There’s a renewed optimism around Oregon State basketball, and for good reason. The Beavers, who were picked to finish a distant last in the 2014-15 Pac-12 preseason poll, became one of the game’s feel-good stories during Wayne Tinkle’s debut season in Corvallis. Oregon State finished 17–14 overall, captured a program-record 15 home victories and recorded a massive upset of Pac-12 power Arizona. A roster short on talent and experience utilized stifling defense — paced by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton II — to frustrate opponents and grind out victories, putting Oregon State in the conversation for an NIT berth down the stretch.
Still, Tinkle does not believe his squad overachieved in Year 1. He points to the way the Beavers’ thin roster sputtered down the stretch, resulting in losses in seven of their last eight games. Tinkle declined an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational, instead opting to rest and focus on the following season.
And with a top-25 recruiting class merging with Oregon State’s core of returning players, the Beavers are eyeing their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1990.
Pac-12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preview Magazine, available online and on newsstands everywhere.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
Oregon State’s long list of potential impact newcomers starts with Tres Tinkle, Wayne’s son and a four-star recruit. At 6'8" and 220 pounds, he boasts length and versatility to shoot from the perimeter or finish at the basket while playing the 3 or 4. Fellow incoming freshman Drew Eubanks, a four-star prospect from Oregon, packs impressive, raw athleticism into his 6'10", 240-pound frame.
Meanwhile, senior Daniel Gomis’ decision to return to the Beavers rather than step away from basketball to pursue other opportunities after graduating this spring provides a big lift. His 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season are far from eye-popping, but his physical presence as a rim protector made him Oregon State’s top post player. He’ll also be relied on as a veteran leader.
Additionally, senior Jarmal Reid has earned praise from Tinkle because of the way he’s transformed his body to become more athletic during the offseason. Fellow senior Olaf Schaftenaar was the Beavers’ best 3-point shooter a year ago (37.6 percent) but still has work to do to use his 6'10", 235-pound frame to score with his back to the basket. Cheikh N’diaye, a 7-foot junior from Senegal, was used in spurts last season but needs to improve his strength and conditioning to increase his playing time. Justin Stangel, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship before last season, could be the Beavers’ most improved player and a potential contributor in his final season.
Oregon State Beavers Facts & Figures
Record: 17-14, 8-10 Pac-12
Last NCAA Tournament: 1990
Pac-12 Projection: 6
Postseason Projection: First Round
The unquestioned heartbeat of the 2014-15 Beavers was Payton II, the son of NBA legend Gary Payton, the best player in Oregon State history. Payton II led the Beavers in scoring (13.4 ppg) while dishing out 3.2 assists per game, playing relentless defense on the perimeter (3.1 spg) and bringing rare toughness inside. Payton II is only 6'3", but he led the team in rebounding (by a wide margin) at 7.5 per game and ranked second in blocks (1.2 bpg). He continues to work on his shot and ball handling, two qualities that will help him develop into a pro.
Upperclassmen Malcolm Duvivier, one of three double-figure scorers last year (10.7 ppg), and Langston Morris-Walker will be needed as veteran leaders and complementary options on offense. But the Beavers’ backcourt will also feature some fresh, highly touted contributors. Stephen Thompson Jr., the son of the Oregon State assistant coach, was a top-50 overall national recruit because of his deadly outside jumper and ability to finish in the paint. Freshman point guard Derrick Bruce, meanwhile, can push the tempo and play lockdown perimeter defense.
Key Loss: G/F Victor Robbins
Top Players: G Gary Payton II, G Malcolm Duvivier, G Langston Morris-Walker, F Tres Tinkle, F Olaf Schaftenaar
Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson, Drew Eubanks and Derrick Bruce are the obvious highlights of the Beavers’ highly touted class, but big man Gligorije Rakocevic and guard Kendal Manuel can also play. Rakocevic blends intense physicality with underrated skills around the basket. Manuel, a late addition to the class, is primarily a shooter who played on Tres Tinkle’s AAU team.
Obviously, expectations are high for Oregon State, both inside and outside the program. The Beavers have already bought into a feisty defensive philosophy. Now, they’ve added natural scorers who should help alleviate the team’s extended offensive droughts.
Still, Tinkle has preached that, even with these talented newcomers, it could take some time for this team to develop chemistry. The coach is confident, though, that the Beavers are in a better position to finish strong because of the added depth. Tinkle hopes that it all leads to the Beavers’ snapping a 25-year March Madness drought.