Jan. 26 might be a little early for voters to start pondering their national college basketball award ballots, but I’m starting the campaign for Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle as Coach of the Year right here, right now.
After a sweep of UCLA and USC last weekend to preserve their perfect record at Gill Coliseum, the Beavers are 14-5 heading into a tilt with the Arizona schools. They’re two wins shy of matching their win total for all of 2013-’14, and four wins away from duplicating the program’s best record since 2008-’09.
And Wayne Tinkle has done it with an almost completely overhauled roster.
The Beavers lost last year’s star, Roberto Nelson, talented Eric Moreland and Iowa State transfer Hallice Cooke.
Small wonder, then, that Oregon State was a consensus pick to finish 12 out of 12 in the conference this season, with Wayne Tinkle using 2014-’15 as prep for a possible breakout 2015-’16.
Thanks to a win over Pac-12-leading Arizona earlier this month, Oregon State is starting to build an NCAA Tournament resume. That’s a rather remarkable feat, given Oregon State last made the Field of
64 68 in 1990 when a ball-stealing, offensive flow-commanding guard named Gary Payton donned orange and black.
Perhaps history is repeating itself, as Wayne Tinkle had the good fortune of coming to Corvallis with Gary Payton again wearing the colors, and against leading the Beavers with an in-your-face defensive approach that powers the entire team.
Gary Payton II is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week after scoring 39 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and picking the pockets of USC and UCLA opponents seven times in the Beavers’ sweep last weekend.
GPII will be hard-pressed to catch his father for the Pac-12’s all-time lead in career steals — Papa Payton led the league three different seasons in his time at OSU, where as son gets two years max as a JUCO transfer — but leading the nation is a nice consolation prize.
Payton’s currently second.
Payton’s aggression sets the tone for one of the most impressive zone defenses I’ve seen this season. Oregon State packs the interior effectively, yet rotates and extends effectively to contest 3-pointers.
That’s a credit to Tinkle’s coaching. Oregon State’s attempts at running a zone never quite took off as predecessor Craig Robinson envisioned, but the 1-3-1 that made Montana a perennial contender for the Big Sky’s NCAA Tournament bid in Tinkle’s tenure there has translated seamlessly in Year 1 in Corvallis.
But OSU is equally capable of mixing in man-to-man. While the zone was crucial to the Beavers’ season-defining upset of Arizona, man-to-man elevated them past USC to keep a perfect home record in tact.
Per KenPom.com, Oregon State ranks No. 15 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. That’s exactly 200 spots better than the Beavers finished 2013-’14.
Offensively, the story thus far isn’t quite as rosy. OSU is No. 181 in adjusted offensive efficiency, but Wayne Tinkle has made stepping up the team’s cumulative scoring efforts a priority in the push for a tournament bid.
That priority manifested in last week’s win over over USC for forward Jarmal Reid.
“Coach got on me to get more aggressive so that’s what I was definitely trying to do tonight,” Reid said in his postgame press conference, per OSUBeavers.com.
Reid’s nine first-half points were critical in buoying the Beavers through an otherwise sluggish initial 20 minutes, and he finished with 14 on the night.
Having role players like Reid step up to complement Payton down the stretch is vital if Oregon State is going to make that elusive run to the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers have players capable of doing so; forward Olaf Schaftenaar is a quintessential stretch-four at 6’10” with a nice outside stroke.
He can present a match-up nightmare if he heats up, particularly if Oregon State’s guards are able to get to the rim on the drive. Such was the case against Arizona.
Duplicating that upset might be a tall order. A second win over the Wildcats would put Oregon State in the hunt for the conference championship — yes, seriously — and the tourney bubble slowing building would grow exponentially.
However, it’s not likely. McKale Center is another venue in which the home team has yet to lose this season, and the Wildcats have seemingly figured out their woes since that loss to OSU three weeks ago.
But if the Beavers can beat Arizona State Wednesday night, they’ll have 15 wins with five home games remaining.
Gill Coliseum is becoming an increasingly challenging place for visitors to play as Oregon State fans pick up on what Wayne Tinkle has going.
“We enjoy it because we’ve worked hard to earn it,” Tinkle said after the USC game. “Hopefully the fans keep coming back and our guys keep paying them back by playing their tails off.”
Playing before that growing crowd, OSU will have five more chances to stay perfect and get to 20 wins. One of those visitors down the stretch is Utah, another chance for the Beavers to take away an impressive pelt to present the selection committee.
Do that and simple split road trips to the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and Wayne Tinkle has Oregon State sitting at 22-8 heading to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament.
Maybe that would be enough to send the Beavers to the Big Dance. Maybe not. Regardless, it would be more than sufficient to vote Wayne Tinkle National Coach of the Year.