Tag Archives: osu basketball

When it Rains, it Pours, Right?

Sorry for the cliche, but after today’s news that Derrick Bruce is transferring, is there a better way to describe how OSU hoops fans must be feeling right now? After all, it comes right on the heels of the announcement that Tres Tinkle will need surgery on his injured foot.

Losing Bruce is a huge blow for the Beavers, as he came on strong at the end of last season, In his last four games, he averaged nearly 15 points a game, while hitting 10 of 20 thee-point attempts. It was a pleasant surprise, as in limited minutes earlier in the year, he had displayed great handles and speed, but not much offensively.

And after his 25-point outburst in just 31 minutes against Cal on March 10, in which he showed off a nice mid-range game as well, I began thinking that Bruce’s upside was greater than Stevie Thompson, because of his length and speed. In fact, he was my pick to lead the Beavers in scoring in 2016-17.

But Bruce leaves a bigger void than just his scoring. His departure really hurts the Beavers because it leaves them without a true point guard. His speed and ball-handling skills enables him to break presses, penetrate lanes and dish off, and all that jazz. He was by far the Beavers’ best returning ball-hander and facilitator. Now who is it? Thompson Jr? Malcolm Duvivier?

Those two are going to have to step up, especially early this season while highly-touted freshman JaQuori McLaughlin adapts to D1 basketball. And for Duvivier, Bruce transferring presents him with a great opportunity to put last year’s up-and-down season behind him and shine as a senior. Thompson has good handles, but I’d rather he focus on shooting. However, all bets are off if McLaughlin isn’t able to be a primary ball handler this season.

Here’s my predicted starting lineup now that Bruce is gone (and assuming Tinkle is healthy):

W- Duvivier
W – Thompson
W – McLaughlin
F – Tinkle
C – Drew Eubanks

With the Beavers now having three open scholarships, you have to wonder if Coach Tinkle will use one of them on a point guard. Or if he waits. Speaking of which, recruiting has been quiet of late, which is frustrating because the Beavers could really use an established post player. Especially in wake of fact that incoming PF Ben Kone is recovering from a major injury and may have to redshirt.

Whew, all of this is a lot to swallow right now. Or should I say deflect with an umbrella. But the good news is the Beavers have the coaching and enough talent to keep building on last year’s success. It just might be a little bit of a bumpier road. Here’s hoping Tinkle’s recovery from surgery goes well, as that would go a long ways toward taking some of the damper off this offseason.

Go Beavs! (RW)

Finding the Silver Linings

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)

Beaver Nation, It’s Dancin’ Time!!!

The drought, curse, or whatever you want to call it, is finally over! After 26 long years, OSU’s  back in the NCAA tournament. The No. 7-seeded Beavers (Man, doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?) face VCU on Friday morning in  Oklahoma City.

What a job by Coach Tinkle and Co, to get the Beavers here in just two years. I’ll be honest, I would’ve been perfectly happy with the NIT this season. But the Beavers won some key games down the stretch to put them in strong position to make the NCAA tournament, minus Tres Tinkle to boot. And just like that, they are going dancing! Congrats to all the players for buying in and keeping focused. They have been so much fun to watch this season.

Some perspective… the last time the Beavers went to the tourney, I was 8 years old. I really wasn’t into sports, much less college basketball. And when I did start getting into sports a few years later, I didn’t realize the significance of the Gary Payton and Scott Haskin cards I was pulling out of packs.

I became a big Beavers hoops fan during the Eddie Payne era, enthralled by the promise of Corey Benjamin, Carson Cunningham, and J.B Bickerstaff. I attended OSU during the Ritchie McKay and Jay John years. And then I watched as Craig Robinson landed strong recruits and started off strong, only to come up short.

So despite being a huge hoops fan, it’s always been hard for me to get excited about March Madness — because the Beavers haven’t been it it since 1990. It will be weird filling out my bracket this week and finally seeing OSU, and you better believe I am picking them against VCU. Maybe I’ll go crazy and pick them to go far 🙂

Friday can’t get here soon, enough! Go Beavers! (RW)

Beavs Inching Closer to the Dance

With a wild 86-82 victory at UCLA on Saturday, the Beavers earned the crucial split they needed to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. They conclude regular season play with an 18-11 record, including a 9-9 mark in conference play. That alone could be enough to get them into the dance, but a win in the Pac-12 tourney would be huge.

