INDIANAPOLIS – Oregon State’s secret NCAA tournament weapon could be its most notable player, Roman Silva, 7-1 / 2, 265 lbs.
The 7-footer with offensive back-to-basket skills has all but disappeared in college basketball. It’s about going out and threesome, throwing back shots and taking lobs for dunks.
Silva? It’s as old school as a four-door sedan. And as it turns out, college basketball might not have much of an answer for Oregon State’s Oldsmobile Cutlass.
Silva dominated the interior on Friday afternoon, hitting 8 of 8 shots and scoring a career-high 16 points in Oregon State’s 70-56 NCAA Tournament First Round win over Tennessee. Silva also had three blocked shots, an OSU NCAA tournament record.
Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle, himself a former Montana college big man, likes a job that can end up like Silva. But that didn’t happen overnight. It took Silva to get in shape and his teammates to buy an offensive return.
“We wanted to dribble, jack and all that,” Tinkle said. “We finally got the guys to understand the importance of indoor-outdoor balance. Roman played a big part in all of this… I couldn’t be happier for Roman just because of who he is.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has all but said Silva is the difference.
“They had an inside game, and we were unlucky,” Barnes said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do to stop this.”
Silva has had moments the past two years, but not consistently. He arrived in Oregon state two years ago as an unannounced JC transfer. Fouls and conditioning were a problem last season. Silva has gotten into better shape for this season, only to be stricken with COVID-19 at the end of December.
Silva has recovered and has shown he can be a force when he stays out of trouble. Silva led OSU to a 58-56 reversal of USC in mid-January, hitting 6 of 7 from the floor. At the end of the season, Silva hit 6 of 8 in a win over California and 5 of 6 in the regular season finale against Oregon.
Oregon state coaching staff were patient as they returned from the COVID-19 break. In a nutshell, they told Silva they believed in his game and what he could do when he was right.
“It means a lot to have support like this,” Silva said. “Not just the coaching staff, but also the supportive teammates who are ready to look for you. It’s a great feeling.
Why wouldn’t they look for Silva? When the shot goes up, it’s as automatic as anyone in the Pac-12, hitting shots at a 67.6% clip (71 of 105). When Silva rolls around, he rarely misses. Friday was 8 of 8.
“Roman was high time,” Tinkle said. “He did this for us, and we know he has an advantage in that. … We shoot it at him, and he will catch it, and he will mark it.
“He’s an amazing kid, and he really is a team guy first. This is why his teammates are so happy for him.
– Nick Daschel | [email protected] | @nickdaschel