Pac-12 M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 29th, 2013

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  1. You know, it has come to my attention that we haven’t addressed the big news last week that Houston transfer Joseph Young has been declared eligible by the NCAA to play this season at Oregon. After averaging 18 highly efficient points per game last season (26th in the nation in offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy), his presence is going to mean huge things for the Ducks. With Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson returning for their sophomore seasons, and with Jonathan Loyd back for his senior year, and with Detroit transfer Jason Calliste – another prolific and efficient scoring guard – now eligible, the Ducks are on the very short list for the best backcourts in the nation. If Mike Moser, Ben Carter and Waverly Austin can hold down the fort up front, the Ducks are going to be extremely dangerous.
  2. But despite all that talent in the backcourt, we’ll be interested to see exactly what head coach Dana Altman can hammer out as a rotation. The best five players on the team are probably Artis, Dotson, Young, Calliste and Moser, but that combination would leave the Ducks with four guards and a forward in Moser who, while a skilled defender and rebounder, is not exactly your typical low post player for a team hoping to contend for a conference title in a major conference. And with all those guards and more, Altman will have a fun time trying to distribute shots between them all. Stay tuned.
  3. Continuing our all-Oregon themed M5, it is no secret that Altman has made Oregon the grade-A landing spot for the best of the best transfers in Division I basketball. In his three seasons in Eugene, Altman has welcomed in seven transfers who had previous experience at D-I schools (Moser, Young, Calliste, Arsalan Kazemi, Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu, and Tony Woods), as well as junior college transfers like Carlos Emory, Waverly Austin, Richard Amardi, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit. Along the way, Altman has also become known as a welcome landing spot for “basketball refugees,” as Percy Allen of the Seattle Times calls them. Better yet, while other coaches have shied away from these players, Altman has succeeded in turning around a program that was in the dumps when he took over and having the Ducks back in the national conversation.
  4. Let’s take a brief little jaunt up the I-5 to peek in with Craig Robinson and Oregon State in Corvallis. In a year where Robinson, once a media darling with the Beavers, finds himself in dire need of a productive season in order to hold on to his job, the brother-in-law-in-chief is talking up his sophomore class. Between Olaf Schaftenaar, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid and Victor Robbins, there are loads of minutes available, what with Eric Moreland and Devon Collier due to each serve suspensions upon the start of the year. While none of these four should be expected to line up along the front line like their temporarily-departed brethren, each is capable of providing some punch from the wing for the Beavers. And, frankly, Robinson will need some major contributions out of that quartet in order to stabilize his own professional prospects.
  5. Lastly, let’s jump out of the state of Oregon and head somewhere much drier to get a report on the conference favorite Arizona‘s exhibition game last night against Augustana. T.J. McConnell stole the show in the opening game at his new school, scoring 12 points, handing out eight assists, snatching three steals, and getting his team rolling as the floor general for the top-10 Wildcats. Three other players scored in double figures against their Division II opponent in a 32-point win. Sure, it means absolutely nothing, but it is basketball and it was on TV. If you missed it the first time, you can watch the replay on the Pac-12 Networks this morning at 9:00 AM.
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Pac-12 M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 14th, 2013

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  1. With all of the Pac-12 microsite correspondents in the middle of battling hellacious flu-like symptoms, we’ve taken some time out over the past few days to have our headquarters fumigated. But, as a new week dawns, we’re grateful that we’ve had some good basketball to distract us from our discomfort and look forward to a week of feeling better and another batch of interesting games. Week two of the Pac-12 season ended Sunday night with Oregon holding off Arizona State in yet another entertaining ball game, with the battle between freshmen point guards Dominic Artis and Jahii Carson headlining. The Ducks vault to 4-0 and a first-place tie with UCLA (with the two teams set to square off on national television Saturday afternoon), but even Sun Devil fans should come out of this game with confidence in their team’s viability in the Pac-12 race.
  2. While folks around these parts have known that the Ducks are legit for some time now, the national audience got a heads up about their credentials on Thursday night when they knocked off previously unbeaten Arizona. The Wildcats bounced back strong on Saturday evening by sending Oregon State off to an 0-3 conference start with a full-team effort. While Sean Miller was loathe to single out one player for recognition, I’ll just mention that this was the first conference game in which the three freshman bigs all played well; Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett combined for 25 points, 17 boards and six blocked shots (well, Jerrett got all of those) on ten-for-16 shooting in 64 minutes of action. Really, that’s about the baseline for that trio ; the ceiling is still to be determined.
  3. Meanwhile, the other traditional Pac-12 heavyweight is getting back to throwing its weight around, as UCLA went on a Rocky Mountain run this weekend and rolled back into LAX with a 4-0 conference record and a nine-game winning streak to show for its troubles. Jeff Goodman writes that where the Bruins were a punchline on Thanksgiving Sunday night, they’re now a team that has the attention of their conference foes and are beginning to remind people why they were considered a potential top ten team prior to the season.
  4. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ last foe, Colorado, has some soul searching to do, after their third loss in four games leaves them looking up from the back half of the conference standings. While there is some solace to take in the fact that the team fought back from a late deficit to give itself a chance on Saturday, Tad Boyle knows that if things are going to get turned around in Boulder, it needs to start with defense and rebounding, two areas that were once thought to be potential strengths for the Buffaloes which have been weaknesses of late.
  5. Lastly, circling back to the 0-3 Beavers, they played their two games against the Arizona schools this week without the services of sophomore forward Eric Moreland, who was suspended indefinitely, along with freshman Victor Robbins, prior to Thursday night’s game against Arizona State for an undisclosed violation of team rules. While Robbins will be cleared for action by head coach Craig Robinson for Saturday’s game against USC (not that Robbins, who has played just 63 minutes this season, is expected to play a big role), the head coach is said he will decide Moreland’s fate today. Moreland is expected back with the Beavs this season and, according to Robinson, both players have responded to the situation “about as good as you can.”
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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.

