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Next Up - Oregon State

Can Wayne Tinkle revive his program after a truly dismal season last year?

NCAA Basketball: Bellarmine at Duke
 Nov 21, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jaylen Blakes (2) shoots over Bellarmine Knights guard Ben Johnson (33) during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Date 11/24 || Time 3:00 PM || Venue Veterans Memorial Coliseum || Video ESPN

When you start looking at a team, any team really, you start with the coach because his competitiveness and personality are stamped on that group.

We noticed Wayne Tinkle when he took over at Montana after Larry Kristkowiak left for Utah. He did a tremendous job there, going 158-91. That may sound pedestrian to Power Conference schools but if you can win like that at Montana, then you have chops.

Oregon State noticed and he has done well there for the most part. Two years ago, he got the Beavers to the Elite Eight.

Last year though, the wheels fell off and OSU finished 3-28. We have no idea what happened, but that was awful. The only wins came over Portland State, Nicholls and Utah.

The transfer portal means hope is not only eternal but potentially damn quick and Georgia transfer Christian Wright would have helped but he’s out with a knee injury and hasn’t played yet this season.

Oregon State, in an old-school move, brings in eight freshmen.

Regardless, OSU has already matched their win total from last year - the Beavers are 3-1 - and must be feeling better about themselves.

Tinkle has an eight-man rotation going and the guys who are getting starter minutes are Dexter Akanno, a 6-5 junior, Jordan Pope, a 6 -2 freshman, Glenn Taylor, a 6-6 sophomore, Dzmitry Ryuny, a 6-9 sophomore from Belarus and Tyler Bilodeau, a 6-9 freshman.

Rodrigue Andela a beefy 6-8/250 lb. senior from Cameroon, Michael Rataj, a 6-9 freshman from Germany and Chol Marial, a 7-2 junior from Southern Sudan, round out the rotation.

You’ll notice they have a lot of size with six players 6-8 or taller.

Three point shooting may be an issue for OSU - only Pope is an outstanding shooter from there so far, but it’s early and of course some guys get streaky and you never know when that will happen.

Taylor and Pope are the leading scorers with 16.5 and 15.5 respectively.

There are a lot of challenges for Oregon State in playing Duke, but perhaps none more difficult than using a freshman point guard.

With Wright’s injury, they don’t have a choice, but that’s just not easy. He goes from playing Tulsa, Florida A&M, Bushnell and Portland State to Duke. And the Blue Devils can run Jeremy Roach, Jaylen Blakes and Dariq Whitehead against him defensively.

We’re not saying he can’t do it. Honestly we haven’t seen him so how could we know? But you can say this confidently: it’s asking a lot of a freshman.

For Duke, getting more reps in for Whitehead and Dereck Lively, both of whom were injured to start the season, is vital. For that matter, getting more experience for Mark Mitchell and Kyle Filipowski is a big plus too.

Filipowski has been putting up tremendous numbers, but at times he’s tried to do too much. Clearly he is talented, but knowing when to unleash your spin move is key. It’s a beautiful move, but if you charge into traffic when you’re doing it, it’s not likely to end well.

Mitchell just needs more time to understand college basketball better. He’ll be fine with more experience.

In general, Duke needs more time together on the court. You can see some dazzling moments, but they have not yet put together a solid game from beginning to end. Guys like Ryan Young and Jacob Grandison are still refining their roles and everyone’s will change to an extent with Lively and Whitehead back. This group, like all teams in November, is evolving.

Obviously Duke is favored but as we say, never overlook an excellent coach, and Tinkle has shown that he is.

One last thing to keep in mind: with Whitehead back and preparing to assume a more dominant role, Duke has the potential to put out a devastating defensive group when coach Jon Scheyer chooses. How would you like to see this? Some combination of Roach, Blakes, Tyrese Proctor, Whitehead and Mitchell, all backed up by Lively.

That would be a very tough group to score on.