Sure, the Beavers’ first NCAA tournament appearance in nearly three decades didn’t go quite as planned, as VCU escaped with a hard-fought victory. But that shouldn’t diminish what was a fantastic season for the OSU men’s basketball program.
Just consider the numbers: 19 wins (including Oregon, Cal, Colorado, and Utah), a .500 Pac-12 record, a win in the conference tournament — and of course breaking that 26-year drought and making the dance! All of that in only Year 2 of the Tinkle Era.
And while the Beavers lose one of the greatest players in program history in Gary Payton II, it stands to reason that the future is pretty DAM bright. They’ve got another strong recruiting class coming in, highlighted by 4-star guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who was just named Washingon’s Mr. Basketball. Add that class to a freshman class that will be a year older…
At the beginning of the season, I thought Derrick Bruce could make the biggest impact of this year’s freshmen. Turns out I was a little off, but damn his emergence late in the season was awesome. No disrespect to Stevie Thompson, but Bruce might have more upside. Either way, his performance should make Beaver Nation extremely excited about a guards/wing trio of Bruce, Thompson, and and Tres Tinkle. And then there’s Drew Eubanks, who oozes potential, NBA potential, if he can develop a few post moves and learn to play defense. Remember, he’s only been playing organized ball since his freshman year.
But you know who might be the X-factor? Big G. If Gligorije Rakocevic can get more into shape and increase his quickness, he could be a load down low. A well-rounded complement to Eubanks. He’s smart, has the size, and a surprisingly soft shoot, he’s just a step slow right now. So if he can improve his positioning, he could really be big (pun intended). I’d love to see a starting front court of Eubanks at the 4 and Big G at the 5.
Despite the excitement and promise surrounding the program, don’t assume things will get easier. The Pac-12 will be a dogfight again next season, unfortunately led by the Ducks. So it’s important that Coach Tinkle and Co. continue to help the returning players grow and grow. And let’s be honest, there could be some valleys as the Beavers adjust to life without Payton. One thing that could ease some of that pain would be landing a JUCO or graduate transfer power forward, as rebounding was one of the Beavers’ ongoing struggles this season.
All things considered, though, there’s a lot of silver linings despite the early exit from the tournament… as the Beavers had one their best seasons in ages and showed enough to signal that they are on the right track to getting the Orange Express rollin’ again. Go Beavs! (RW)