It’s been 26 years now since the Oregon State Beavers were invited to the men’s NCAA Tournament Championship, but after beating the lowly Washington State Cougars Sunday at Gill Coliseum on Senior Day, things look good for the OSU squad right now in terms of punching a ticket to March Madness.
Both CBS Sports and ESPN project the 17-10 Beavers, currently tied for sixth place in the Pac-12 Conference with USC, as one of the 68 teams that will get invited to the Big Dance on Sunday, March 13. CBS projects Oregon State as a No. 9 seed in the Midwest Region, with a possible second-round matchup against No. 1 Kansas—a team the Beavers lost to earlier this season—while ESPN thinks a little less of OSU, slotting them into one of the four play-in games on Tuesday, March 15, in Dayton, OH.
Either opportunity would be welcomed by the Beavers since the school hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 1990.
“I love the direction we’re going,” OSU Head Coach Wayne Tinkle said after Sunday’s win. “But we can’t be content. We’re going to stay focused and stay hungry, knowing our best basketball still needs to be in front of us.”
This is true, because the Beavers probably need one more league win to solidify their position, as evidenced by ESPN’s weaker projection. With two road games left in Pac-12 play, this means Oregon State needs to beat either USC on Wednesday night or UCLA on Saturday to clinch a .500 record in conference. Earlier this season, the Beavers beat the Trojans (19-10) at home but lost to the Bruins (15-14) at Gill.
Both the L.A. schools are in the hunt for the postseason as well, whether it be the NCAAs or the NIT. Needless to say, it will be a lot harder to earn a win than it was against the 9-20 Cougars yesterday afternoon. In the win over WSU, seniors Gary Payton II and Olaf Schaftenaar did themselves proud in front of the final home crowd of their OSU careers.
Payton II came out wearing his father’s retired jersey number (20) and proceeded to do his usual damage: 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Meanwhile, Schaftenaar added 11 points and five assists as the Beavers jumped out to a 10-point halftime lead and doubled that by the end of the game for a 69-49 win.
We’ve said it all season: Three keys to making the tournament usually are 20 wins, a Top 40 RPI and a .500 conference record. Oregon State can still get to 20 wins with a strong showing in the Pac-12 Championship Tournament in Las Vegas (March 10-13); the team’s RPI is a very-high 28 currently; and with the aforementioned split in the final two games in the regular season, the Beavers can finish at. 500 in conference play.
It’s all right there for the OSU men now: They control their own destiny. Hopefully, they can reach out and take destiny by the reigns and subdue it over the next two weeks.