And the Beavers have extra motivation. They face Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. tonight in tournament. The Sun Devils routed the them, 86-68, back on January 28 in Tempe, OSU’s worst loss of the season. ASU has been hot of late, but they should be less of hurdle than say Oregon, Cal, or Arizona.

At a glance, the Beavers need to avoid another slow start against ASU, as the Sun Devils raced out to a 21-6 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half during the teams’ previous meeting. OSU also needs prevent ASU’s guards from penetrating at will this time around as they constantly broke down the Beavers’ defensive scheme. And finally, Gary Payton II needs to bust loose. He was held to a season-low two points. The good news is,  I don’t see there being a repeat of most of this Wednesday night.

If the Beavers can defeat ASU, I think without a doubt they will make the NCAA tournament. Nineteen wins, combined with their strength of schedule and the Payton storyline would be hard to ignore. And while I’d be happy for the Beavers to even get one of the play-in games, it would be great if they could sneak in a higher seed. It would just seem more legit 🙂

But I shouldn’t get too greedy. After all, it’s been 26 years since the Beavers last made the big dance. How awesome would it be to finally enjoy March Madness with the Beavers — and to fill out a bracket with the Beavers in it! I’d have to keep myself from penciling them into the Final Four.

Here’s to a strong showing in the Pac-12 Tournament. And a happy Selection Sunday for the Beavers! (RW)

Hardware Watch: Payton Adds to Collection

On Monday, the Pac-12 announced its conference awards — and Gary Payton II represented the Beavers well. He repeated as an All-Pac-12 first team selection, the first OSU player to repeat since David Lucas in 2004-05. And then he was named Pac-12 defensive player of the year for the second straight year, the only player to do so in conference history.

Neither honor was surprise. You can argue that Payton II means more to his team than any other player in the conference, and the numbers back it up. He led OSU in points, rebounds, assists, and steals this season.  And he made national waves with several of his monster dunks this season, including one in the final seconds of Saturday’s huge win against UCLA. He clearly is one of college’s top and most entertaining players. If this season hasn’t cemented Payton II as an OSU legend, I don’t know what more he could’ve done.

Perhaps the biggest surprise awards-wise was that Tres Tinkle didn’t make the all-freshman team, instead he received honorable mention. Yes, with only five spots, there wasn’t much wiggle room. But Tinkle was third in scoring and second in rebounding among freshmen in conference play, and was clearly OSU’s second best player this season. Arizona’s Alonzo Trier is a fine player, but he missed seven games due to injury. Even though Tinkle is out himself, now, I think he should’ve made it over Trier. But I like Tinkle’s odds of winning bigger honors down the road.

Congrats again to Payton II and Tinkle for their fantastic seasons, and here’s to Payton elevating his game even more tomorrow against Arizona State. Go Beavs! (RW).

What Now? … And WSU Thoughts!

With a much-needed sweep of the Washington schools last weekend, the Beavers remain in the hunt for their first NCAA tournament berth since 1990. My previous post took a look at what they likely needed to do to get back to the dance — and by splitting the Stanford/Cal series and knocking off UW and WSU, everything is going according to plan.

If the Beavers at least split this week’s series (UCLA/USC), they ensure themselves of a .500 record in conference play. Of course, if they sweep, they should be in with 19 wins and a 10-8 Pac-12 record. Even if it’s just a split, I don’t think they have to get a win in the Pac-12 tournament to get an NCAA berth. An 18-11 record and 9-9 conference mark should be strong enough.

First off, the Pac-12 has been pretty tough top to bottom this season, sans WSU. The Beavers have one of the strongest schedules in the conference, too! Secondly, the Payton storyline is pure gold. Come on, son leads Beavers to first tourney since his father did 26 years ago. And thirdly, I think the selection committee would be amiss to ignore the fact that Beaver Nation is starving for a return to a tournament that they used to be regulars in.

That said, the Beavers could make it a really easy by sweeping this week and winning a game in the Pac-12 tourney. But realistically, I think a split and at least a win in the conference tournament is more likely to happen. Sorry, the road has not been kind to the Beavs, and UCLA is a tough matchup for them.

