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NCAA Tournament: Tennessee-Oregon State Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, after a year off, it’s time for the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee rebounded in the final week of the season to pick up two wins over Florida, pushing the back to the five line. Their opponent? The Oregon State Beavers — the shocking winner of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Oregon State wrapped up the season with a 17-12 mark, going 10-10 in conference and finishing sixth in the the regular season Pac-12 standings. This is March, however, and the Beavers got hot at the right time to clinch their spot in the big dance.

KenPom’s 85th-ranked team now stands in Tennessee’s way as a No. 12 seed. The Volunteers finished with an 18-8 record overall, taking home fourth place in the SEC. Tennessee struggled throughout conference play, failing to ever find any sort of groove along the way. Now it’s do or die, and they must take care of business against a suddenly hot team.

“Oregon State finished as strong as any team in the country,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said on Monday. “They won their conference, beat Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado in that order, which shows how well they are playing. A team that’s been coached well, they’ve gotten better, and playing their best basketball right now. Most teams that are playing right now are capable of playing their best basketball, and I like to think that we’re on the verge of doing that as well.”

Tennessee advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals before being ousted by Alabama. The Crimson Tide came back from a double-digit deficit to beat the Vols in the end, advancing to defeat LSU to capture the SEC Tournament crown.

Oregon State is coached by Wayne Tinkle, who is in his seventh season with the Beavers. This will be his second appearance with Oregon State in the NCAA Tournament — the first since 2015-16. Before that, Tinkle took Montana to the tournament in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

“Every job is hard, some harder than others, absolutely, and when he’s done with that program and to do what he did in that tournament, speaks volumes,” Barnes said of Tinkle. “It speaks volumes and obviously, the job he did at Montana and then what he’s done there. Hats off to him because what he did this week is something that very few teams do. When you run through the field the way he did, it’s impressive. And they have to have great confidence, they’ve got to be feeling good about themselves that again, they’re playing the best at the right time.”

The Beavers have found a way to peak at the right time, and Tinkle is feeling confident coming off of the high of winning their conference tournament.

“They’re a good team,” Tinkle said of Tennessee. “They’ve got some young guards that are playing with a lot of confidence. The Vescovi kid is really good when he’s got the ball in his hands. They kinda go as he goes. They’ve got some physicality and athleticism up front. They play a style that we’re not that unfamiliar with, that I think is a key for us. They play a pressure-man, they switch a lot, and it’s what we just saw three nights in a row from UCLA, Oregon and Colorado. We’re going to be ready to go. This is the most confident that I have felt headed into an NCAA Tournament game.”

Key players to know

Oregon State is led by 6-5 senior guard Ethan Thompson, who averages over 15 points per game. A four-year contributor, Thompson has averaged well over 30 minutes per game since his freshman season, so the Beavers certainly aren’t lacking for leadership.

He’s helped out by fellow guard Jarod Lucas, who stands in at 6-3, 195 pounds. Lucas, a sophomore, is putting up 12.9 points per game, shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range. He scored 14 points in the Beavers’ conference title clinching win over Colorado on Saturday night.

Down low, Oregon State brings Warith Alatishe to the table. The 6-7, 200 pound junior out of Houston is in his second season as a starter, scoring right at ten points per game. He’s the leading rebounder and shot blocker on the team, and scored 22 points in Oregon State’s opening round win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Oregon State Team Stats

  • 70.7 points per game (215th)
  • 33.7 rebounds per game (283rd)
  • 14.7 assists per game (92nd)
  • KenPom offensive efficiency: 65th
  • KenPom defensive efficiency: 117th
  • KenPom tempo: 315th
  • Quad 1 record: 5-5
  • NET Ranking: 91

Tennessee Team Stats

  • 72.5 points per game (161st)
  • 36 rebounds per game (155th)
  • 15 assists per game (73rd)
  • KenPom offensive efficiency: 71st
  • KenPom defensive efficiency: 4th
  • KenPom tempo: 233rd
  • Quad 1 record: 6-6
  • NET Ranking: 13th

How to watch

  • When: Friday, March 19th at 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
  • TV Channel: TNT
  • Streaming: Paramount +
  • Radio: Vol Network
  • Odds: Tennessee -7.5

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