I’m not about to sing the glowing prospects of a team who’s best player has been accused – by the coach – of being a Beer Leaguer – and who’s other top-two players were indefinitely suspended. No that doesn’t quite equate to a shining review and, quite frankly, the future is only about a mild squint’s bright in Corvallis. Craig Robinson is once again telling us his team is dedicated to the defensive end (more later).
Why I love them: And who doesn’t like bigs? I’m 6’5″ and always get picked up at open gym. In the Pac-12, 6’5″ isn’t going to get you much beyond a shooting guard and in my case an assistant associate to the video coordinator’s assistant. But enough about me. OSU touts Eric Moreland (9/11), Devon Collier (13/6), and Angus Brandt (12/9 before busting his knee). Each is greater than 6’8″ and is going to be further supplemented by the playing time of 6’9″ Oakhill Academy product, Daniel Gomis. This kid is 2010 and has been at OSU since that time with nary a minute played. Additionally, you have to like Roberto Nelson (guard) because he looks like Drake.
Why I hate them: Last season the Beavers committed to man-to-man defense and promptly posted a 101.1 AdjD – good for 167th in the nation and last in the conference. They also placed last in the Pac and so it makes good sense that Robinson sees a need for further commitment to that side of the ball. Moreland – who is suspended for 14 games of the season and a further reason to dislike their prospects – was one of their better defensive players; snatching boards at the fifth highest rate in America (27.5%) and blocking 2.5 shots per contest. Robinson called him irreplaceable despite needing to replace him. At pachoops, we call that an “unenviable, self-inflicted predicament.” Of a similar self-inflicted vein is Beer League basketball players. Robinson previously felt his senior leader, Nelson, was in All-Beer League shape. He’s since sung Nelson’s praises for getting into shape, but earning that hoppy honor is an inauspicious start to a defensively oriented season.
Stat you should know:
Number of .500 or better seasons OSU has posted since 1992. Other popular things from 1992 include: The Dream Team, Aladdin, and the birth of Miley Ray Cyrus. It hasn’t been the greatest 2+ decades in Corvallis basketball.
“Don’t pooh‑pooh the All‑Beer League. I’ve been on some beer league teams, and we have beaten a lot of guys.” – Craig Robinson
Outlook: I won’t soon pooh-pooh the beer league – I had my first softball game on Monday in which I had to pitch after blowing up my ankle in beer league hoops – but I am going to pooh-pooh OSU’s defense. I can’t quite buy this team as contending for much better than 8th in the conference. Moreland’s absence isn’t helping things and neither is the fact that this is the strongest Pac-12 conference since Robinson joined the league.
I really don’t want to dive deep into a preview of this tournament. Or any post-season for that matter.
I could tell you that I really like Arizona’s talent or that Shabazz, Jahii, Askia, Crabbe/Cobbs, or Powell are terrifying in single elimination. We could touch on which Stanford team we think shows up in Vegas and whether or not my buddy Matt is right when he just says, “Dammitalltohell! Oregon State’s gonna win it!”
How healthy or unhealthy is Dre Roberson? Can Brock carry a big run? Will the Huskies play their way out? Is Oregon in a breakable slump? Why has “Judo Ken Bone” twice been Googled this week in arriving at PacHoops.com?
All things to ponder.
Right now I’m ecstatic that we’ll be treated to a rivalry game and a 5-12 matchup that features a twelfth seeded Oregon State Beavers squad that just beat the fifth seeded Buffaloes. And all the rest of it.
But come this time of year, I prefer the Billy Beane school of thinking. Have you seen or read Moneyball? The entire story centers upon the agonizing work Beane and his staff put in to creating the best possible baseball team they can on a limited budget. They are painstakingly trying to win. But when asked about the playoffs, what Beane’s approach to the most critical time of year is when legacies are cemented and legends born, Beane says, “My job is to get us to the playoffs. Everything after that is fucking luck.”
Well my job isn’t really to get anyone to the playoffs. It’s actually completely unrelated and if you’re ever interested email me and we can discuss it but I guarantee you it’s a complete tangent from college basketball or Moneyball or really anything remotely pertaining to a final score.
