Beavers head to Las Vegas

Men’s Basketball vs. Huskies

It’s tournament time for Oregon State.

First up is the Pac-12 Tournament, starting Wednesday at 8:40 p.m. against Arizona State. Nothing is solidified yet for OSU’s postseason, but a berth into the NCAA Tournament is on the horizon with the Beavers (18-11, 9-9 Pac-12) currently in the bracket projections from ESPN, CBS Sports and USA Today.

In order to head into the postseason on a high note, OSU will have to start by avenging its 86-68 loss to ASU on Jan. 28. The Sun Devils have gone 3-7 since then and the Beavers are 6-4, most recently gaining their second road win of the year by beating UCLA on Saturday, 86-82.

OSU is the No. 6 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, putting the Beavers on the opposite side of No. 1 Oregon.

If OSU beats ASU in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Arena on Wednesday, the Beavers will face the No. 3 California Golden Bears, who own a first-round bye, on Thursday at 8:40 p.m. The Semifinal is Friday is Friday at 8:40 p.m. and the championship game is set for Saturday at 7 p.m.

The official NCAA Tournament bracket will be released the following day on Selection Sunday.

Tres Tinkle Injury

Freshman forward Tres Tinkle missed both road games in Los Angeles this week with a right ankle injury he sustained in practice Tuesday. His father and head coach Wayne Tinkle said his status “doesn’t look good” for Wednesday but did not have any official announcement on when Tres could return.

Tres earned a starting spot 11 games before his injury, leading the team in that span with 15.1 points per game. In his absence, OSU lost to USC on Wednesday but beat UCLA on Saturday by using a career-high 23 points from freshman guard Stephen Thompson, Jr. and 17 points from senior forward Olaf Schaftenaar and Payton II.

“Somebody has to step up, and our guys did,” Payton II said. “That was a big boost for the seniors and our young guys.”

“He was devastated when that injury occurred,” coach Tinkle added. “I told him that he was a huge reason why we’re in the position we’re in with his toughness that he’d ingrained into the team, and he could still be a positive influence but that he couldn’t drop his chin on his chest and look for pity or any of that. It could hurt the team. I’m proud of him because he was upbeat.”

NCAA Tournament

As of Tuesday, OSU is projected to make the field of 68 by CBS Sports and USA Today as a No. 9 seed, but ESPN has OSU in the first four teams out of the bracket. With OSU still teetering on the bubble, a loss to ASU could cripple OSU’s chances of making the bracket at all; losing to the Pac-12’s No. 11 seed in the first round of the tournament in a neutral location wouldn’t look good for OSU on Selection Sunday. The win over UCLA on Saturday gives OSU a boost regardless.

“I think we can take a very similar approach that we did at UCLA: it’s down to one game, a must-win to leave no doubt in our opportunities,” said head coach Wayne Tinkle.

“There’s definitely more work ahead,” added senior guard Gary Payton II. “We’ve got to stay level headed and keep getting it done on the court. Everything is going to fall into place as it is.”

A tournament berth for OSU would mark its first in 26 seasons, with Payton II following his father, Gary Payton, an All-American on OSU’s last tournament team in 1989-1990.

“It would be a pretty cool story,” Payton II said. “We talked about it a couple times, but it’s not set and done yet. So, my focus is to keep working, keep leading this team and reaching that goal.”

The elder Payton also played ASU his senior year in the conference tournament, scoring 31 points in the 83-75 loss on March 9, 1990.

Learning from ASU

OSU has the better seed in the No. 6-versus-No. 11 matchup to open the Pac-12 Tournament, but it was ASU that took the upper hand earlier this season in the 86-68 decision in Tempe. The Sun Devils had five players score in double figures, OSU lost the rebounding battle, 39-24, and Payton II scored just two points on seven attempts.

“We got pistol-whipped,” said coach Tinkle. “We had guys that weren’t ready to go, we weren’t aggressive, we didn’t pay attention to the game plan and they jumped us. Hopefully there’s a little fire burning in our belly from that one.”

“I think we owe them something,” added Schaftenaar.

Back to Sin City

Payton II graduated from Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, Nev. in 2011 and will be headed back to Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament. He said the flashy appeals of his hometown, though, won’t distract him from the matters at hand.

“We’ve got to take care of business first,” he said. “Business first, and I’ll take care of the pleasures later.”

On Twitter @BrightTies