While the upset-minded portion of the nation (including our John Gasaway) focused its attention on Lawrence, where Cornell was taking top-ranked and undefeated Kansas nearly to the buzzer, one of the more improbable results you will ever see in NCAA basketball was taking place in Corvallis, where Seattle University earned its first win over a BCS opponent since returning to Division I by beating Oregon State on its home floor.
Back in November, I suggested that the Redhawks might have a chance to upset the Beavers. Little that had happened since then, however, backed up that notion. Oregon State seemingly righted the ship after a 1-3 start and lost by a combined 11 points on the road against the Washington schools late weekend. Seattle U, meanwhile, had lost seven of its last nine games since opening 4-2. As it turned out, I watched both teams play last weekend in person, and the Redhawks did not seem to be in the Beavers’ class. Ken Pomeroy’s number-crunching computers gave Seattle U a 13 percent chance of pulling the upset and made Oregon State a 12-point favorite. Given all that, a Redhawks win was a modest surprise. But it was the margin of that victory–a 99-48 win that was worse than any loss suffered by the Beavers when they were winless in Pac-10 play two years ago–that was virtually unthinkable.
But wait, there’s more! Knowing that the Redhawks played so well, you might guess they were led by their NBA-bound star, Charles Garcia. Instead, Garcia spent virtually the entire evening in foul trouble and played just 15 minutes, most of them inconsequential to the outcome. There was something of a Ewing Theory effect at play. Without Garcia, Seattle U was forced to go small and become more balanced on offense. The result was passing that stretched out Oregon State’s zones and created open looks on the perimeter. Heretofore a mediocre shooting team, the Redhawks got hot and made 12 three-pointers in 20 attempts, more than making up for the loss of Garcia’s production. The undersized group was also quick to long rebounds, grabbing half of their available misses.
At the other end of the floor, the Beavers were as cold as their opponents were hot, shooting just 4-of-22 from downtown. Seattle U’s pressure also forced 20 turnovers, and the Redhawks drew at least five charges by reading Oregon State’s desire to drive the basketball.
Logically, all of that should have added up to a comfortable Seattle U win. That’s where the game seemed to be headed at halftime, with the Redhawks leading by 14 but plenty of time still remaining for a Beaver comeback at home. But in one of those oddities that happen in the course of a single game, Seattle U got confident, Oregon State’s players hung their heads or some combination of the two. The Redhawks went on a 19-0 run just after halftime and the game quickly became a laugher. Ultimately, I’m not sure the margin says that much about where either of these two teams are going given how much it stands out from their recent performance. Still, that doesn’t take away from what Seattle U accomplished on a night that was magical or awful depending upon your point of view.