I spend the working months of the season trying to rationalize every piece of the year. I want to fathom just what effect Shabazz will have on his team or Arizona’s three bigs on their squad or whether Ahmad Starks really can spark the team defense Craig Robinson so glaringly lacks. I rationalize that some of these teams aren’t as good as expected and others are better. Basically I try my best to meld the summer’s recruiting gossip, the preseason’s practice hype, and then actual game play into some rational argument for whatever the hell is going on.
Similar to how Beane said it, all bets are off. This is tournament time and we’re in the midst of one game seasons. While “anything is possible” is an overplayed phrase this time of year…anything is possible.
It’s to this hope that we cling and there’s a reason for that hope, a rationalization of irrationality I suppose. No longer are we seeking the best over the course of 30-games. Because that’s when luck – as Beane puts it – can be diluted. Across 30-or-more-games, the cream is going to rise to the top. The aberrations and anomalies will be weeded out.
But now this is where we thrive, the fans. This may be Billy Beane’s nightmare but it’s a fan’s dream. It’s why we’re fans.
That finite peek at some semblance of hope that our team, on this night, on that court, might have a shot to make the shot and win a game they might otherwise have no business competing in.
At this point in the year we know every bar that can broadcast the Pac-12 Network. And the ones that don’t. We know the spot we can watch an FSN broadcast and we all have an opinion on Bill Walton. And we know our own team inside and out and that isn’t about to stop us from picking them to win this damn thing and Dance.
Somewhere across these great interwebs I will and have made some rational prognostications. But here, in this moment, know that my favorite part is the fucking luck.
Am I alone in feeling like that first half just blew past? Like I don’t really feel as if Selection Sunday is just thirty-nine days away or that the Pac-12 Tournament is just thirty-five days away. However, judging by my return airfare purchased yesterday, the Pac-12 Tournament is right around the goddamn corner.
What definitely is right around the corner – just one week away – is my trip to Colorado’s Blackout of the Arizona game on Valentine’s Day. Damn I’m going to look good in red.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves because this is a very interesting weekend. I think Stanford has a chance to play off of some of their momentum garnered last week and Oregon-Colorado could be one of the most physical games of the year. The Wednesday/Thursday slate of games is as good as it’s been all season. And things are just getting started.
Because this is the point where you can see the horses coming around the distant but final turn. It’s the approach to the home-stretch where we begin to see some daylight between contestants as fatigue and attrition kick-in. Which horse can handle a bump in the track? Who’s capable of digging a little deeper and finding another level? Who will the strongest horse be?
Let the second half begin!
Also, if you’re interested, here are some of my other hoops thoughts posted today:
Snippets on today and tomorrow’s segue into the second half
Game of the Week: This is pending Wed/Thursday’s results – particularly the outcome of the ASU game – but I’m really interested to see Stanford’s visit to Tempe. Stanford is the more talented group but ASU has been the better team to date. I could see an assortment of things transpiring but I ultimately think these two teams match up very interestingly. Bachynski offers an obvious mismatch for any team while Powell does the same at just a different position providing a very game-turning battle. Josh Huestis and Carrick Felix somewhat cancel one another out and so I think this one could really boil down to which of the guards play best. Randle and Bright versus Carson and Gordon. So it matches up interestingly and as of publishing, ASU was tied for third in the conference at 6-3 while the Cardinal sat at 5-4, tied for fifth. Even if Stanford drops to 5-5, I still find this a spicy one for tournament – of the Pac-12 variety – seeding. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first reference to any place but first on PacHoops this season. Leave it to ASU.
Game to Avoid: I really, really like what Larry K is doing at Utah. I told y’all about it earlier this week. And I really want to like Craig Robinson and the teams he’s compiled in Corvallis. The scoring potential of his group – between Starks, Moreland, Collier, and Nelson – is terrific. The defense has just never caught up. Meanwhile, Larry K just doesn’t have a good roster and you’ve got a lot of important things to be doing on your Wednesday night. 2-7 versus 2-7 just isn’t must watch anything. Particularly in poker.
