|Oregon State coach Craig Robinson will have a smile on his face if he can lead the Beavers to the NCAA tournament for the first time since taking over the program before the 2008-09 season. (AP Images)|
Preview: Oregon State Beavers
Last year: 21-15 overall, 7-11 Pac-12 (9th), lost in CBI semifinals.
Coach: Craig Robinson, (fifth year, 64-71; seventh overall, 94-99)
Projected starters: G Ahmad Starks, Jr. (12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.7 apg) G Roberto Nelson, Jr. (9.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.2 apg); F Eric Moreland, Soph. (5.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 apg); F Devon Collier, Jr. (13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.8 apg); C Angus Brandt, Sr. (9.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg).
Top newcomers: F Jarmal Reid. Reid is a 6-7, 225-pound freshman who will add an athletic element to Oregon State's frontcourt. He can play either forward position but will most likely see more playing time at small forward. Reid comes from a basketball playing family; his brother, Jeremy, played at the University of Georgia (2008-11).
Key loss: G Jared Cunningham. This is a key loss, but coach Craig Robinson knew Cunningham would head for the NBA at the end of his junior year. The current Dallas Maverick led the Beavers in scoring last season (17.9 ppg), was second in assists (2.8 apg) and fourth in rebounds (3.8 rpg).
What you need to know: Oregon State has experience. The Beavers are returning four starters, 10 letter-winners and seven of their eight leading scorers from last season. Robinson didn't make any bold predictions at Pac-12 Media Day, but he did offer this nugget, "This is probably the best team I've had [since I've been at OSU] and this is probably the deepest team I've had."
Mark the calendar:
- Nov. 22 at the White House: There's a couple of advantages that come with your coach being the brother-in-law of the President of the United States. One of those advantages: you get to spend Thanksgiving at the White House. The team will be spending the Thanksgiving Holiday in Washington D.C. celebrating with the first family.
- Nov. 30 vs. No. 7 Kansas: This "neutral site" game will be played in Kansas City as part of the BMO Harris Bank Kansas City shootout. Kansas is the only top 25 team on the Beavers nonconference schedule, so if you want to learn something about Oregon State, this might be the game to watch.
- Jan. 12 vs. No. 12 Arizona: This will be a revenge game for Oregon State. The Beavers were on their way to making a miracle run to the Pac-12 tournament title game last season before being tripped up by Arizona in the semifinals. Arizona was one of only two Pac-12 teams that beat the Beavers twice last season -- Stanford was the other.
- Jan. 17 at No. 13 UCLA: Oregon State didn't catch a break with the schedule; they'll play the Pac-12's only two preseason top 25 teams in consecutive games.
Biggest question: Who will replace Cunningham's scoring? Cunningham led the Beavers last season with 17.9 ppg and was a big reason why Oregon State was the highest scoring team in the conference. Robinson seems confident in his team's ability to play defense, so if they can replace Cunningham's scoring, the Beavers should be in good shape.
Best-case scenario: With four returning starters, the Beavers aren't going to be intimidated by anyone. They beat eight of the 11 Pac-12 schools they played last season, so they know they can play with anyone in the conference. The best-case scenario for the Beavers would be a top-4 finish, a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament and a bid to the NCAA tournament.
Worst-case scenario: With Cunningham gone, no one takes over as the leader on the floor. The team has trouble scoring, the Beavers finish in the bottom-third of the conference and completely miss the postseason for only the second time under Robinson.
Reality: Oregon State won more than 20 games last season for the first time since the 1989-1990 season and that wasn't by accident. The Beavers, who were tabbed to finish eighth by the media, could be the surprise team in the Pac-12. Don't be shocked if they finish in the top 6 of the conference.
Season opens: vs. Niagara, Nov. 9, 9 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)