Preview: Washington State at Oregon State
Oregon State is one of two teams from a major conference which has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1990, and a victory over visiting Washington State on Thursday won't do much to improve the Beavers' chances of ending that drought. A strong finish, however, could land Oregon State its fourth postseason bid in the last six years - another tiny step in the maturation process under sixth-year coach Craig Robinson. âItâs been so long,â Robinson told reporters during a Pac-12 teleconference. âBut my frustration isnât at a level thatâs intolerable yet. ... I just know being close and heading in the right direction, it feels like weâll get there.â
The Beavers were 5-4 in the Pac-12 after a sweep of the Los Angeles schools, but reality returned in the form of a three-game losing streak, the last a 93-83 setback at Oregon on Sunday. The Cougars have lost four straight following a 69-56 loss to Stanford on Saturday and with a 9-16 record, the only way Washington State will reach the postseason is if it stuns the basketball world by winning the Pac-12 tournament. The contest features the top two scorers in the Pac-12 in Oregon State's Roberto Nelson (21.3 points per game) and Washington State's DaVonte Lacy (18.9), who has averaged 23.6 points in five games since missing six contests with a rib injury.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (9-16, 2-11 Pac-12): The Cougars might have a better record if Lacy didn't miss eight games, including two because of an emergency appendectomy. âHeâs just such a prolific scorer, and heâs doing a lot of scoring for them now,â Robinson said of Lacy. âI donât want to get ahead of myself, but it seems like if you can stop him you can do a lot to stop them.â Lacy isn't getting much support as Washington State is last in the Pac-12 in scoring at 62.8 points per game.
ABOUT OREGON STATE (13-11, 5-7): Robinson said his team realizes what's at stake down the stretch and junior forward Eric Moreland backs up that claim. "In order to do big things and get into the best postseason you can, youâve got to win these last few games,â Moreland told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. âOtherwise weâll be sitting there watching or playing in something we donât want to play in.â The Beavers won the season's first meeting 66-55 on Jan. 22 during Lacy's absence.
1. Oregon State's Devon Collier leads the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at 60.5 and is in the top 20 in scoring (13.7 points per game) and rebounding (six per game).
2. The Beavers are sixth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.9, led by freshman Hallice Cooke (54.8).
3. While Oregon State has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1990, Northwestern has never reached the Big Dance.
PREDICTION: Oregon State 78, Washington State 64