INDIANAPOLIS — Oregon State men’s basketball coach Wayne Tinkle has gone for a morning walk through the convention center in downtown Indianapolis on a regular basis since arriving nearly two weeks ago. On Saturday morning, he ran into a gentleman named Tim Allen, someone he has seen every day in the convention center.
“Coach, do you know what the enemy of great is?” Allen asked Tinkle.
Tinkle responded that he didn’t.
“It’s not bad,” Allen said. “It’s good enough. Good enough is the enemy of great. Challenge your guys not to be good enough, continue to be great.”
Tinkle loved the saying so much that he used it as a motivational tool on Saturday morning during Oregon State’s shootaround and talked about it again before Saturday afternoon’s NCAA tournament game against Loyola Chicago.
“It’s our time,” Tinkle said he told his team. “Dare to be great.”
Oregon State did just that on Saturday, overcoming some early struggles to beat 8-seed Loyola Chicago 65-58, ending the Ramblers’ quest for a second Final Four in the past four seasons.
The Beavers had just one point at the first media timeout and missed their first six shots from the field, but they held serve on the defensive end of the floor and started to find some success once Loyola Chicago wing Lucas Williamson, the Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Year, went to the bench with two fouls.
Oregon State finished the first half on an 11-0 run to take an eight-point lead into the break. The Beavers never trailed the rest of the game.
Senior guard Ethan Thompson carried Oregon State for stretches on the offensive end, finishing with 22 points and four assists — one game after going for 26 points and seven rebounds against Oklahoma State. The unsung hero for the Beavers was Warith Alatishe, who went for 10 points and 11 rebounds and consistently made energy plays at both ends of the floor to change the momentum for Oregon State.
“I think this team is so competitive,” Thompson said. “I said it since the beginning of the year, our guys want to win. And you know they will be able to step out of their comfort zone — all of us, really, just step out of our comfort zone and make plays that we might not be used to making, whether it’s getting a rebound, hitting free throws, hitting shots. Or just getting a stop as a team.”
The Beavers needed to win the Pac-12 Conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament, and they were down by as many as 16 points in the quarterfinals against UCLA on March 11. They came back to beat the Bruins, then upset Oregon and Colorado to win the league’s automatic bid.
On Selection Sunday, they were given a 12-seed — but just like when they were picked last in the preseason Pac-12 poll, the Beavers outperformed expectations.
They dominated Tennessee in the first round, held off a late Oklahoma State surge to beat the Cowboys by 10 and then handled Loyola Chicago — six straight victories in “win or go home” situations.
“Even during the regular season, going into games we’re pretty confident in our abilities as a team,” Thompson said. “But having the wins to back it up, winning six straight, going into these games is just more confidence, believing in each other and trusting each other to get another win. And our guys don’t want to stop playing.”
Oregon State is now 40 minutes from becoming the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four. Only one other 12-seed has made it as far as the Beavers: Missouri in 2002. Four 11-seeds have reached the Final Four: LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), VCU (2011) and Loyola Chicago (2018).
But the Beavers would be the first 12-seed.
“They just want to keep riding the wave,” Tinkle said. “We really haven’t made a big deal about the 12th seed in the tournament. We were thrilled to be here. But we had a mission. I don’t want to throw too much at them. They’ll see it. And it’s cool. But we just gotta really keep our feet on the ground, stay humble and stay hungry, keep grinding away.”
Oregon State will play the winner of No. 2 Houston vs. No. 11 Syracuse in Monday’s Elite Eight matchup.
“There’s no doubt in our guys’ minds,” Tinkle said. “They really believe that this is their time. It’s what we said before we left the locker room, that we’re not going to get rattled. This is our time. It’s meant to be. Let’s go play ball.”