Pac-10 Preview: Oregon State #7

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by Griffin Bennett

The Beavers seem to be the team that people can’t decide on. I’ve seen them ranked as low as 9th, and as high as 5th. It should be an interesting year for head coach Craig Robinson’s team. Heading into his third year in Corvallis, Robinson is slowly getting the team he wants to run his Princeton offense. He continues to surprise on the recruiting front, but it has yet to show on the court. After losing in the first round of the CBI last year, the Beavers look to make a push in the Pac-10 this year.

Key Losses:

Seth Tarver (10.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) – graduation

Roeland Schaftenaar (9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg) – graduation

Josh Tarver (3.0 ppg, 1.7 apg) – graduation

Best of the Rest:

While the three players above seem to be their core from last year, the Beavers still retain their leading scorer in guard Calvin Haynes (12.5ppg) and three of their top five. The others being point guard Jared Cunningham and guard Lathen Wallace. Haynes will look to be a big player this year and will push to make one of the All-Pac 10 teams (probably third team).

While they struggled down low last year, they return their entire front court except for Schaftenaar (at least I don’t have to spell his name anymore).That front court consists of a pair of seniors in Joe Burton, 6’7” forward who averaged 4.7 ppg and 4.5 rpg, and Omari Johnson, 6’9” forward who averaged 4.7 ppg and 2.6 rpg. They didn’t have a large impact last year, and I don’t think either of them will have made huge leaps forward this year, as well.

The biggest impact, outside of Haynes, will come from redshirt freshman Roberto Nelson. The 6’3” guard was forced to sit out last year due to academics, but everyone from Corvallis said that he was the best player in practice all year. If you’re a Beaver fan, you’re thinking he’s the best thing since sliced bread and rank the Beavers closer to the top half of the Pac-10. We, here at MM, think that all of the Beavs need to curb their enthusiasm. Nelson is a great player, but it wouldn’t be hard to have been the best player at a Beavers practice. At least five Huskies from last year could have qualified for that amazing achievement.  While I think that Nelson will add to their team, he’s not a league-changer…yet.

Incoming Freshmen:

Like I said earlier, Robinson continues to surprise in recruiting. While he is a great and creative coach, he has made the most of using his White House connection to get his name out there. I’m not saying that in a negative way, but he has used the tools he was given effectively. Topping the list of recruits is 6’8 power forward Devon Collier. The four star recruit from New Jersey looks to be a nice piece later on, but should come off of the bench for most of the year.

The 5’8” 150 pound point guard, Ahmad Starks, has already impressed coaches in Corvallis. Robinson continues to praise his speed and shooting ability. To quote Coach Robinson, “Number one, he’s a true point guard… Well, he probably picks things up the quickest. He has a terrific outside shot. He’s one of the guys on the team, very much like Lathen (Wallace), who when he comes on the court, he’s open. And then thirdly, just his ability to stop on a dime and be athletic at his size gives us a lot more options. His ability to make pull-up jump shots is going to help us. His ability to guard other teams’ guards is going to help us. And his overall sort of basketball intelligence is going to help us. He’s a real point guard. He knows how to score without having to be setup a lot. He’s arguably the best dribbler on the team and we focus on dribbling and he’s coming in with that ability.” For being a three star freshman recruit, he sure seems to be on Robinson’s good side. I would look to see this kid starting sooner than later.

Other freshman that joined the team but their impact will be small are 6’11” Chris Brown, 6’10” Eric Moreland, and 6’11” Daniel Jones. Robinson has stated that he wanted to add size to his program and it looks like he did.

Projected Starting Line-up:

PG: Jared Cunningham – 6’4”

SG: Calvin Hayes – 6’3”

SF: Roberto Nelson – 6’3”

PF: Omari Johnson – 6’9”

C: Joe Burton – 6’7”

Outlook:

This was the hardest starting line-up to put together. They have a plethora of guards and power forwards, but no skilled shooters from the wing. Robinson will be forced to play an extra guard or power forward at the 3 position all year until a player develops that skill.

Other potential starters could be guard Lathen Wallace, forward Daniel Deane, and guard Ahmad Starks. Nelson hasn’t played in a real meaningful game in over a year, so he might not start right away. This team will struggle at times, but they have a good combination of seniors and youth to compete with the best teams. Don’t sleep on the Beavers this year.

Prediction:

I see Oregon State going 8-10 this year. They will be a dangerous team at home, and many teams will think they can roll over the Beavers and will get upset.  They have a chance to be better, but they also could take a step backwards. I’ll be comfortable sitting in the middle on them.

How UW beats them:

Just like Stanford, the key will be to lock-down Calvin Hayes with Holiday and force the ball down low. Their bigs aren’t very skilled, and the Dawgs must take advantage of this in the front court. The trick with Oregon State is their Princeton offense. Great off-ball defense is key to defeating the Princeton offense and the Huskies struggled with backdoor cuts last year. Eliminating those mental mistakes will be key for the Huskies versus the Beavers in 2010/11. I’m not too worried about the Huskies on offense as the Beavers defense will be worse with the loss of the Tarvers. Hopefully this will be another two game sweep.

Countdown Recap:

8. Stanford

9. California

10. Oregon