Pac-12 Team Previews: Oregon State Beavers

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 10th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release are the Oregon State Beavers.

Strengths: Oregon State returns four starters from last year’s squad, all of whom had terrific finishes to the 2011-12 season. Ahmad Starks, a shoot-first, pass-later point guard, will be the key to making the Beaver offense run in the post Jared Cunningham era. As Cunningham’s offensive control began to wear down in postseason play last March, Starks stepped up and averaged 11.3 PPG in his final seven outings. If he is able to show that lights-out ability once again, defenses will have to give Angus Brandt and Devon Collier some space in the post. Both can go to work on either side of the hoop, and Brandt also has the luxury of a soft jumper to extend defenses even more. The Beavers should once again shine in the stealing and shot-blocking facets of the game, even if they do lose arguably the top defender in the conference. Starks will take Cunningham’s role of the feisty, energetic man up top, while Collier and Eric Moreland’s long wingspans make it virtually impossible for anyone to float up a shot in the lane.

Weaknesses: After Starks, the guard position gets downright scary for Oregon State. Junior Roberto Nelson will join Starks as the other starter in the backcourt, and while Nelson can certainly shoot the ball, doing it with consistency and becoming a triple threat are completely separate issues. Freshman guard/forward Victor Robbins will be next in line for backcourt minutes, and he is the player most like Cunningham on the current roster. Robbins’ athleticism and ball-handling ability made him a great late get in the 2012 recruiting class, but it’s never good when you might have to count on a true freshman at significant times throughout a game.

Roberto Nelson’s (right) Ball Handling Left Something To Be Desired Throughout The 2011-12 Season (Jae C. Hong)

Non-conference Tests: The Beavers loaded up their slate with five challenging non-conference opponents in 2012-13, four of which will be played away from home. Starting off the list is a visit from New Mexico State on November 11, followed just four days later by a matchup with Alabama in New York City. They’ll face either Villanova or Purdue the next day at the same site, then get a small break before playing a top five Kansas squad in Kansas City on November 30. The final “test” will be the easiest of the five; a 90-minute road trip up to Portland to face Portland State on December 12.

Toughest Conference Stretch: The Beavers will play arguably five of the toughest six teams throughout a 19-day stretch in January. The stretch starts off with a visit from Arizona on January 12, and continues five nights later with a trip to Pauley Pavilion to face vaunted UCLA. A tricky USC team is next, followed by a pair of home games against the Washington schools. Finally, they’ll face California in Berkeley on the last day of January. If Oregon State can come out of these six with a 3-3 split, the schedule lightens up enough for the Beavers to make a run at a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Anything less and coach Craig Robinson proves once again his team isn’t ready to hang around with the conference’s elite.

If Everything Goes Right… Players like Ahmad Starks, Eric Moreland, and Roberto Nelson build on their strong finishes to the 2011-12 season and are ready to contribute right away. Moreland, Collier, and Daniel Gomis provide the best defensive frontcourt in the league, and are also able to contribute when needed on offense. Joe Burton and Angus Brandt finally live up to their potential in their senior seasons, providing the offensive firepower in the post should Collier have an off-night. The Beavers take advantage of not playing a true road non-conference game outside the state of Oregon and enter Pac-12 play with their only loss being to a superb Kansas squad. Energy is completely infused into the program, Gill is rocking all of January and February, and the Beavers finish with 24 wins and fourth in the conference. The Beavers pull an upset in their First Four game before being eliminated two days later.

If Nothing Goes Right… In the past, when Starks or Nelson couldn’t put down their shots, Cunningham would always come to the rescue. But Jared is now with the Dallas Mavericks, meaning Oregon State’s point and win totals take a sharp decline. The Beavers are able to scrap through non-conference play with a 7-6 record, but Pac-12 competition is a completely different story. The Beavers finish tied for last with Utah, and if not for an overtime win in Salt Lake City on the second-to-last night of the year, would have lost the tiebreaker and gone into the Pac-12 Tournament with a #12 seed. The energy that was slowly mounting is washed away throughout the 12-win season, and Robinson’s job is in serious jeopardy entering the offseason.

Joe Burton Needs To Be Ready To Contribute At All Times In His Senior Season (credit: Andy Wooldridge)

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Ahmad Starks (Jr, 5’9” 165 lbs, 12.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
  • CG Roberto Nelson (Jr, 6’3” 195 lbs, 9.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
  • C Angus Brandt (Sr, 6’10” 242 lbs, 9.1 PPG, 3.4)
  • F Devon Collier (Jr, 6’8” 215 lbs, 13.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG)
  • F Eric Moreland (So, 6’10” 215 lbs, 5.2 PPG, 6.8)

The good thing about only losing one key player is that the starting lineup and role remains relatively unchanged. Nelson steps in for Cunningham, and behind that, everything remains defined. Like we talked about above, Starks will provide the offensive firepower and ball-handling duties, while Nelson will take the point, shooting, or wing position whenever necessary. The paint will basically belong to Collier and Moreland, and Brandt will play the classic Robinson position of point center/wing, depending on what the set calls for.

Key Reserves

  • G/F Victor Robbins (Fr, 6’6” 195 lbs)
  • G Challe Barton (So, 6’3” 193 lbs, 1.7 PPG, 0.5 RPG)
  • F/C Joe Burton (Sr, 6’7” 295 lbs, 8.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
  • F Daniel Gomis (Fr, 6’10” 225 lbs)
  • CF Jarmal Reid (Fr, 6’7”, 225 lbs)

This is where things get interesting for Oregon State. As far as known quantities, it’s basically Burton and everyone else in this group. Barton is the only other returnee, and he is more known for missing the game-winning three pointer against Oregon than anything else. Freshman guard Langston Morris-Walker might have more talent than Robbins, but Victor appears more fit to start the season behind Starks. On the blocks will be Gomis and Reid, the former being the lanky defensive specialist, and the latter an athletic, tall combo-forward that can play anywhere on the floor.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

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

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