A few random thoughts about Senior Day against the Cougs:

  • Loved seeing Gill at capacity again. Really makes you appreciate the charm of the ‘ol barn even when you’re sweltering in the upper bowl. What a great showing by Beaver Nation for a crucial game, and just as importantly, to send the seniors off with a bang.
  • Speaking of the seniors, many of them shined during their final regular season home game. Gary Payton II almost had another triple double (13 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists), Olaf Schaftenaar had 11 points and 5 assists, and Langston Morris-Walker recorded 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists off the bench. But the biggest basket of the day was by Daniel Gomis. The oft-injured senior has stayed positive despite his trying season and it was heartwarming to see him score, off a nice pass from another senior who hung in there despite a new role: Morris-Walker. Just wish Jarmal Reid could’ve scored.
  • Coach Tinkle continued to epitomize class by subbing in the five seniors near the end of the game so they could walk off the court one last time to a loud ovation. Then he put the walk-on players in to reward them their hard work. It’s little things like this that endear Tinkle to his players, and helps strengthen team chemistry in future seasons.
  • Since becoming a Beaver fan, I’ve watched some pretty awesome players such as Corey Benjamin, Phillip Ricci, David Lucas, Jared Cunningham, etc., but Gary “The Thief” Payton II has been my favorite because of his athleticism, violent dunks, and ability to do all the little things. His latest? The perfect entry passes to Drew Eubanks. He’s a special player who will go down as one of the greats in OSU history like his father.
  • It will be weird not seeing Gary Payton as well next season. It’s been nice having the greatest player in program history on the sidelines the past two years, because I never got to see him play at Gill. He’s been so gracious with the fans and just having him there was so energizing. I hope he and his son stay involved with the program going forward. Huge kudos to Tinkle and his staff for keeping Payton II in the fold after Craig Robinson was fired and embracing his father. Question, though, where’s AC Green?

Regardless of what happens this week, it’s been a fun season and I look forward to the postseason, regardless of where the Beavers end up. The future is bright for the Orange Express. Go Beavs! (RW)

Down the Stretch: 4 Keys for the Beavs

In my previous post, I broke down the Beavers’ chances of making the NCAA tournament. The gist of it all, it’s going to take a superb effort to get there… Because I figured the Beavs need to win at least four of their last seven games to get a good look, here’s four things that need to happen down the stretch for them to get those wins (besides the obvious “win a Pac-12 road game).

  1. Box out and REBOUND. Granted the Beavers were playing against two teams last week that had dominant big men, but they’ve got to rebound better from here out. Allowing a lot second-chance opportunities can put teams in a hole quickly, especially on the road when you don’t have the energy of the home crowd to feed off. So the Beavers need to assert themselves better and snare more boards. Plus, with a guy like Gary Payton II, quick outlet passes off rebounds could turn into easy buckets.
  1. Shuffle the lineup. I might catch flack for this, but I think Jarmal Reid should be inserted into the starting lineup, or at least for some of the games. Yes, he’s gotten attention for all the wrong reasons lately, but he’s arguably OSU’s most physical player, which is sorely needed in the post. Olaf Schaftenaar is more polished offensively, but outside of the UO game, has struggled on the boards and defensively this season. I welcome Reid’s “Bull in a China Shop” style because he’s not afraid to try to make something happen when the offense is stagnant.
  1. Go time for the seniors. There’s really nothing left to say about GP II, except that he can’t do it all every game. Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson have done an admirable job helping carry the load, but this late in the season, you have to wonder when fatigue will kick in for OSU’s talented freshmen. One of the seniors needs to step up and take charge, not just scoring-wise, but leadership-wise, too. The good thing is that Malcolm Duvivier and Langston Morris-Walker are capable of doing it, they just need to assert themselves. Or even if Daniel Gomis could provide some help on the boards and defensively, it would be huge.
  1. Play a complete game. The Beavers need to play 40 minutes through. What I mean by that is, they need to start hot, never look back, and finish strong. Too often, they’ve been prone to lapses or dry spells that allow teams to comeback or pull away. Even worse, they’ve come out pretty flat at the beginning or start of the half, case in point, the Stanford and ASU losses. The key to all of this? Defense. Where is that stingy team from last year? I don’t get it, it’s the same team from last season pretty much, plus some really good athletes. Is experience really that essential to playing good defense?

What would you like to see from the Beavers during their last seven games?

