The Pac-12 is full of question marks regarding the 2020 season right now. And these question marks don’t only relate to if and when and how the season will be played, but the vast uncertainty regarding which of the conference’s top players will be making a re-appearance at the collegiate level. With the delayed draft came an extended deadline for players to make this announcement, and while it has created question marks in most conferences, we’re seeing it affect the Pac-12 in a particularly tough way. Yesterday we featured in our countdown of the top returning guards Chris Smith of UCLA, slotting in at #3 in our rankings. Smith is yet to make a decision regarding the NBA Draft, and the same goes for our top two returning guards in the countdown. Today’s feature belongs to Oregon State star Ethan Thompson, who, if he returns, will be one of the top returning scorers in the conference. Thompson declared for the 2019 NBA Draft and withdrew, and he declared for the 2020 draft as well, and his status is still in limbo as of this moment. With Oregon State’s top scorer and rebounder graduated, Thompson, who led the Beavers in assists in 2019, will also be the team’s top returner in points and rebounds. Oregon State will be desperately hoping their three-year starter comes back for one more run with the bulls in the Pac-12. The Beavers haven’t cracked the AP Top 25 since 1990, and only one NCAA Tournament appearance in that time. If they hope to end such a run, they absolutely need Thompson on the court in 2020-21.
Thompson finished a strong junior campaign with career bests in points (14.8 ppg), assists (4.5) and steals (1.3) while also posting 4.2 rebounds per contest on excellent 46% shooting from the field. He features a great scoring touch from the start of the year, with his efforts in non-conference play highlighted by a 25-point performance against North Dakota and a 17-point, 7-rebound, 5-assist showing against Oklahoma. He heated up as conference season commenced, posting 89 points and 19 assists in his four three Pac-12 clashes, which included two road contests and a battle versus a ranked Arizona team. A mid-season slump from three-point range (5-25 in a seven-game stretch) dented Thompson’s averages, but he would rally in impressive fashion. Thompson notched 15 points against the #14 Oregon Ducks in early Feburary, giving the Beavers their signature win of the year. He followed up that game with his lone double-double of the year, collecting 13 points and 11 rebounds against Utah. Those two contests sparked a nine-game streak of double-digit scoring efforts to end the Oregon State season. He knocked down critical free throws in an opening-round victory in the Pac-12 Tournament, but the season was cancelled before the Beavers got a chance to stun the world against Oregon in the quarterfinals.
Ultimately Oregon State’s season was doomed by two untimely four-game skids, without which they were 18-5. Both they and Thompson finished on hot streaks and looked very impressive outside their mid-season slump. It could be a bright season for the Beavers if Thompson decides to give the collegiate game one last spin.