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Can Oregon State make the NCAA Tournament?

Fresh off a big win without Tres Tinkle the Beavs are buzzing with excitement

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

“Whoa whoa whoa... The Pac-12 is going to be a one-bid league, so unless the Beavers win the Pac-12 tournament they won’t warrant much discussion from the selection committee”. -(Says you the naysayer)

I get it, the Pac-12 is a laughing stock this season and the Beavers are being slotted in as a middle of the pack team in an embarrassing power 5 conference; but I reject your pessimistic notions. The Beavers are good and they have shown me enough through 14 games to earn some speculative mid-January NCAA tournament hype! Let’s dive into it:

Oregon State Beavers (10-4)

  • Head Coach: Wayne Tinkle (5th Season)
  • Top Performer: Tres Tinkle (20.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG)
  • Points For: 73.9 PPG (185th)
  • Points Against: 66.1 PPG (58th)
  • Last Game/Streak: 79-74 Win vs. USC


Their rankings in the college basketball landscape aren’t great at the moment. They had a fairly easy non-conference schedule, but still picked up a few poor losses (St. Louis, Missouri, Texas A&M and Kent State). But let’s get crazy here for a second; they are playing some very good basketball as of late.

Kylor Kelley has been a revelation since being inserted into the starting lineup for an injured Gligorije Rakocevic. Kelley leads the nation in blocks per game (4.1 BPG) in just 23.4 minutes. Tres Tinkle carried the Beavers to a road Civil War win to open Pac-12 play and then Stevie Thompson and key bench contributions brought home another win against USC.

Oregon State’s defense is excellent. They suffocate opposing offenses and aren’t afraid to slow the game down and grind out a victory. That style can comeback to bite you (especially against inferior foes), but it also means that the Beavs can hang with pretty much any opponent. The defense has become fiercer with Kylor Kelley anchoring the middle. Wayne Tinkle led teams have never had such an elite rim-protector to help erase defensive mistakes, but they’ve always played tough at that end. This team has a legitimate chance to be crowned Pac-12 champs and despite all the ridicule the conference has received I’d be surprised if the Pac-12 champion was left out of the NCAA Tournament in March, even if the champion failed to win the auto-bid.

In the latest CBS Bracketology predictions they have three Pac-12 teams in the field (ASU, AZ & Wash). After firing Steve Alford UCLA has started off Pac-12 play hot (3-0) with an epic comeback to knock off Oregon on the road. I’d put Oregon State right on the same level as those four teams, Arizona and UCLA have more top-end talent on their roster, but the Beavers have experience and cohesion on their side. Oregon State currently sits at 10-4 (2-0) and if I had to guess here’s how I see the rest of the season shaking out.

Remaining Schedule (with predictions):

  • 01/13 - vs. UCLA (W)
  • 01/17 - @ ASU (L)
  • 01/19 - @ AZ (L)
  • 01/24 - vs. WSU (W)
  • 01/26 - vs. Washington (W)
  • 01/31 - @ Colorado (L)
  • 02/02 - @ Utah (W)
  • 02/07 - vs. Stanford (W)
  • 02/09 - vs. Cal (W)
  • 02/16 - vs. Oregon (W)
  • 02/21 - @ UCLA (L)
  • 02/23 - @ USC (W)
  • 02/28 - vs. AZ (L)
  • 03/03 - vs. ASU (W)
  • 03/06 - @ Washington (L)
  • 03/09 - @ WSU (W)

That above outcomes would put the Beavers at 20-10 to end the regular season (12-6 conference). It would be the best record for an Oregon State team in almost three decades (since the 1989-90 season, Gary Payton’s senior season). With 10 losses on their resume, the Beavers still would not have a real solid case to make the tournament. The Beavs probably have to lose a maximum of 5 times in conference (including the Pac-12 tournament) to have a realistic shot at making the big dance, which is a tall task. Any other year a 20+ win season with a 12+ conference record would definitely put a Pac-12 team into the NCAA tournament, but the conference is just not doing itself any favors.

Depth is an issue (par for the course during Tinkle’s tenure), but watching the team rally and beat USC without Tres Tinkle was huge. Warren Washington and Antoine Vernon’s big nights off the bench should be big for their confidence moving forward. When everyone is healthy Oregon State can play a nice 9-man rotation (Tinkle, Thompson bros, Kelley, Hollins, Reichle, Big G, Washington and Vernon).

We’re smack dab in the middle of the season and probably jumping the gun on NCAA Tournament talk, but I personally think this is the best Oregon State team since the (elder) Gary Payton days. That includes GPII’s senior season when he lead them to the big dance (2015-16). The Pac-12 might be awful, but don’t blame the Beavers they’ll be content to just keep winning.