California and host Oregon State have agreed to open their respective college basketball seasons against one another in a nonconference game Wednesday after the Pac-12 squads each had a meeting with Colorado State that was canceled.
The Rams were scheduled to play Wednesday at Corvallis, Ore., against Cal, then face the host Beavers on Thursday in a gathering of four teams. But positive COVID-19 tests among Colorado State players caused the original two-day affair to become a three-day, three-team event, with Northwest University, an NAIA school from Washington, dueling Cal on Thursday and Oregon State on Friday.
The Cal-Oregon State contest brings together teams that have taken positive strides under new coaches, with the Bears improving by six wins to 14-18 in Mark Fox’s first campaign last season. The Beavers, who had finished under .500 for 21 straight seasons, have rallied under Wayne Tinkle to win 16 or more games in five of his six years on campus.
Cal returns leading scorer Matt Bradley (17.5 points per game), but is counting upon transfers to fill key holes created by graduation in the backcourt.
Fox was able to lure three graduate transfers, including Makale Foreman, who set a Stony Brook single-season record for 3-pointers last season with 104; and Ryan Betley, who was Pennsylvania’s leading scorer (14.3 points per game) in 2018 before a knee injury derailed his career as a Quaker.
Cal had hoped to feature a third transfer — Jarred Hyder from Fresno State — but the NCAA ruled he must sit out this season after having averaged 9.1 points as a freshman for the Bulldogs last year.
The Bears ranked just 33rd out of 350 Division I teams with 160 made 3-pointers last season.
“It’s a lot more enjoyable to watch our shooting drills,” Fox observed. “These kids can make 3-point shots.”
Cal and Oregon State split a pair of Pac-12 games last season. The Bears’ 3-point shooting woes showed up in both games as they were held to 7-for-31 (22.6 percent).
The Beavers will have a new look as well this season, with standout Tres Tinkle, the coach’s son, having graduated. He was Oregon State’s leading scorer in both games against Cal, going for 19 and 24 points.
Oregon State also expected to lose its second-leading scorer, Ethan Thompson (14.8), from last year’s 18-13 squad, but he withdrew his name from the NBA draft pool in order to play his senior season with the Beavers.
He’ll be joined by three battle-tested junior-college transfers — guard Tariq Silver and forwards Maurice Calloo and Rodrigue Andela.
“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,” coach Tinkle noted. “I think we’ll have that with some of the athleticism we’ve added.”
–Field Level Media