Oregon State is still in rebuilding mode but the Beavers are hopeful it will pay off

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The Oregon State Beavers hope they've gotten through the hard part of rebuilding.

Last season the Beavers turned the focus to younger players — partly out of necessity — but the transition was tough and they finished 11-21 and 5-12 in the Pac-12.

“We made the commitment to go young, which not many people do, we’re confident we’re going to be able to build this thing to last,” said coach Wayne Tinkle, who is going into his 10th season with the Beavers.

It's been quite the tumble for Oregon State since the team went to the Elite Eight to cap the 2020-21 season. The next year they won just three total games.

Injuries compounded the Beavers' struggles last season. Center Chol Marial, a 7-foot-2 senior from South Sudan, missed the final 23 games of the season with an ankle injury. Guards Christian Wright and Justin Rochelin also struggled with injuries.

Those three are among 10 returnees this season. Also back is Jordan Pope, who averaged 12.6 points and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, and fellow starter Tyler Bilodeau, a 6-foot-9 sophomore.

“Last year we were young. We can’t use that excuse this year," Pope said. “So I think we’ll be ready and if we just put all the right pieces in the right places, I really think we could do some surprising things."

Despite the youthful optimism, Oregon State was still picked last in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.

“We talked a little bit about where we were picked. And really we don’t have anybody to blame, because they don’t know what they don’t know," Tinkle said. ”We lose Chol Marial after two league games. We didn’t have Justin and Christian right for the first half of the season. Justin only played a handful of games there, Christian was never really 100%. Those guys are all healthy. So I think people will see fairly quickly how they’ve come together, how hard they worked this offseason. We’re very excited."

THE REST OF THE ROSTER

The Beavers roster has just two seniors and two juniors, the rest are freshman and sophomores.

But the team returned four of five starters. The lone exception was Glenn Taylor Jr., who averaged 11.6 points and transferred to St. Johns.

While they had to keep things simple last year, the Beavers were able to add some wrinkles to the playbook in the offseason.

“We kept most of our roster together where we haven’t had to add a lot of new pieces. Even the guys that were injured were sitting there watching each and every day,” Tinkle said. “This summer, and it was by design, we put a lot more in. So when we hit Nov. 6, we’ll have much more of our defensive packaging than we’ve had the last couple of years, which I know will prove fruitful for us.”

END OF AN ERA

With Oregon bolting the Pac-12 conference for the Big Ten next season, and Oregon State left in what remains of the conference, the rivalry between the two is up in the air.

Both Tinkle and Ducks coach Dana Altman would like to see it continue.

“It’s good for basketball in the state. It’s good for our fans. Wayne and I have discussed it, and we want to play," Altman said. "So unless the higher-ups tell us we’re not, we’re going to play.”

Tinkle would like to continue a home-and-away series for the fans.

“We’ve learned we’re going to do what’s best for us, but I think for our state, I think it would be good for our institutions and our fanbase to keep that going," Tinkle said.

ABOUT THE FUTURE

Oregon State, along with Washington State, are the only two schools left in the Pac-12.

For Tinkle, that's disappointing. But he's hopeful it will work out.

"We’ve got to find a way to deal with it," Tinkle said. "But I know this: who we are at Oregon State, and Washington State could probably be painted with the same brush, we find ways to solve problems. And I know we’re working hard to find not just solutions, but solutions that are going to help us prosper moving forward.”

SCHEDULE

Oregon State opens the season on Nov. 6 at home against Linfield College. The Beavers will play eight nonconference games. They'll face Nebraska in Sioux Falls before heading to Brooklyn to play in the NIT Season Tip-off. Their Pac-12 opener is set for Dec. 28 at home against UCLA.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball