It’s been an up and down seven years since Wayne Tinkle took the helm as head coach of Oregon State men’s basketball.
From reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16 when the Beavers fell to VCU as a seven-seed to losing seven key starters the following season to an unprecedented cluster of injuries. In 2018-19, Oregon State missed the field in the National Invitation Tournament after losing 73-58 to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.
Then there was the 2019-20 season. The Beavers were ramping up to make another run at basketball’s signature event led by star Tres Tinkle when the coronavirus pandemic hit, causing the tournament to be canceled.
Odds were stacked against Oregon State in 2020-21, and in the Pac-12 preseason polls too. The Beavers, who were chosen to finish last in the conference, outlasted No. 23 Colorado to win their first Pac-12 Tournament Title in program history.
And guess what, Oregon State is going dance again in March too.
“We had a lot of new guys, we had a lot of young guys, we knew it was going to be a season of hurdles, but we also knew what we had once we put it all together and here, we find ourselves in Indianapolis ready to play in the NCAA Tournament,” Head coach Wayne Tinkle told Rip City Drive’s Chad Doing and Travis Demers. “So, we’re thrilled, but we’re not overly surprised.”
It’s an impressive feat for a Beavers team that no one picked to make the tournament, the same Oregon State squad that lost by 34 points to Arizona in early 2021.
But that brutal beatdown at Gill Coliseum on Jan. 14 became a turning point for the Beavers season.
“It took some tough times, some grind it out type days,” Tinkle said. “I look back to when we got boat-raced at home against Arizona and then really had a come to Jesus meeting as a staff, first and then as a team, and we simplified things. We talked about, guys these are the three keys, throw everything else out from this point forward. We’re going to focus on executing, playing harder than our opponent and enjoying each other out there—that was missing, and that was a big piece. That’s going to make the games successful and enjoyable.
"Now, it might not lead to wins, but we don’t need to focus on wins right now, we need to focus on being successful and these three things will lead to that, and that’s where we turned the corner.”
After that (5-5, 1-3 Pac-12) start, Oregon State finished the season (17-2, 10-10 Pac-12) with statement wins over UCLA, Oregon and Colorado to go dancing for just the second time since 1990.
Now the hard part awaits. Oregon State (17-12, 10-10 Pac-12) will face Tennessee (18-8, 10-7 SEC) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at 1:30 p.m. PT (4:30 p.m. ET) on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
“We know we got a heck of an opponent in Tennessee,” Tinkle said. “They’re as athletic and as tough as any team we’ve faced, but there’s not going to be that factor of do we belong. Our guys know we belong.”