While the OSU football program finally ends this year's debacle, a new season has begun for Oregon State basketball. The Beavs were expected to place low in the Pac-12 this year, but with improvement from almost the entire team they have begun to appear on some analysts radar. This team is talented enough to make the NCAA tourney, but will they? Let's delve into some of the reasons that Oregon State could finally get back into March Madness.
- Depth - The Beavs actually have a fairly solid 8 man rotation, and against lesser teams they can rotate in 10 guys. This allows for the Beavs to play aggressively and try to get the steals that they thrive on, since OSU really is at their best in transition. It wasn't a real obvious advantage coming into the season, but with the emergence of Eric Moreland and the continued growth of all the returners this year has really made Oregon State a more complete team.
- Potential - This might not be as much of a tangible positive, but the fact is that Oregon State really has not played up to their full potential yet. Against Vandy there were a lot dumb mistakes, miscommunications, and occasional periods of poor offense. The best part about this Beaver basketball season is that it feels like that the Beavs could really do so much better. If this team ever completely locks in, and plays to their maximum in every facet of the game, they can beat a lot of teams.
- Star Power - For the first time probably since Gary Payton the Beavs have a player to build around. Jared Cunningham has exploded for 35 and 37 points against Hofstra and Texas respectively. When he is locked in, he can lead the Beavs to victory. He has had some down games the last two games, where he was well-defended in the Vandy game, and he was a little too passive in the Towson game. He has all the skills to be a star player and has a shot at Pac-12 player of the year if the Beavs do well.
Some thoughts about what might hold the Beavs back after the jump.
- Perimeter Defense - This is probably the biggest problem facing the Beavs right now, but it is not discussed even half as much as it should be. Guards seem to beat both Starks and Cunningham off the dribble on a consistent basis. Only Devon Collier and Eric Moreland are able to guard athletic forwards. The penetration leads to easy baskets around the hoop and open shots from the outside, this is the first thing OSU needs to fix if they want to be able to win the Pac-12.
- Rebounding - This hadn't been as much of a problem until the game versus Towson. It was more a lack of hustle than anything else, but other teams might be able to muscle their way for some rebounds. The only Beaver player with any real size to him is Joe Burton, and sometimes he forgets to box out. This is something all the Beaver players could do well, there were several times a Towson player got the rebound because a guard did not keep his man off the boards. With proper technique and boxing out this is a easy to fix problem.
- Outside Shooting - This is another big weakness for OSU. Teams dare the Beavs to shoot outside and when they miss it just furthers the problem. When the main shooters on the team like Ahmad Starks or Jared Cunningham start missing, the opposing defense lock down the key, and then any drives are almost sure to draw a charge. The easiest way to fix that problem is creating turnovers and scoring in transition, but making outside shots is a preferable one. If the Beavs can start consistently draining shots then they will be a force on the offensive side of the ball.
There is still a lot of basketball to play this year, but the Beavs have started off winning. If they continue to improve then we might actually see them compete for the Pac-12 championship this year, thanks to the Pac-12 being an awful basketball conference this year. Quite honestly, anything is possible this year, including a return to the NCAA tourney.