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Oregon State expert previews Arizona game, makes a score prediction

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NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Oregon State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats (18-7, 8-4) will rematch the Oregon State Beavers (15-10, 5-8) on Thursday in Tucson, looking to avenge the 82-65 loss in Corvallis back on Jan. 12.

Tip-off is at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

We wanted to know more about OSU before Thursday’s game so we caught up with Marcus Russell from BuildingTheDam.com to get more insight.

Here’s our Q&A.

How has this season gone compared to expectations?

Expectations were fairly high headed into the season. With Tres Tinkle returning for his senior season, he’s going to break Gary Payton’s scoring record before the end of the regular season. They also have very talented guard in Ethan Thompson and an outstanding rim-protector in Kylor Kelley. It seemed like they should be in the hunt for the NCAA tournament and should be one of the better Pac-12 teams. It’s safe to say that Oregon State fans are disappointed in how the season has played out, but certainly not shocked that the team hasn’t performed better against certain opponents.

How is Oregon State different since the last time Arizona faced them?

Not a lot has changed with Oregon State. They play hard, but it’s hit or miss which team will show up on any given night (or if shots will fall). The biggest problem they have is shooting the ball and have just been putrid from behind the arc at points this season. The Beavers can beat anyone in the Pac-12, but can certainly lose to anyone.

Even with Kylor Kelley patrolling the paint, the Beavers are pretty bad defensively, ranking 154th in KenPom’s ratings. What are the issues there?

I wouldn’t say they are horrible defensively, but they could certainly use some work putting it together as a team. Kylor Kelley and Ethan Thompson are very good defensive players, but the Beavers are forced to a rely on a number of inexperienced guards (like Jarod Lucas or Gianni Hunt) that can hurt the team defense. Oregon State opponents are scoring 67 PPG and shooting 42.8% from the field, I think Beaver fans have more concerns with this teams performance on the other end of the floor though.

Tres Tinkle’s numbers are down this year. How would you evaluate his season to this point?

While his numbers are down a bit I still think he’s having a good season and putting the finish touches on a record breaking career in Corvallis. Not only will he hold the Oregon State scoring record he’s going to be in the top-10/top-5 for a bunch of categories like: rebounds, assists, steals, free throws etc etc. It’s hard to ask more of Tres Tinkle when he has carried this team so many times. Personally I think he’s focusing a lot on improving certain skills that he’ll need at the professional level (3-point shooting, defense etc) and not strictly sticking to the things that make him a great college player. Overall he’s done a lot for Oregon State basketball and I think fans are just disappointed that his only NCAA tournament berth was as a freshman when he was on the bench with a foot injury that required surgery. He’s a really special player that I don’t think a lot of fans outside of the Pac-12 got to see play.

With players like Tres Tinkle, Ethan Thompson and Kylor Kelley, it seems like the Beavers should be better than their record says they are. Is that a fair assessment? If so, why aren’t they better?

Absolutely, going into the season fans were hoping for a 20+ win team that would easily make the NCAA tournament. Trying to figure out why they aren’t better is a frustrating endeavor that usually leaves fans blaming head coach Wayne Tinkle. It seems like outside of those three players the Beavers don’t have anyone else that they can consistently rely on. Alfred Hollins and Zach Reichle round out the starting 5, but don’t consistently produce on both ends of the floor. Beaver fans had big expectations for incoming transfers Sean Miller-Moore and Payton Dastrup (BYU); but neither has been a big factor. One area that Wayne Tinkle has always struggled with is building roster depth around his star players.

Some of Oregon State’s role players had big games against Arizona last time. Which one is the team’s X-factor?

In OSU’s big upset win of Arizona all 5 starters scored in double figures. That is extremely unlikely to happen again and will probably need to if they want to keep Thursday’s game close. The biggest X-factor on the bench is Jarod Lucas. The true freshman guard is only averaging 13 mins a game, but can get hot at times. The Beavers struggle to hit shots, especially from long-range, so it might take a 21-point performance like he had against Stanford to surprise Arizona on the road.

Is the Wayne Tinkle era nearing its end?

It certainly feels like it’s headed in that direction. I don’t think he’s going to be let go this season or even next season, but if the team really struggles without his son (Tres) leading the show it could get ugly. Fans have always been curious to see what happens when Tres Tinkle & the Thompson brothers are gone and I think fans could see the Beavs becoming Pac-12 basement dwellers without them.

What are the keys to the game for Oregon State?

They don’t have a lot of depth, so their starters need to avoid foul trouble and slow the game down. Their recent win against Oregon is sort of their blueprint. Don’t commit a lot of fouls, play solid defense and hope they can hit a few big shots down the stretch to steal a win.

Score prediction?

82-69. Arizona.