On the second leg of their homestand against the Oregon schools, the Arizona Wildcats (13-5, 4-1) welcome the Oregon State Beavers (11-5, 3-1) into the McKale Center on Saturday for a highly-anticipated matchup between two of the most pleasantly surprising teams in the conference.
To get a feel for the Beavers, who lost to ASU on Thursday, we talked to John Severs of Building the Dam, our sister site for OSU sports.
Here’s our Q&A:
OSU has exploded to a 3-1 start in conference play. What’s made the turnaround possible?
Going into this season, the big question for the Beavers was whether they could find someone to complement the trio of Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr., and Ethan Thompson. Those three can absolutely win games, but the preseason worry was that if one of them gets shut down, the team will be in trouble. Thankfully, they’ve had players like Kylor Kelley and Gligorije Rakocevic step up and become big contributors. Kelley in particular is a big threat defensively, with 64 blocks so far this season. When Tinkle was sidelined for a bit with an ankle injury last week, the team showed just how much deeper they were than they have been previously, and came up with some big wins.
Is Oregon State a legit threat in the Pac-12 this year?
With most of the conference under performing, I feel like I have to say yes. Their big wins in the conference have definitely come from teams facing issues (Oregon and UCLA), but everyone is kind of facing issues right now. At the very least the Beavers are a team every other school in the conference is going to have to play tough. This weekend should tell us a lot, as both Arizona schools have been playing better than most of the schools OSU has faced so far.
Who’s an impact player to watch?
Tinkle is normally the center of the team, but Stephen Thompson Jr. has really stepped up this season. When Tinkle had to sit out against USC, Stevie delivered 34 points and 10 rebounds. His performance against the SoCal schools earned him Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, and he’s looking like he might be one of the conferences best guards. I know that Arizona has some great guards of their own, so this is going to be a big matchup to watch.
What scares you about facing Arizona on the road?
Arizona is always going to be a tough place to play, and this year’s Wildcats were looking before the Oregon loss. Arizona looks like they can match the Beavers when it comes to perimeter play, but the real thing I’m worried about is Chase Jeter. Jeter seems like he’s been pretty effective so far this year, and while the Beavers have some good big men in the post, I worry that Jeter may be able too exploit that matchup.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
Since we’re in Arizona, I’ll give the Wildcats the edge, though I think it’s going to be a battle. Let’s say Arizona by 8, and then we’ll see what happens when y’all come to Corvallis.