From last to first, Wayne Tinkle is headed back to the Big Dance.
The former Montana men's basketball coach and his Oregon State Beavers won the Pac-12 tournament title for the first time in school history on Saturday evening with a 70-68 win over Colorado in Las Vegas.
With the rest of the Tinkle family among the limited fans in attendance watching, the win completes a wild tournament ride for the Beavers, who were picked to finish last in the conference by the media coming into the season. It was a talking point for Oregon State throughout the season, with the Beavers completing the journey Saturday night to improve to 17-12 on the season and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
It didn't come easy for the fifth-seeded Beavers. Oregon State found its stroke from deep, knocking down six 3-pointers in the first half as OSU took a 33-28 lead into halftime over the third-seeded Buffaloes.
Colorado grabbed a brief 37-36 lead 2:31 into the second half, but Oregon State quickly regained the advantage and never trailed again. The Beavers led by as much as eight in the second half, and held a five-point lead with 1:07 to go.
Colorado got within one with two seconds remaining after two free throws from Mckinley Wright, but Roman Silva went 1-2 at the line on the ensuing possession for OSU, and the desperation heave from the Buffaloes missed the mark, sealing the Cinderella-esque tournament run for Tinkle and the Beavers. Oregon State beat UCLA and rival Oregon to advance to the championship game.
It's the second time Tinkle -- who is in his seventh season coaching the Beavers -- has led OSU to the NCAA Tournament, the first coming in 2016 which snapped a 26-year drought for the men's program. It's his fifth time going as a head coach, as Tinkle led the Grizzlies to the tournament in 2010, 2012 and 2013 during his eight-year tenure in Missoula. For Oregon State, Saturday's game was just the second time the men played in the conference tournament championship, the first coming in 1988.
Tinkle is the first coach in OSU history to go to the tournament multiple times with the men's program since Ralph Miller in the late 1970 and 80s.