What In The World Happened To The Oregon State Men’s Basketball Team?

“Look away.” 

It’s basically been the season’s motto for all Oregon State Beavers basketball fans. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the Beavers were the Cinderella of the Pac 12 Basketball tournament. They turned their sixth-place regular season finish into a tournament win, edging out teams like USC, UCLA, and Oregon, who went deep into the March Madness tournament. 

That is a distant memory, now. The Beavers are a team that looks lost. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either. This isn’t a team that lost every single veteran player after that improbable run in 2021 and had to start all over. No, this is a team that has eight juniors and five seniors. It’s a team that possesses just one sophomore and one freshman. 

Frankly, maybe that’s what the Beavers should be most concerned about. If they can’t win with an experienced roster, what the hell are they going to do this time next year when they are asking freshmen to get through the grind of a challenging Pac 12 schedule. 

Oregon State was average at best last year, and their tournament run came out of nowhere. This year isn’t even comparable. They are just 1-9 overall in the conference, and they are 3-17 overall. THIS TEAM MADE THE ELITE EIGHT LAST YEAR. How is this even possible? 

Wayne Tinkle went from a head coach that was one of the most popular guys in all of college basketball to a raging hot-seat in just a season’s time. 

After last season, the Beavers lost two of their great players in Zach Reichle and Ethan Thompson. Then Gianni Hunt quit in the middle of the season. He took time away for mental health

“After some time of thinking and with the help of my loved ones, I have decided to use the remainder of this year to continue to put basketball on pause, indefinitely.”

 But I am not convinced that two players are the difference between a 10-10 conference record, 20-13 overall record, and Elite Eight run, and whatever the heck you want to call this season. 

Oregon State has defeated just three teams all season. Those squads are Portland State, Nicholls State, and Utah. The fact that two of those wins came against teams that can hardly keep up with anyone in the Pac 12 is bad enough. But the losses are far more embarrassing. 

The Beavers have lost to Princeton, Samford, Tulsa, and UC Davis. After that loss to Oregon State, Wayne Tinkle says he doesn’t believe in moral victories but essentially took a moral victory away from it with this quote

“Night and day with the focus, with the energy by a bigger percentage of the guys. It led to a better performance,” Tinkle said. “We showed a lot more discipline, character, and togetherness than we’ve shown. “I’m tired of losing. I don’t believe in moral victories, but I know this: our team took a step forward today.”

There should be no moral victory after losing to an Ivy league basketball school; it’s unacceptable. Oh, and even worse, that loss came at home. This wasn’t some long road trip that Oregon State made to the other coast. It has to be one of the more embarrassing basketball losses in recent years. 

Tinkle brought in a lot of transfers over the offseason, and it has become quite clear that it isn’t a strong point for him. He has had some massive misses on these guys, and it’s time for him to move on from them at the end of the season, or maybe it’s time for Oregon State to move on from Tinkle. 

There have been rumors that this squad has chemistry problems. One rumor was that players defied roommate assignments on the first road trip when the coaches tried to pair up players that maybe didn’t know each other as well. 

Say what you will about the skill on the court. And sure, there is a huge flaw out there. Oregon State ranks 10th in points per game, 12th in rebounds per game, eighth in free-throw percentage, 10th in three-point percentage, and ninth in assists and blocks. But at the end of the day, this is a coaching issue. 

There is no other way to put it from this point of view. Maybe the Beavers got a huge head after last season’s run. But you can call this nothing short of a total collapse and meltdown, and Tinkle must shoulder the blame. The Pac 12 has some disappointing teams this season, but the Beavers are the laughing stock, and that’s the worst thing you can be in college athletics. 

Right before the 2021 tournament, the Mercury News wrote that Tinkle might be on the hot seat. Below are the reasons they said that might be the case

“Tinkle took the Beavers to the NCAA tournament in 2016, but it has been all murk and mediocrity in Corvallis ever since: OSU has posted losing records in conference play in three of the past four years — often in a small arena (9,600 capacity) that isn’t even half full. The program seems to be plodding along, well above lifeless but far below ascendant.”

The reasons were there, and then they went on an Elite Eight tear. But it is clear that the problems that existed before the tournament weren’t magically washed away. That collapse has happened, and the Beavers’ leadership might find themselves making a tough decision the second their trip to Vegas ends this March.