight, 64 wins over past two seasons) lends itself to another fantastic year, the fact of the matter is that Oregon will be a completely new outfit under head coach Dana Altman, with a mix of notable transfers, including New Mexico’s Elijah Brown and Georgetown’s Paul White, complimentary holdovers and impressive recruits. And yet, their in-state rivals in the Beavers, return four double-digit scorers and three potential NBA Draft prospects (including arguably their best player who missed almost all of last season due to injury), while also inserting a strong recruiting haul, which is spearheaded by two four-star recruits.
So why not the Beavers?
The “Oregon vs. Oregon State” argument is by far not the point to be made, since there is a very good chance that Dana Altman finds a way to whip his group into shape and make the NCAA Tournament after all. However, the point that can be made, is that if a talented, yet unproven Ducks roster projects as a likely #8 seed in the “big dance”, why shouldn’t a similar Beavers roster (with more experience) be given the same projection? Also, for what it’s worth, Lunardi is likely underselling Pac-12 enigma Stanford for next season as well (who were not in the “First Four Out” or “Next Four Out” either), as the Cardinal have serious potential to snag a bid to the tournament for just the second time since 2008.
But this is not here nor there, considering when the winter rolls around, all of this will be settled on the hardwood and Lunardi’s midsummer projections will be a forgotten thought of the past. But for now, sorry Beaver Nation, it just doesn’t look like the Beavers will be dancing quite yet.