After leading Montana to three NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons, Wayne Tinkle is in his fifth season in Corvallis. However, he hasn’t experienced the kind of success he had at Montana; Tinkle got the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament in Year 2 (finishing 9-9 in the league), however was just 1-17 in 2016-17, followed up by a 7-11 Pac-12 finish last season. Coming into this season, expectations were fairly low, with the coaches picking the Beavers to finish 10th out of 12 teams, and they’ve done little to change that perception.
OSU is currently 2-3 against teams rated inside Kenpom’s top 100 (zero ‘top 50’ games), and have just one true road victory; a 75-72 win at #212 Long Beach State. The Beavers have lost three of their past four games, including a home loss to a Kent St. team that’s been pretty solid this season. Unfortunately for Wayne Tinkle, there won't be a ton of opportunities to get signature wins in the hopes of getting an NCAA Tournament at-large berth in conference play; the Pac-12 has had a terrible two months, with zero teams rated in the top 40 at Kenpom (Oregon is #42 and Arizona St. is #44). The league could easily get just two-bids, which would be historically bad for a power 5 league.
What Tinkle does have going for him is his best player, who also happens to be his kid; Tres Tinkle. The 6’8” RS junior is one of the best players in the Pac-12, and might be the league’s version of Tyler Kohl, as he’s leading his team in scoring, rebounds, and assists, while also giving them roster versatility as he can line up as a grab-and-go 4, while also playing the wing.
The other two double digit scorers are brothers, and also assistant coach Stephen Thompson’s kids; Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson. Ethan, a sophomore, is more of a playmaker who has spent the majority of his minutes at the point guard position, though he’s been deadly from the outside so far this year (39% from three). Stevie, a senior, is more of a scorer who likes to get to the rim and is also a really good defender.
Oregon St. won't play too many guys, as just 22.2% of the minutes are utilized by the bench (which is 333rd in the nation, and well below the D1 average of 31%). But what they will do is pound the paint; 56% of their points come from two-pointers, yet they don't take a ton of jumpers. The CCSU forwards will have their hands full.
Things to Watch
Tres Tinkle- A likely All-Pac-12 first teamer come March, Tinkle is a matchup nightmare for a mid-major team; he’s 6’8”, can put it on the floor, can knock down perimeter shots, and can take you inside. Jamir Coleman probably has the athleticism to stick with Tinkle, as does Tyler Kohl, but his ability to do a number of things on the floor will be a lot to handle. However, it is worth noting that Tinkle has really struggled with his shot this season; he shot 37% from three as a freshman, 33% as a sophomore, and just 29% this season. However, as his 3P% has declined, his efficiency has improved as he shooting 60% inside the arc. The Blue Devils will have to keep him out of the paint.
The Beavers’ Size- Tinkle has a bevy of bigs who he can utilize at the ‘5’, starting with 7-footer Kylor Kelley. A JUCO transfer, Kelley has been coming on strong during the month of December, having his best offensive game in OSU’s loss to Kent St. last weekend; 16 points on 6 of 7 from the field, 4-4 from the foul line, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks. That followed up a near triple-double against Pepperdine; 10 points, 9 blocks and 9 rebounds. Kelley is shooting 61% from the field (all 2’s), and leads the entire nation in block percentage (20.5%). When Kelley heads to the bench, there are other bigs as well; 6’11” Warren Washington and 7’0” Jack Wilson. Plus, Gilgorije Rakocevic, a 6’11” senior, has been out for the past month with a stress fracture in his foot. Rakocevic started the team’s first six games of the season, and at least has a shot to be back in time for Saturday’s game.
The Blue Devils’ Depth- During the win at Maine, CCSU appeared to have no fewer than four players in street clothes on the bench; Kashaun Hicks, Harrison Kay, Chris Williams, and Mike Underwood. Of those players, only Hicks has been part of the rotation this season, but he’s a significant loss given the lack of depth in the backcourt for Donyell Marshall. Ian Krishnan played 34 minutes in the loss at Providence (which Hicks also did not play in), and all but three minutes in the double overtime victory in Oreno last weekend. With Kohl assuming the mantle of backup point guard, having another player capable of playing the 2/3 is critical for the Blue Devils.
OSU on the boards- With all that size, one would think that Oregon St. would be good on the boards. Well yes, in fact, they are…especially on the offensive boards. Only 27 other teams in Division 1 get offensive rebounds more frequently than the Beavers, as Kylor Kelley is elite in this department (as is Rakocevic), and Tinkle and Alfred Hollins also rating really strong at offensive rebounding. After playing mostly man-to-man in November, CCSU played primarily a matchup 2-3 zone in the last two games, which contributed to a ton of 2nd chances for both Providence and Maine (the Friars rebounded 50% of their misses, while the Black Bears corralled 35% of theirs). There’s a chance this could get ugly at the rim for the Blue Devils.
While it’s true that Oregon State is a middling team in a disappointing league, that disappointing league is still the Pac-12, and the Beavers are certainly a top 100 team no matter how you slice it. In home games against sub-200 teams this year, OSU is 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 18 points. On the flip side, CCSU is 0-4 against teams rated higher than 150 in Kenpom, including a 24-point loss to Providence.
The Beavers haven’t exactly played their best basketball in December; there were single-digit losses on the road to Saint Louis and in Portland to Texas A&M, as well as a home loss to Kent St. However, Central Connecticut has followed a similar trend; they’ve struggled since blowing a lead late at Loyola Marymount on November 21st, and have just one D1 since then; a double OT win over Maine last weekend, which is rated #335 in Kenpom.
The only hope for the Blue Devils is for OSU to get caught looking ahead toward next Saturday’s Pac-12 opener against their in-state rival, Oregon. That, and perhaps getting really hot from outside.