The Oregon State Beavers face a rebuilding year amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, as they were picked to finish last in the Pac-12.
But even despite the loss of one of the best players in school history, Tres Tinkle, and inside force Kylor Kelley, the Beavers figure to have a big edge in talent when they open the season at home in Corvallis, Ore., against Northwest University, an NAIA program from suburban Seattle.
Guard Ethan Thompson is back for the Beavers as a second team all-Pac-12 preseason selection. Thompson averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game as a junior in 2019-20.
The Beavers (18-13, 7-11 Pac-12 last season) hope that Thompson can be freed up to run out in transition more often instead of staying down low to collect rebounds.
"What's hurt us the last couple of years is (Thompson) and Tres were our two leading rebounders, and we felt like it really took away from our ability to run the wings and create havoc," head coach Wayne Tinkle said, according the Arizona Daily Star.
"I think we'll have that with some of the athleticism we've added, and it's going to be fun to kind of put Ethan in some different spots. He's going to have some guys out there that can give a little more production," Tinkle said.
It was scheduled to be a big two days of basketball at Gill Coliseum, where the Beavers were to play Northwest on Wednesday and Colorado State on Thanksgiving morning. Only the first of those games is still on.
Pac-12 rival California will also play on Ralph Miller Court, against Northwest on Thanksgiving after Colorado State had to bow out due to positive tests for COVID-19.
Also returning for Oregon State this season is sharpshooting guard Zach Reichle, who knocked down 34.3 percent of his 3-point attempts last season and started all 31 games. Reichle averaged 7.9 points per game.
Northwest has five Division I opponents to begin its nonconference schedule, three of them this week. After the Beavers and Cal, the Eagles take on the host University of Portland on Saturday.
The Eagles have never played a Pac-12 opponent in school history.
"Our depth is our strength this year," Northwest coach Jeff Drinkwine said. "We have a little more depth, and it's from top to bottom. Everyone can play; that part's nice. We were like eight or nine players deep. After that, it was a little more difficult. This year, we have two or three guys who can play multiple positions."
--Field Level Media