In lieu of the standard preview post, CODawg and I have agreed to do a a Q&A with AndyPanda. He has been commenting around here for a while, in addition to his duties at the Beavers' SB Nation affiliate. This is a great way to get insight from somebody who regularly covers the team, compared to the stats that I can find lying around the Interwebs. All of the questions are the brainchild of CODawg while I just added a few stats and some information here and there. Thank you to Andy, and without further ado, let's go!
The Beavers got off to a hot start toward the beginning of the season, particularly during the non-conference schedule. How has the fan base taken the fall towards the bottom of the Pac and what must they do in order to turn the remainder of their season around?
A significant portion of the fan base seems to have gone into "here we go again" mode, but some of the more "knowledgeable" fans knew the less challenging non-conference schedule produced a "better than it really is" early record, and the team's youth and inexperience would result in some bumps.
What needs to happen the rest of the season is better defense away from the ball. As we saw again against Washington, too much focus on the player with the ball continues to leave someone standing unguarded, and teams willing to make an extra pass or two continue to get uncontested shots.
Another related problem is not getting into position to rebound, though its really another symptom of the same problem, which is not playing smart ball away from the ball.
Given what is stated above, how do you see the team finishing out the season? Six of their remaining games are in Gill Coliseum, in which they have won three of four. Do you see them finishing the season strong, limping to the finish, or somewhere in-between?
Somewhere in between. Securing a split in the bay area could be significant, as it could dramatically affect the team's mindset going into the last games, all of which are "winnable", given matchups and what has happened so far in the season.
The team is just too inconsistent to suddenly become a force, but the talent is there to win on most nights.
How does the future look for this team? They have only one Senior and many of the contributors are only Sophomores.
The future looks good, because, as you note, the team is very young. Coach Robinson has also apparently recruited well.
A big factor is whether Jared Cunningham decides to leave early for the NBA, or returns for next season, but there is athleticism and length in Devon Collier and Eric Moreland that will cause matchup problems for opponents for years to come in any event.
Despite the lure of the money, I think the odds are fairly good that Cunningham will return. Gary Payton has taken an interest in Cunningham, and publicly stated that Jared will play in the Association. But he has also said Jared is not ready, needs to continue to work on some aspects of the game, and should come back for one more year's development. When someone like Payton speaks frankly about guard play, you would think anyone would listen.
What player do you see giving the most trouble to Washington matchup-wise? Also vice versa, who do you see on Washington giving the Beavers the most difficulty?
Earlier in the year, I would have said Collier would cause the Huskies the most trouble, and Tony Wroten would be the biggest problem for the Beavers. But the improvement I've seen in Aziz N'Diaye, and to a degree what Austin Sefarian-Jenkins has done directly and indirectly, has changed everything. Washington appears to be much tougher to deal with inside than they were on both ends of the floor, and that will probably really impact Collier.
Now, it is back to Cunningham to come up big for the Beavers, and the 33 point effort he had against Washington St. despite the Cougars trying everything to slow him down demonstrates that he can still be a major problem for an opponent.
Wroten will still probably be the stat leader for Washington, but an active N'Diaye is going to be difficult for Oregon St. to deal with, and efforts to do so, coupled with Wroten's passing ability, I suspect will result in Terrance Ross being the beneficiary.
Team-play troubles the Beavers, and they are susceptible to a matchup problem in one area creating an opening somewhere else.
Oregon State is sixth in the nation in scoring and 81.1 points per game and leading the Pac 12. Meanwhile the Huskies are 33rd nationally and third in-conference with 71.2 per game. Obviously both teams like to get up and down the court, with Oregon State and Washington having the two highest possesions per game in the conference (74, 68 respectively). What will the Beavers or Washington have to do to outscore the other?
Watch how many "easy"/wide open baskets the Huskies get. The Beavers have to limit them in order to not fall behind, and fall into taking too many 3 pointers to try to catch up. The Huskies need to have the patience to maybe sacrifice a couple of total possessions, and take the time to make the passes to get high percentage shots. This can result in Washington controlling strategy in the second half.
Finaly, if Washington throws more zone at the Beavers, how do you see the Beavers responding and what will they do to counteract that?
Oregon St. will probably try to shoot Washington out of their zone from the perimeter. That's been the pattern, in part because Ahmad Starks tends to really try to catch up quickly by launching 3-balls whenever the Beavers fall very far behind.
Oregon St.'s best interior passers, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt, also seem to be showing uncertainty, and as a result hesitation, in making the passes in the paint that were breaking down defenses more effectively earlier in the season. I attribute this to opponents who saw that happening tightening up their interior defense. Opposing coaches in this conference do pay attention to detail, and the Beavers haven't done a good job of "countering the counter move". (This issue was at the root of last year's disappointing finish as well.)
Thanks again to Andy for doing this. Later today the "partner post" will be up over at Building the Dam and I will throw a link your guys' way.
EDIT: Here it is, Thanks to Mr. AndyPanda