Oregon State defying odds

Michael Kiever Sports Reporter

With two big matchups this week, the Beavers have the chance to deliver.

Scene I: Down two points with 3.1 seconds remaining on the clock, there is a silent buzz in Gill Coliseum. The fans are on their feet; worried expressions are abound. From the looks of it, it seems improbable that the Beavers could find a way to pull the win out. However, Washington seems to be falling apart just when the Beavers are putting themselves back together. There’s little time left, but something feels right about the moment. Hope remains.

During last week’s matchup against UW, the scene was perfectly set for a memorable finish. There were all of the stereotypical factors: barely any time left, a young team fighting against all odds, and the perfect opportunity to win it all in one moment. It almost seemed like fate was working in OSU’s favor, like a fairytale or something. It wouldn’t have even surprised me to see the stars aligned in the shape of freshman Stephen Thompson Jr. that night.

After all, it was he who played the role of the savior, swishing a bomb from downtown as time expired and gifting the Beavers with a crucial win over Washington.

Fast forward a little bit: now faced with two tough road matchups against Southern California opponents UCLA and USC, OSU finds itself working with a similar script this week. However, instead of a single game, OSU’s tournament chances hang in the balance.

At the beginning of the season, the Beavers were projected to finish sixth in the Pac-12, which is where they currently stand. After blowing the Cougars out on Sunday, OSU has snuck its way into NCAA Tournament predictions. According to ESPN’s latest bracket picks, OSU is in.

It isn’t all roses, as the rankings are still very much subject to change. OSU’s performance in their final two regular season games will be of utmost importance in making one last impression before the season is over. The Beavers still have to prove that they can snag a conference game on the road, something they have done only once this season.

OSU has been 1-6 on the road in the Pac-12 so far, and their only conference road win this season came on Feb. 11 against Stanford. They already defeated USC once this season, but that win came from the friendly confines of Gill Coliseum. The Beavers have yet to beat UCLA, period.

Once again, the key statistic for this week will be rebounding. The Beavers were outrebounded in all of their road losses, and need to show more intensity on the glass and be more aggressive in general. Additionally, the freshmen trio of Thompson Jr., Tres Tinkle, Drew Eubanks will need to step their games up for OSU. The three have still have showed flashes of untapped potential that could be conceivably released at any moment.

It may ultimately come down to how the team deals with the intangible factors: the crowd, the hostile atmosphere, dealing with road-weariness etc. With the mix of old and young talent on the Beavers’ roster, it is impossible to tell how the team will react as a whole.

As viewers, all we can do is sit back and watch the story unfold. The outline for a magical journey is there, and the pen is in hand.

It will just be another stage on which the Beavers will deliver the next performance. The question is, is it just the beginning, or will it be their final act?