Zach Reichle has been on the big stage before.
The Oregon State senior basketball guard won two state championships at Wilsonville High School, just a few miles down the road from where he was born in Tualatin, Oregon.
Reichle watched Oregon State growing up, but he never thought he’d have a rare opportunity to bring Beaver Nation its first Pac-12 title in program history.
The underdog Beavers who were picked dead-last to win the conference in the Pac-12 preseason poll did just that on Saturday, holding off No. 23 Colorado 70-68 in stunning fashion to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It’s a moment Reichle will never forget.
“I won championships in high school, but nothing ever compared to the feeling we had Saturday,” Reichle told Joslyn Tinkle on the Talkin’ Beavers podcast. “I guess I kind of am in disbelief still a little bit, but I’m kind of focusing on our next game and wanting to win that, but it’s just an amazing thing.”
For the first time since 2016, the Beavers are dancing in the NCAA Tournament. Oregon State will be the 12-seed facing five-seeded Tennessee and are riding a three-game win streak heading into the Big Dance.
“It doesn’t matter really who you face in the tournament, any team you face is going to want to win,” Reichle said. “I know I’ve heard a lot about Tennessee, and they have a pressure defense and they’ve got some offensive firepower, but we’ll start putting a plan in tomorrow.”
Perhaps Oregon State’s biggest asset is its ability to defend the three-point line. They allowed just 30.7 percent this season, which ranks top in the Pac-12. But as Reichle pointed out, the mental side of the game could be the toughest challenge.
“I think just keep the same attitude and effort we’ve had these past couple weeks, especially during the tournament,” Reichle said. “Just, like I said earlier, not being satisfied, being tough, going out there and playing, and most of all, believing and being confident in ourselves. I think even if it’s on a big stage like this, I don’t think it should change our mindset or make us nervous or anything like that...
The Oregon State Beavers and Tennessee Volunteers will meet at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Hear more from Reichle on the Talkin’ Beavers podcast on his team’s preparations, the significance of the number 12, and the rollercoaster ride the Beavers have been on since the Pac-12 Tournament.