Beavers look to continue surprising postseason run with an upset of the Cowboys to get to the Sweet 16
Oregon State's underdog postseason run continues for another round as it faces Oklahoma State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
The No. 12 seed Beavers (18-12) routed No. 5 Tennessee 70-56 on Friday, securing their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1982. Oregon State led by a double-digit margin throughout after shutting down the Volunteers' offense for the better part of 40 minutes. Ethan Thompson led a balanced attack with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Four different players scored in double figures for Oregon State to help engineer the upset.
The No. 4 seed Cowboys (21-8) narrowly avoided being on the wrong end of an upset against No. 13 Liberty. Oklahoma State pulled away late for a 69-60 victory over the Flames. Avery Anderson III had 21 points and seven rebounds to lift the Cowboys to the win. Oklahoma State held Liberty to 35.5 percent shooting after halftime to overcome a three-point halftime deficit.
This is the seventh meeting between the two schools. Oregon State owns a 5-1 series lead but Oklahoma State won the most recent matchup 66-53 in 2014.
Midwest Region: No. 12 Oregon State (18-12) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State (21-8)
Time: Sunday, March 21 at approximately 9:40 p.m. ET
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Spread: Oklahoma State -6.0
Keys for Oregon State
Controlling tempo will be absolutely critical for the Beavers. Oklahoma State likes to get out in transition and run away from opponents. The Cowboys average 73.5 possessions per game and have scored at least 70 points in each of their previous nine games coming into the NCAA Tournament. That is not how Oregon State operates. The Beavers average 65.9 possessions per game. Oregon State needs to be patient and play the pass. It has been a formula for success for the Beavers over their last three games where they've recorded assists on 65 percent of their baskets.
Oregon State needs to impose its will on the glass. Crashing the boards is a strength for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys average 38.6 rebounds per game and ranked third in the Big 12 in total boards per contest. They are not very proficient at keeping opponents from snagging offensive rebounds though. If the Beavers make an effort to give themselves second chances on possessions, it will help them keep Oklahoma State from getting out and running.
Keys for Oklahoma State
Cade Cunningham struggled to get going against Liberty and the Cowboys simply can't afford to have their star disappear for long stretches. The freshman guard scored 15 points against the Flames, but he shot just 3-of-14 from the field and finished with only one assist. Oklahoma State is at its best when Cunningham, who is the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, is fully engaged as a shot creator and distributor. He averaged 20.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists during the season.
The Cowboys need to get going from the perimeter early. Oregon State's run through the Pac-12 Tournament and past Tennessee has been fueled by tough perimeter defense. The Beavers are limiting opponents to 30.2 percent from 3-point range. The Volunteers made just five 3-pointers against Oregon State and shot 19.2 percent from the perimeter overall. Three of the Beavers' last four opponents have made 25 percent or fewer of their 3-point attempts.
Oregon State has enjoyed an incredible run. The Beavers have looked like a completely different team since the calendar turned to March. Still, Oklahoma State seems like the sort of team that can give Oregon State fits. The Cowboys love to turn games into track meets and score in bunches. Cade Cunningham isn't likely to have two straight poor games. If he is playing up to his usual standard, it will equal a Sweet 16 trip for Oklahoma State.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 75, Oregon State 65
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.