Prior to the 2020-21 college basketball season, the Pac-12 media voted Oregon State to finish 12th in the conference.
“Hopefully it provides some chip on the shoulders of our guys,” head coach Wayne Tinkle said before the season. “They’re going to use that, as more fuel the fire, so to speak, but I promise you, we won’t finish 12th.”
Tinkle did more than keep his promise. He and his team shocked the world.
The Oregon State Beavers won three games in three days, all over likely NCAA Tournament-bound teams, to win the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time in program history. As a result, the Beavs are going dancing for just the second time since 1990.
"It feels amazing," answered Maurice Calloo when asked how it feels to be headed to the NCAA Tournament. "You just said it and it gave me goosebumps, so it put a smile on my face."
While the tournament was won in three days, this Beavers team did not come together in the last week. Saturday's celebration has been being built in Corvallis for months.
The Beavers lost on their home floor to the University of Portland in December, a team who proceeded to go winless in the West Coast Conference.
The growth shown by Oregon State has been nothing short of astounding. After the championship victory, head coach Wayne Tinkle credited his players for buying in all season.
"Just super proud of our guys," said Tinkle with the net around his neck. "Not just for this week or tonight, but the last six weeks or so we have really put some special things together and it's a credit to our guys' buy-in, guys putting their ego aside, buying into [the] team, playing harder than our opponent, executing our stuff, and enjoying each other out there."
Tinkle credited the buy-in from his players all season to culminate in Saturday's win over Colorado. His program recruits players with good character for this very reason.
"When you're patient, when you stay together, when you roll with the punches, eventually this is what it leads to, and we have proven that."
In fact, when the Beavers were being doubled, 32-16, with four minutes left in the first half of the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals to UCLA, Oregon State's belief never wavered.
"The way we came back after being down 16, that was kind of our season in a nutshell. Then we just, we didn't make a huge deal about it, we just kept saying the same things, this is what leads to success for us," explained Tinkle.
On the plane ride to Las Vegas, the team felt something special was about to happen. When no one else believed in them, with one sportsbook giving them +20000 odds to win the event, the Beavers believed in one another.
"So I would say I feel like on the plane ride here everybody had a feeling that we could go win this, that was everybody's goal from the jump," said Gianni Hint.
"We were confident coming down here," added Tinkle. "I'll tell you that."
Once the final buzzer sounded, the Beavers erupted in ecstasy, bathing in confetti for the first time ever at T-Mobile Arena.
"Everybody's smiling, laughing with each other, telling each other that they love one another and just sharing good positive vibes amongst one another," described Calloo.
"I'm just so blessed and thankful to be here with this team with these guys and it's been special, it's been a special run, but we're not done," added Gianni Hunt.
Before leaving the podium to go celebrate with his men, coach Tinkle added one more thing.
"We're going to keep this thing rolling. Orange express is back, baby. Go Beavs."