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Oregon State Week: Five Newcomers Arrive In Corvallis

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 25th, 2012

Oregon State loses its top scorer and defender from 2011-12’s team, but the Beavers welcome in three incoming freshman and a transfer to try to fill the big hole left by Jared Cunningham. Along with those four small forwards/combo guards is a 6’10” forward who redshirted his freshman season due to a broken leg. Below, we’ll take a look at the five newcomers to Robinson’s program, in roughly the order in which they’ll impact the team next season.

Robbins’ Long Arms And Quickness Make Him The Top Newcomer To Replace Cunningham’s Defensive Prowess (credit: Cali High Sports)

Victor Robbins, Freshman, Small Forward, 6’6” 195 lbs, Compton High School, Compton, CA – While junior shooting guard Roberto Nelson will certainly get the first opportunity to replace Cunningham’s minutes, Robbins looks to be the newcomer most fit to acquire a backup role behind Nelson. We’ll start on the offensive side of the floor. His speed and natural athleticism will remind fans of Cunningham, especially when he’s running the lanes in transition. Robbins can go to either side and knock down a pull-up jumper, although he’s much more comfortable going to the right. On defense, his lateral quickness and length will deny opponents entry into the lane, not to mention passes and shots will be difficult to get off. With all of that said, the biggest thing Robbins will need to work on throughout the summer is being more engaged without the ball. Once the rock is in his hands, his speed and athleticism opens up many doors for him. But as he makes the jump from high school to Pac-12 ball, getting open and creating opportunities for himself will become much more difficult. If he improves on that, and also adds a three-point shot to his game, Robbins will undoubtedly be the Beavers top newcomer in 2012-13. Almost to demonstrate that, Robbins led all newcomers with five points in limited playing time against St. Charles Basketball Club in Oregon State’s first European Tour competition.

Daniel Gomis, Redshirt Freshman, Forward, 6’10” 225 lbs, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, VA – Gomis was set to earn solid minutes as a freshman before a broken leg while overseas ended any of those aspirations. While Gomis’ offensive skill set is limited to dunking and just about nothing else, he makes up for it on the defensive end of the floor. He has a lean frame with broad shoulders, making him athletic and a monster on the glass. He is also quick enough to guard multiple positions on the floor. While his limited offensive game will likely keep him off the floor in conference play, it will be interesting to see what he can do earlier in the season when the Beavers aren’t going to have to put up 80 points night in and night out to win ball games. Craig Robinson can certainly use all the help he can get on the defensive glass, and a few cheap buckets here and there via offensive rebounds picked up by Gomis would help as well. We haven’t even talked about his shot-blocking ability, which combined with Eric Moreland and Devon Collier down low could be absolutely lethal. Gomis is one of the rare cases where his playing time could rest on the shoulders of his teammates. With the departure of Cunningham, Oregon State will need all the help they can get from the newcomers and players that came off the bench last season. So if Nelson finds his jump shot and Moreland builds off a strong finish to last season, there could be times in big moments when the Beavers need to go big on defense and sacrifice some points for a big block or rebound. Gomis scored one point on a free throw in the Europe opener as he continues to play tentatively after the broken leg.

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Oregon State Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 21st, 2012

It’s taken four seasons, but excitement has finally been infused back into a program that lost 20 straight games to close out the 2007-08 season. Craig Robinson, the man charged with rebuilding Oregon State hoops following that infamous campaign, has brought in a feisty defense, up-tempo offense, and good recruiting class after good recruiting class. The Beavers haven’t ranked lower than 34th in the country in the steals category since Robinson has had his own recruits, and they finished fifth and sixth in the last two seasons, respectively. Former guard Jared Cunningham, who was selected in the first round in this summer’s NBA Draft (a first for Oregon State since Corey Benjamin in 1998) led the conference in steals in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Last season saw the Beavers finish in the top 15 nationally in offensive tempo, leading to a Pac-12 leading 78.9 PPG. Along with Cunningham, Robinson has brought in highly touted recruits such as Jarmal Reid, Angus Brandt, and Roberto Nelson. Needless to say, basketball is fun again at Oregon State.

