2011/12 Pac-12 Preview: Oregon State

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by: John Chase

Oregon State had a rough season last year, finishing 5-13 in conference and 11-20 overall. It doesn’t look to be getting any easier for the Beavers after graduating four seniors, including two redshirt seniors. This season the Beaver roster only sports one senior in Kevin McShane, who only averaged 9 minutes and .9 points per game.

The Beavers had a smaller recruiting class with two incoming freshman, including a point guard from Sweden who is relatively unknown. This team will rely heavily on Jared Cunningham, Joe Burton, and Roberto Nelson. While the Beavers team is somewhat tall (the average height is 6-7) they lack overall depth.

Key Losses:

  • Calvin Haynes, 6-3 188lb – The Beavers had far from a high scoring offense but Haynes was second on the team at 9.4 ppg. His scoring came mostly from inside and driving the lane as his 3 point shot struggled most of the season. Haynes did a little bit of everything for the Beavers adding 3 boards and 2 assists on average. His speed and experience will be missed by OSU.
  • Omari Johnson, 6-9 220lb – Johnson led the Beavers in rebounds last season at 6.4 per game and was 5th in scoring at 7.2 ppg. A poor free throw shooter but a solid man on the block, Johnson provided strength inside along with Joe Burton to prevent teams from cheating out on the perimeter. Burton and Angus Brandt will have to step their games up to fill in the rebounding hole.

Incoming Freshman:

  • Challe Barton, 6-3 188lb – Barton played for the Swedish U16, U18, and U20 teams giving him some good experience coming into his freshman year. He will be a backup behind Ahmad Starks. He is a pass first guard, which is great for the Beavers who were led in assists by Joe Burton, the 6-7 280lb F. Both he and Starks will be important in generating more offense for OSU.
  • Daniel Gomis, 6-9 220lb – Gomis will help fill in where Johnson left off. He is a workhorse on the glass and defensively, but his offense leaves a lot to be desired. ESPN says his best shot is his dunk and other than that he tends to struggle to maintain a consistent stroke. Like Joe Wolfinger, the former UW 7 footer, Gomis is known to take a few 3 pointers, but does not have the talent to be a threat with it. Gomis should become a much better and more impacting player for the Beavers after a year or two in the system, working on his shot.

Returning Players:

  • Ahmad Starks 5-9 165lb
  • Roberto Nelson 6-3 195lb
  • Jared Cunningham 6-4 194lb
  • Joe Burton 6-7 280lb
  • Rhys Murphy 6-7 195lb
  • Devon Collier 6-7 206lb
  • Kevin McShane 6-9 225lb
  • Angus Brandt 6-10 237lb
  • Eric Moreland 6-10 201lb
  • Chris Brown 6-11 262lb
  • Daniel Jones 6-11 208lb

During the summer, Nelson cut his hand up pretty good after breaking a glass backboard during a game abroad with the rest of the Beavers. Overall it is a minor injury in the grand scheme of things and is already back in action. Starks should continue to be a dangerous player with a deadly 3 pointer from extreme ranges as well as the speed necessary to make him a great defender. His size often leads to a mismatch, but Isaiah Thomas showed that if you are a good enough athlete it doesn’t matter.

The difference between I.T. and Starks is that I.T. is actually 5-9 and has 20lbs on the much smaller Starks. Cunningham is a fantastic athlete who had one of the better dunks in conference last season and should lead the team in scoring once more. If Barton and Starks can run the offense, Cunningham may find more opportunities on the perimeter to add to his lane driving ability.

The biggest question for the Beavers is if their frontcourt can provide enough support to keep the Beavers in games. While Burton is a big body, he is fairly slow and out of shape, which leads to more fast breaks against speedier, transition teams like UW.

Predicted Starting Line-Up:

G – Ahmad Starks, 5-9 165lb
G – Roberto Nelson, 6-3 195lb
G – Jared Cunningham, 6-4 194lb
F – Joe Burton, 6-7 280lb
F – Angus Brandt, 6-10 237lb

What to Expect:

Despite having a tall team, the Beavers lack real talent in the frontcourt and will likely struggle to compete with teams like UCLA and UW. Beyond the starting 5 the Beavers leave a lot to be desired, but on the plus side, the Beavers have a fairly easy non-conference schedule that will hopefully give the young players some opportunities to develop some confidence and skills.

Their toughest test comes on the road against Texas and OSU will likely get blown out of the water despite Texas losing 8 players. Oregon State is in for another tough season, but their coach is aiming high at an NCAA tournament bid. OSU should be happy with a CBI or NIT invitation.

Look for OSU to finish amongst the bottom of the Pac-12 once more. I don’t see OSU doing any better than 7th in the conference and will likely finish no lower than 10th.

And as an added bonus, for those who haven’t seen this video yet, some team “bonding” from the OSU Beavers: “Tickle Fight”.