Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon State

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 27th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Oregon State Beavers

Strengths.  The Beavers might just have the best three-guard rotation in the conference. They are led by junior Jared Cunningham, who is a consistent jump shot away from being considered for Pac-12 Player of the Year come March. Then there are sophomores Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks, who after shaky starts to their freshman campaigns, had breakout performances towards the end of last year. Both are capable of taking over a game when Cunningham needs a breather. On the bench at guard will be Challe Barton, Jullian Powers, C.J. Mitchell, and Michael Moyer. Barton and Mitchell are the definitions of a combo-guard, and both should see some minutes when the others are in foul trouble. Powers and Moyer will most likely not see any game action this year.

Weaknesses.  As strong as the backcourt is, the frontcourt is that much of a weakness. Sophomore Devon Collier and junior Joe Burton will be the starters down low. But while Collier showed glimpses of greatness last year, Burton always seemed to throw the ball away or airball the point-blank layup (don’t ask). If the Beavers are to go to the NCAAs this season like  Craig Robinson is calling for, these two need to perform at a high level for 40 minutes each night.

It's tough to watch when your starting center can't put home a layup

Nonconference Tests.  Everyone, except maybe their exhibition against Pacific (Oregon). I’m just kidding (kinda), but it seems as if every nonconference game last season was an adventure for Oregon State. On paper, the Beavers should fly through all of their non-conference games except for three: Nov. 19 vs Texas ( East Rutherford, NJ), Nov. 21 vs NC State or Vanderbilt (East Rutherford, NJ), and Dec. 4 vs Montana (Corvallis). I’m predicting that Oregon State goes 2-1 in that stretch, but there is a strong possibility of an 3-0 or 0-3 finish, depending on what Beaver team shows up.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  The first three games of conference play will be at Washington, Washington State in Spokane, and a home game against California. They should be able to find a win somewhere in those three, but it’s tough to find one on paper. But who knows, maybe the team that beat Arizona and Arizona State to start Pac-10 play last season will show up.

If Everything Goes Right… 
Oregon State finishes the regular season with 22 wins and is fourth in the Pac-12 race. Joe Burton performs up to his ability, Jared Cunningham is the Pac-12 POY, and the Beavers finish second in the NIT.

If Nothing Goes Right…  Last year happens this year. They don’t take their non-conference games seriously and not only lose the three aforementioned games, but also fall to Idaho and at Towson. Beaver Nation calls for Robinson to be fired but athletic director Bob DeCarolis claims this is “all part of the building process.”

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Jared Cunningham (Jr, 6’4″, 182 lbs, 14.2 PPG, 2.1 APG)
  • PG Roberto Nelson (So, 6’3″, 195 lbs, 7.5 PPG, 1.5 APG)
  • SG Ahmad Starks (So, 5’9″, 165 lbs, 7.8 PPG, 1.5 APG)
  • Joe Burton (Jr, 6’7″, 280 lbs, 7.0 PPG, 2.4 APG)
  • Devon Collier (So, 6’7″, 206 lbs, 7.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

This is a guard-heavy lineup, but for good reason. Cunningham and Nelson are your classic pass-and-cut point guards, meaning they like to give the ball up but get it right back. Starks doesn’t like to give it up at all, though, and if he gets a pass behind the three-point line then it’s bombs away; and as Stanford found out last year in the Pac-10 Tournament, you better move out on him.

Impact Newcomer.  Challe Barton – The Swedish native has earned raves in practice so far for his shooting ability, being compared to teammate Ahmad Starks. The Beavers need another sharpshooter in their offense, and I think they have found it in this guy.

Key Reserves

  • CG Challe Barton (Fr, 6’3″, 185 lbs)
  • C.J. Mitchell (So, 6’1″, 179 lbs, DNP in 2011-12)
  • Angus Brandt (Jr, 6’10”, 237 lbs, 4.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG)
  • Kevin McShane (Sr, 6’9″, 225 lbs, 0.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG)
  • C/F Chris Brown (So, 6’11”, 262 lbs, 0.8 PPG, 0.7 RPG)

This is where the Beavers get really thin. There is some talent in this bunch (Barton and Brandt), but mostly there is just a lot of potential. Brown is the most intriguing as he barely got on the floor last year, but when he did, he shined and looked very comfortable in the “point center” role of the Beaver offense. McShane is a hard worker and a fan favorite because of it, but his biggest contribution comes when he steps onto the court and fires everyone up by diving for every loose ball that he sees.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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