Go Beavs! (RW)

What are the Beavs Chances Of Dancing?

It’s hard to believe that the Beavers are in jeopardy of not matching last year’s surprising 17-win season. They were supposed to be a lot better this year.

Especially with GP II emerging as one of the top players in the nation. Or with key upperclassmen like Malcolm Duvivier and Jarmal Reid a year wiser. And last but not least, the infusion of talented freshmen such as Tres Tinkle and Steven Thompson Jr.

But heading down the stretch, the Beavers (14-8, 5-6 Pac-12)  find themselves not only needing to win their final two home games against the Washington schools, but also a rare conference road win — they haven’t won on the road in Pac-12 play. Those previous losses to Utah and ASU (both on the road, of course) may very end up costing the Beavers an NCAA berth.

The Beavers have seven games remaining, five of which are away from Gill, which is not a comforting thought. Here are their remaining games:

Feb. 11 at Stanford
Feb. 13 at California
Feb. 20 at Oregon
Feb. 24 Washington
Feb. 28 Washington State
March 2 at USC
March 5: at UCLA

OSU’s best shot at a road win is probably Stanford, but remember how the Cardinal shellacked the Beavers on January 6 at Gill? The Beavs don’t seem to match up with them well. Cal, I think will be much tougher at home, and I think they are due for a big game down the stretch.

Oregon, unfortunately, is peaking at the right time, and should be the favorite to win the Pac-12. I can see the Ducks winning out (BOO)! As far as the rest of the PNW slate goes, UW will be tough without question, and I could see a loss there. WSU should be a win, but that’s what I thought about the previous Stanford and ASU games.

And to wrap up the season, USC is playing pretty well, and then there’s super hot and cold UCLA… But because of the Beavers’ inability to win on the road, I don’t see them winning that one either…

So realistically, I am thinking they beat Stanford and WSU to put them at 16 wins, meaning the Beavers would need to do some damage in the Pac-12 tournament to match last season’s record, and make a stronger case for the Dance.

Working in OSU’s favor, now that the team is coming off a sweep of the Mountain schools, is its RPI that sits at 33 — a testament to Beavers beating teams like Oregon, Cal, USC, Utah, and Colorado.

There’s also the compelling storyline. The Beavers last made the tournament in 1990, led by a superstar guard named Gary Payton. How cool would it be for his son to lead his alma matter back to the dance 26 years later. Pardon the cliche here, but that would be a storybook ending for GP II.

And if that happens, you know Beaver Nation, starving for a return to its glory days in hoops, would represent well at wherever the Beavers end up… I’m 99 percent sure I am going!

But all of this is a moot point if the Beavers don’t finish strong down the stretch. They need to take care of business at home, and at the least split their two road series. That would put them at 18 wins, which I think would be good enough to go dancing. Of course, more wins would be nice.

However, until the Beavers can get that damn road monkey off their shoulder, I’m not feeling great about their odds. Maybe a 40 percent chance of getting to 18 wins… How about you guys, what do you think about their chances?

Go Beavs! (RW)

Predicting Pac-12 Play

The Beavers concluded non-conference play with a 82-61 win over Quinnipiac on Monday night to improve to 10-2 this season. By all means it was a successful 12-game stretch for them, with their only losses coming to Valparaiso and Kansas, both of which should be tournament teams (If Kansas plays like they did in the second half against OSU, they should be national champion contenders).

Hopefully, the momentum carries over to Pac-12 play, because unfortunately, it could be a tough season for the Beavers. While they’ve increased their talent level, I think they are still lagging in athleticism. And the Pac-12 is just loaded with great athletes. So I worry about the Beavers being able to keep up with a lot of their conference foes, especially on defense. The Tulsa game exposed OSU in those areas.

With those concerns in mind, I looked at the Beavers’ Pac-12 schedule and tried to do some forecasting. Bear in mind, I went super conservative here for two reasons: I am a former journalist and still haven’t got that entire “always be objective” thing out of the way, and well, being a Beavers fan has exposed me to a lot disappointment.

