Down the Stretch They Come…

After being swept handily by the Arizona schools two weeks ago, the Beavers rebounded last week in a big way — sweeping the Washington schools. In the process, they became the first squad in school history to start a season 14-0 at home. What a remarkable feat for a team that was expected to finished to finish at the bottom of the conference. But here the Beavers sit at 16-7, including 7-4 in Pac-12 play, good enough for share of third place!

And with seven games left, the Beavers have a chance to finish strong and make the postseason. But it won’t be easy. Here’s a quick look at their remaining schedule. They play at UCLA and USC this week, host Utah and Colorado next week, hit the road to take on Stanford and California, before finishing the season hosting the Ducks. Utah, Oregon, and Stanford all are ahead of the Beavers, while UCLA is right on their heels.

Ideally, the Beavers would win out at home and at least split the rest of their road games. But Utah is ranked in the top 10 and Oregon is playing surprising well. And let’s face it, the Beavers are a different team on the road, so those games against USC and California won’t be easy. Plus, they likely will have to do it without the services of Victor Robbins, who was cited for DUI this past week, while nearing the end of a 10-game suspension. At this point, it seems unlikely he’ll play for the Beavers again this season.

But the Beavers have hung in there in Robbins’ absence, amassing a 5-3 record. A lot of it is due to their relentless defense, which hasn’t let up despite the Beavers being depth-challenged. But also, players such as Jarmal Reid have stepped up to give them a much-needed scoring punch.

If the Beavers want to finish strong, they need Olaf Schaftenaar to shake off his mini-slump and must get more consistency out of Langston Morris-Walker. A bonus would be for Cheikh N’diaye to keep building off his strong performance Sunday against UW, during which he had six points and three rebonds in 13 minutes.

Looking at the Beavers’ remaining schedule, the optimist in me says they beat USC, Colorado, California, and Oregon to finish with 20 wins, including 11 in Pac-12 play, and assure themselves of an NIT bid, at the very least. Because I think they will start shooting the ball better than they have the past three or four games.

However, the objective, former journalist in me says the Beavers have a tough road ahead of them and win two more games, which combined with a win or two in the Pac-12 tourney, should be good enough for an NIT berth. Not bad, all things considered. If their only win is against the Ducks, I’d still be pretty stoked 🙂

Here’s the thing though, the Beavers have already proved just about everybody wrong by even winning 10 games. So who knows what happens from here onward. Barring an epic collapse, Wayne Tinkle should be a shoo-in for Pac-12 coach of the year and should merit strong consideration for national coach of the year, especially if the Beavers make the postseason.

Tell me what you think, how many more wins do the Beavers have in them?

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