The Oregon State Beavers are looking to stay undefeated in PAC-12 play tonight as they travel to Arizona State to play the Sun Devils. The Beavers aren’t known as a basketball powerhouse, having made the NCAA tournament just one time since 1990, but this year they have one of the better teams in the PAC-12 and have a real shot of taking home the regular season PAC-12 title. The Beavers have won four straight games, including wins over league opponents Oregon, UCLA, and USC.
The Sun Devils are another team that could very well be in competition for the PAC-12 title in what is a very down league this season. The Sun Devils were actually ranked nationally for a minute as they knocked off then number one ranked Kansas in late December. The Sun Devils have fallen on hard times since beating the nation’s top team as they are just 2-3 in their last five games. The Sun Devils are -5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 148 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM PST from Wells-Fargo Arena in Tempe.
Coming into PAC-12 play, I went on record saying that I thought the Oregon State Beavers would contend for the regular season title and would get an at-large or auto-bid into the NCAA tournament. Since then, the Beavers have beaten a who’s who of the PAC-12. The Beavers are tied atop the PAC-12 standings at 3-0, with Washington and Arizona. The reason I am so high on Oregon State this year is because of Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr.
Both of those guys are legit superstars. The only reason you haven’t heard of them is because they are stuck playing in the basketball purgatory that is Corvallis. Tinkle is my pick for PAC-12 player of the year, and the senior forward can really do it all for the Beavers. Tinkle has battled injuries for most of his career, and he has missed time this year banged up, but when he is healthy and, on the court, there aren’t many better than him.
He is averaging twenty points a game and fills up the stat sheet with eight and a half rebounds, four assists, and nearly two steals a game. Tinkle has a big body and can stretch the floor which makes him a matchup nightmare at the college level. When Tinkle missed action last week against USC, Stephen Thompson Jr stepped right up to fill the scoring void and dropped thirty-four points on the Trojans. Thompson is a fellow four-year starting senior for the Beavers and is averaging sixteen points a game himself. In a PAC-12 that is light on talent this season, Thompson Jr and Tinkle might be the best one-two punch in the league.
It is hard to tell just how good this Arizona State team is this season. They lost a bunch of guys from last year’s squad that spent time ranked in the top five in the nation, and the expectations were all over the place coming into this year. They started the season out hot, winning their first seven games before losing to an undefeated and top five Nevada team. Since then its been a rocky couple of weeks for Arizona State. Yeah, beating Kansas was huge. But then turning around and losing two straight home games against Princeton and Utah might have been just as huge.
Could Arizona State win this game by double-digits? Absolutely. But will they? The Sun Devils showed us they can compete with any team in the country when they knocked off Kansas, but they also showed us that they tend to play down to their competition. Home losses to Princeton and Utah are going to look ugly on selection Sunday and losing to an 8-8 Stanford team in their last game really hurt. This team is just too inconsistent to back with confidence.
If I had to take a side in this game, I would likely take the Beavers. I think they are the far more experienced team, and just have a much higher level of overall talent. Winning road games in league play is never easy though, so I will hedge my bet just a bit by snatching up the points. Give me the Oregon State Beavers and the +5-points tonight from Tempe is what should be a tightly contested affair!