Craig Robinson Has Made Basketball Fun Again At Oregon State. The Next Step Is An NIT or NCAA Tournament Bid. (credit: Bleacher Report)

And while basketball is fun, it could be a lot more fun. Despite all of the things we talked about above, the Beavers have yet to make an NCAA Tournament under the guidance of Robinson. Heck, they haven’t even made the NIT. And there’s some reasons for that. Robinson straddles a line between fun basketball and strong, fundamentally sound basketball. Oregon State finished 328th in the nation last season in three-point defensive field goal percentage, which is one of the main reasons you’ll see losses to conference bottom-feeders and mediocre WAC teams. Robinson and his staff have elected to go with a gambling, trap-based defense, which is fun to watch and works against opposing point guards that freeze up when they are trapped in a corner. But against upper-level Pac-12 teams or even lesser opponents with a solid one man? The Beavers get burned, and they get burned often.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 05.20.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on May 20th, 2012

  1. Not only do rosters begin to solidify this time of year, but coaching staffs do as well. Washington State made a big change earlier in the week by demoting assistant coach Jeff Hironaka. As the article points out, Hironaka has seemed close to landing a head coaching job somewhere around the nation the past couple years. His ability to teach and develop players made him one of the top basketball IQ assistants in the conference, but weaknesses in recruiting led to his eventual demotion to the title of director of player development and special assistant to the head coach. With the move solely motivated by recruiting, head coach Ken Bone will look to add an assistant in the coming weeks that has recruiting contacts around the country. Hironaka can no longer recruit off-campus or give instruction during games, but his salary will remain the same.
  2. Sticking on the Palouse, the Cougars learned on Thursday that center Richard Peters out of Westwind Prep International did not qualify academically to make it to Washington State, and will instead pursue a junior college. However, this did not come with much surprise to the Cougar coaching staff. In anticipation of Peters not qualifying, Bone signed a pair of transfer centers in Jordan Railey and James Hunter in recent weeks. In addition to Railey and Hunter, signees for next season include guard Demarquise Johnson and forwards Richard Longrus and Brett Boese.
  3. Oregon State received great news earlier this week when it received an signed letter of intent from small forward Victor Robbins. Robbins was not pursued hard by the Beavers until after Jared Cunningham announced he would forgo his senior season, but the three-star out of Compton High saw a hole to fill and decided to spurn offers from Gonzaga, Washington, and Georgia. Robbins will be the first in line to fill the small forward/shooting guard role left by Cunningham, and his signing will free up shooting guard Roberto Nelson to work solely on his shot this summer.
  4. Robbins and the rest of the Beavers will start the 2012-13 season a little early by taking a summer trip to Spain and France. The trip will take place August 18-28, but most importantly the Beavers will receive 10 additional practices before flying to Europe. Those will be huge as the Beavers add four new players to this year’s roster (small forwards Robbins, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid, and center Maika Ostling), along with a pair of players (forward Daniel Gomis and guard Michael Moyer) who sat out the 2011-12 season. One player who won’t be making the trip is forward Rhys Murphy. Murphy requested and was granted a release from his scholarship, and while he intends to graduate from Oregon State, he is reportedly “exploring his options”. The move is an odd one as Murphy was in line to get solid minutes this season. Oregon State’s last foreign trip came prior to the 2007-08 season, when the Beavers traveled to Italy and posted a 2-2 record. Prior to the 2002-03 season, former head coach Jay John led Oregon State to a 4-1 record in Australia in his first year with team. This season, the Beavers plan to several games against “very good teams” according to head coach Craig Robinson. In addition to the basketball, Robinson says “We are hoping that we can get a nice sort of team-bonding experience out of it, as well as some cultural nuances that the guys can look back on as great memories.” The Beavers have been known to incorporate basketball road trips with cultural/educational experiences, as last season the Beavers visited New York City and Washington D.C. in the middle of an 11-day East Coast trip.
  5. In other scheduling news, Arizona State will be playing real, official basketball games in the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational. The other seven teams in the field are Creighton, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Florida A&M, Cornell, Presbyterian, and Longwood. Before all eight teams head to Vegas, the four small/mid-major schools will play a pair of games at the four power conference teams. While in Vegas, the four lower schools will play a two-round tournament, as will the four power conference teams. The only known game for the Sun Devils so far is that Cornell will be traveling to Wells Fargo arena for one of the regional games. Cornell will also travel to Wisconsin.
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