Show Me My NCAA Tournament Opponent: Oregon State

Lineup notes

Oregon State:

  • Oregon State’s had the same starting lineup for 14 straight games, so I can’t imagine they’ll stop it before it hits 15: Thompson, Lucas, Reichle, Alatishe, Silva.
  • The rotation only goes eight-deep; Gianni Hunt, Rodrigue Andela, and Maurice Calloo will be the only bench players to top 10 minutes, in all likelihood.
  • Oregon State is fairly unusual even for Tennessee’s standards; 45.6% of Beaver lineups this season featured multiple non-shooters, with that ratio actually growing to 66.4% over the last month. Tennessee – specifically Josiah-Jordan James and Yves Pons – really needs to take advantage of this.

Tennessee:

  • I’m writing this preview assuming that John Fulkerson likely won’t play and, if he does, definitely won’t start. As such, you probably should assume the starting lineup is Vescovi, Springer, Johnson, James, Pons.
  • Which is the ideal lineup for March if you ask me. In just 79 possessions together, that lineup has scored an astounding 98 points (1.241 PPP), pretty much all of it against some of Tennessee’s toughest competition. They’ve hit 61.4% of their twos, which is Gonzaga-level good. I’m willing to forgive rebounding concerns if they hit that many twos going forward.
  • The question for me is this: how much time is Uros Plavsic going to get? On paper, it’s a good matchup for him, considering Oregon State gives 91% of its available center time to back-to-the-basket players. However…even after adjusting for luck and schedule, Tennessee’s offense is so much worse with him on the court – 12 full points! How long can Tennessee survive that?

Key matchups

Ethan Thompson vs. Jaden Springer and also three other players. Primarily, it makes sense for Springer (or Keon Johnson) to draw the defensive matchup against Oregon State’s best player; I imagine Thompson will probably cover Johnson or Springer on the other end. Thompson can be hot and cold from the field, but the main key is keeping him from getting to the rim and forcing lots of mid-range attempts.

Jarod Lucas vs. Santiago Vescovi, I think. Lucas is statistically the worst defender in Oregon State’s backcourt by some measure, and while Vescovi is pretty active offensively, it makes more sense to match him up with a shooter than a driver like Johnson or Springer. Anyway, Vescovi’s challenge is to stick with Lucas around all of the screens Oregon State will run to get Lucas free for open threes. Lucas’s challenge: probably the exact same.

Warith Alatishe vs. Josiah-Jordan James. Pons will also get run here, but because of a likely lack of Fulkerson, this is the more likely matchup you’ll see. Alatishe and Pons are pretty similar, but Pons at least has a prayer of hitting an outside shot. Teams have had the most success when finding ways to draw Alatishe to the perimeter and either trying to make him stay with them for 20+ feet or just shooting it; he is not a guy you want to post up.

Three predictions

  1. At least one team goes 3+ minutes without scoring a point;
  2. Tennessee gets 20+ free throw attempts;
  3. Tennessee, 76-68.

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