Something to Prove: Every time I look at this section – or others like it such as “The Biggest Loser” in our reviews – Colorado comes to mind. And this time came as no difference. Is there anything left for them to prove? Alas, that shining, shimmering, beautiful RPI ranking of 24 continues to keep me believing. They pop up in every bracketology because they have proven to us that they are a good team. But time is starting to run out and they’re going to have to start resting on the laurels of some big wins of their own and not on computer calculations. That said, why not start this Thursday at Oregon? This should be one damn good ball game as it should feature two teams that are wildly hungry for a win after disappointing weekends in Salt Lake and the Bay.
Something to Lose: The Stanford Cardinal really began to conjure up some good mojo this past weekend, particularly after utterly destroying Oregon. So it would appear they grabbed onto momentum and could ride it into the second half of conference play and maybe right on into the Dance. Of course they managed to turn things around – or at least we optimistically think so – just as they head to Arizona for the conference’s most difficult road trip. The Arizona schools have the opportunity to completely deflate the sails on this Stanford season. Getting swept would drop them to 5-6 with a trip to Oregon and a hosting of UCLA and Colorado still remaining.
The YouTuber: I think I’m late to the Kid President train but I too hope you do awesome:
The First Program is in a critical year. CRob hasn’t filled lofty expectations but he has delivered the school’s first winning season since what feels like the Lincoln administration. Some good pieces there in Corvallis. Smile.
Oh Come On – Half the questions asked of Craig Robinson at Media Day were surrounding last Tuesday (hint: election night). Well Barack Obama (aka Robinson’s brother-in-law) was re-elected President and that’s got to make this program happy.
Hearts Out – It’s what Roberto Nelson did according to George Dohrmann in his book, Play Their Hearts Out, and he’ll need to continue to do so for the Beavers to have any success this season.
Wee Man – Ahmad Starks ain’t big. He’s listed at 5’9” on the school’s website and if you’ve ever been a part of filling out an info sheet, you know that listed height and weight is inflated. Irrelevant. He can play. Coach Robinson says that he alone could replace Jared Cunningham’s 18ppg but they won’t necessarily need that of him. He’ll play a very sound point for OSU.
Vazannion – Not sure who will be under center but, come on, you know you’re a little pumped for the Civil War.
Timber – Robinson has called this his “best front court” since arriving in Corvallis. Let’s discuss: Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, Joe Burton, Daniel Jones, and a slew of sizable newbies. There’s experience and versatility there and my-oh-my does Collier have a chance to break out this year. DYK he quietly went for 14/6 last year? Solid.
Can’t Get Enough – He’s gone and this was two years ago but it’s still dirty
Unblemished. Let’s revel in this first weekend’s perfection because it’s never bad to see an empty L’s column. After what we endured as Conference-o-Champion fans a season ago, we deserve this moment of loss-less glory.
And welcome back. It’s been a second and it sure was nice to gander at my phone Friday night and see this:
Don’t judge the edge network, I was well en route to a seaside cabin built in 1967 by my buddy’s grandparents and where progressive thinking grandparents hand build cabins, the cell towers don’t tend to follow. Happy birthday, Seth.
But how’s about that TV deal, eh? Look, it’s flawed and it’s not going to deliver games to the backs of our retinas a la 007 or Ethan Hunt, but it got me a Colorado-Wofford game and an Oregon-NAU game i otherwise never would’ve seen. I got Arizona without hunting down obscure channels or pirated radio feeds or making backroom deals at bars I don’t want to be in. That network is a glorious work in progress and no matter what it’s better than FSN.
And now, three brief paragraphs into the first Weekend Review, it’s time to get over that unblemished record. It’s not going to stay that way and we need to see some RIP boosters. Just because Charleston Southern and NAU can keep games against Arizona and Oregon tight into the final minutes doesn’t mean anyone’s accomplished anything. This is the time of year where teams cut their teeth against opponents with numbers next to their name and in hostile environments. This is when you begin earning your cupcakes because you’ve garnered a four-seed and they’re a thirteen. But fear not, that will get going shortly as a handful of squads tip off in tournaments this week.