Jan. 3: Oregon L
Jan. 6: Stanford W
Jan. 9: Cal L
Jan. 13: @ Colorado L
Jan. 17: @ Utah L
Jan. 20: UCLA L
Jan. 24: USC W
Jan. 28: @ ASU W
Jan. 30: @ Arizona L
Feb. 4: Utah L
Feb. 6: Colorado W
Feb. 11: @ Stanford W
Feb. 13: @ Cal L
Feb. 20: @Oregon L
Feb. 24: Washington W
Feb. 26: WSU: W
March 2: @ USC: W
March 5: @ UCLA L

So that’s eight Pac-12 wins, which means the Beavers would finish with  17 wins, the same as last season, and unfortunately, not enough to get invited to the dance. The harsh reality is the Pac-12 is tough, just about every year. Even if the Beavers can squeak out three more wins than I think they will, there’s still no guarantees that they get in. The good news is the future is bright and this season, no matter what happens, will set the foundation!

Go Beavs. (RW)

OSU Hoops: First Impressions

The Beavers are off to a strong start this season with a 6-1 record and wins over Iona and Nevada. They face their stiffest test to date, and arguably all season, when they take on No. 2 Kansas on Saturday. Here’s some quick thoughts so far about the 2015-16 squad.

The biggest surprise been Drew Eubanks, no question about it. Before Daniel Gomis and Jarmal Reid suffered injuries, I hoped the 6-11 freshman post from Reynolds High would redshirt because while he had upside, I thought it would take a season or two for him to develop that talent. Turns out he was more than ready. Has OSU ever had a big man as athletic as Eubanks? He runs the floor so well and crashes the offensive boards relentlessly. Once he develops a post move and increases his defensive awareness, watch out! An added bonus, he can shoot free throws.

Speaking of freshmen, all of them bring something valuable to the Beavers already. Tres Tinkle is aggressive at both ends of the floor. Stevie Thompson is as pure of a shooter as I’ve seen during my years as a Beavers fan. Gligorije Rakocevic is a smart player who clogs the middle… and then there’s Derrick Bruce. He might not put up the numbers that Eubanks, Thompson, and Tinkle are, but I think he’s making just as big of an impact with his speed and ball handing skills.

Remember when getting the ball across mid-court was always an adventure for the Beavers in recent seasons? That’s not the case anymore because of Bruce. He breaks the press with ease. Some might not like how much he dribbles, but you know what? He can get away with it because he’s that good. As he builds his strength and experience, Bruce will turn into an even bigger asset for the Beavers. It’s easily to see why some pundits thought Bruce was a steal.

Combine all the freshmen with holdovers such as Gary Payton II, Langston Morris-Walker, Malcolm Duvivier, and Olaf Schaftenaar, and the Beavers have so much depth (and talent) compared to last season. And once Gomis returns from his injury the Beavers will have even more options to throw at teams. It will be interesting to see how Coach Tinkle manages all the minutes. But it’s a good problem to have, as it will be nice to be able to give Eubanks and Schaft more rest.

Having more playmakers has taken pressure off Payton II, Duviver, and Morris-Walker to have to create opportunities on offense. They can let the shots come to them more, unlike last season in which they often had to force things. Morris-Walker especially seems to be benefiting from the infusion of talent as he’s getting a lot of wide open looks.

The return of Gomis should help shore up what I think is the Beavers’ biggest weakness right now: interior defense. He, alone, should improve the defensive positioning. He’s pretty aware and active on defensive, which helps makes up for his offensive limitations. I am hoping him and Eubanks will complement each other down low, and disrupt more shot attempts.

The thing is once this squad is fully healthy, and develops its chemistry, they will be tough. They have playmakers, can shoot, and are athletic. But the key is to get better defensively. They must communicate and trust each other more on that end of the floor. But they already are a ton of fun to watch.

And last but not least, Payton II is simply amazing. You never know when he’s going to penetrate a passing lane out of nowhere, swipe the ball, fly down the court, and slam one home. Even when his shot’s not falling, he impacts games so much. And my favorite thing about him so far this season? He’s setting up teammates on the break so well. He’s the ultimate team player. It’s hard to believe he was a JUCO player. Talk about the ultimate late bloomer.

A side benefit of Payton II being a Beaver? It’s gotten Gary Payton back to Gill and invested in the program. It’s so cool seeing OSU’s best player ever sitting courtside at so many games. So wouldn’t it be great if his son could lead the Beavers to the dance? After all, the elder Payton was on the last OSU squad to make it… That would be the perfecting ending to what’s shaping up to be an exciting season!