Editor's Note: The 11th in a series of articles previewing men's basketball teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
Oregon State failed to take advantage of its best Pac-12 men's basketball finish in 29 years.
The Beavers went 10-8 last season for their first winning record in conference play since 1990 and earned a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. But the season ended with a loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals.
“I think we have every reason to be as good as last year, if not better, based on who is coming back and the young talent we’ve got,” OSU senior forward Tres Tinkle said. “We did not finish last year as we wanted, but that motivated us all spring and summer.”
Tinkle, who averaged 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists, is one of four returning starters for the Beavers with Stephen Thompson Jr. the lone departure among that group. Junior Ethan Thompson is once again the primary point guard after averaging 13.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
“I feel like I’ve slowed myself down a bit,” Ethan Thompson said. “The first couple years running the point, I was rushing decisions and not waiting for things to develop. That was a big focus for me in the offseason.”
Senior Kylor Kelley was one of the biggest surprises in the conference when he averaged 7.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks after arriving from Lane Community College.
“Kylor’s confidence has gone through the roof,” OSU coach Wayne Tinkle said. “He hasn’t put on much weight, but he has gotten stronger. He’s got a jump shot from 15 to 16 feet and putting it on the ground a time or two, getting to the rim.”
Juniors Alfred Hollins and Zach Reichle are also returning starters while sophomore Antoine Vernon should see time at point guard along with freshman Gianni Hunt. Freshman Jarod Lucas is expected to boost the offense while 6-foot-10 junior Payton Dastrup is eligible after transferring from BYU.
“Whoever we call on to come in to a game will give us something and if not, we can go to someone else,” Tres Tinkle said. “In years past, we didn’t have that. People made mistakes and we had to leave them in because we didn’t know who else to throw in there. Now we have the ability to put pressure on people because if they are not performing, we are confident in the other guys.”
Wayne Tinkle hopes to expand beyond the eight-man rotation he used last season.
“We did a lot of good things last year, but because we had to play guys so many minutes, I think that caught up to us a little bit at the end,” he said. “You saw we lost some close games down the stretch. I think we’ll be able to rest guys a little bit more so we can build the team and peak at the right time.”