The season has begun!
Leader in the Clubhouse: I’m not going to spend much time on this section early in the year as it’s all speculation. If indeed this conference is a two horse race featuring UCLA and Arizona, UCLA did more to impress between the two. So, one game deep, UCLA is the best team in the Pac-12. But – food for thought – Oregon State is the only 2-0 team? Next subject.
Game of the Weekend: Tough here. There was nothing particularly riveting about this slate of games. No Major-on-Major action or even Major-on-Intriguing-Mid-Major action. Arguably the marquee game was Oregon State hosting New Mexico State which turned into somewhat of a ho hum affair in which Ahmad Starks fulfilled his coaches promise that he could single-handedly replace Jared Cunningham’s scoring. The wee PG dropped 33/5/5, including four steals. But I must award this to someone so I’m going to go ahead and give it to the Pac-12 Conference. The GOtW, in Week One, is awarded based on the fact that there were indeed games. 13-0.
The Big Loser: No one lost and one weekend in I refuse to call anyone a loser. Except, maybe, Colorado football [sad face].
State of the Conference: Here’s a new section stemming from the company line every coach took at Pac-12 Media Day. Sean Miller went so far as to lay out his cheering plan, “I can remember a long time ago when I played, I would always cheer against the teams in our conference because I didn’t want them to do as well as us. And those days have ended a long time ago.” So Sean’s a fan of the Conference but so is every other coach. They each talked about depth, improvement, etc. It was like they were Larry Scott’s Pac-12 Promotoinal Pinocchios; the Triple P’s. They did well because I gobbled it up, hook-line-and-sinker. But I’ll keep beating the dead horse and remind us all while pinching myself, the actual games are being played now and that’s the true measure of the company improvement line.
Favorite Stat Line: Another new section for the new season, I wanted to take a peak around the league and highlight that which statistically impressed. This week there were a lot of candidates. I’ve already mentioned Ahmad Starks’ 33 point effort and I really liked that the most important piece of Stanford’s success, Dwight Powell, dropped a cool 27 points. Gotta shout out to Colorado’s freshman behemoth, Josh Scott, and his 14/6 while shooting 10/11 from the stripe. Also receiving votes would be the least heralded of UCLA’s freshman class, Jordan Adams, going off for 21/7 in leading the Bruins in New Pauley. Not receiving votes was Josh Smith’s 5/5 or Devon Collier’s 0/1/1 foul out against NMSU. Sigh. No, my favorite stat of the weekend was ASU’s 79 point outing. This is a big year for the Herbivore who’s been cited as the owner of the warmest seat in America. He’s promised a faster offense and in game one, against Who-Really-Cares-U, the Sun Devils scored 79 points – a total they surmounted just twice last year. This energized pace, arguably lead by Jordan Bachynski’s flirtation with a triple-double, sparked the yet-to-be-viral meme, #HustlinHerbs. As I’ll expand in the next section, this is just one game against grossly inferior competition, but the Devils’ pace is something we’re already keeping an eye on and they seem to be taking it seriously.
What We Learned: Absolutely nothing. This opening weekend’s schedule was built to go undefeated. This isn’t synchronized swimming where style counts. It’s basketball, wins and losses. Everyone won and that’s the Week One take away. A few things have piqued my interest but I’m really going to try my darnedest to draw zero conclusions from this weekend. If business was taken care of, then we tip our hats and read up on the next game otherwise we’ll lose our minds (just wait for the YouTuber below). If we do get weird, I’d pick apart the fact that Arizona played like their 2011-12 selves or Devon Collier’s performance or start to call Bachynski, Bogut. Nope. Can’t let that happen. But after that keep it in your pants rant, isn’t it fun to have things to discuss? It’s tangible, it’s there, I can see it and formulate opinions based on fact and not speculation. Fans: We are better than the stock market.
The YouTuber: Does Warcraft make everything funnier? Keep a level head and Roll. Damn. Tide.