With a 10-2 record, the OSU Beavers are heading to the Pac-12 portion of the schedule with as high a spirit as Mr. Ho Ho Ho. But can they maintain the gusto against a group of tougher teams? Sure, the Pac is down this year, but I would take the likes of USC, UCLA, ASU as to Portland State, Cal State Bakersfield and Chicago State. More importantly, these teams will have a good chance to win a matchup if we screw around and start slow. They have the talent level to do so.
So what can the Beavs do to prevent the "upsets" from happening? Firstly, we need to talk about our strengths and what we are doing well this season. This year, with the athletes the Beavers have, there has been a lot of talk concerning our change in philosophies on both ends of the floor. Instead of sitting back on a zone, we prefer a man-up press up strategy. More importantly, OSU will now go up and down the floor relentlessly too.
So far this change has worked on the offensive end of the floor. OSU is averaging around 82 points a game on 49% shooting overall. We are also going to the line with impunity too, 313 tries over 12 games, with an average of 26 FTs a game. It's also a good thing that we are not relying on one guy to pour it on. Jared, above (photo by Andy Wooldridge) has plenty of company with Collier, Burton, Nelson, Starks, and Brandt. Moreland is a guy who can get you 6 points and 6 boards. In short, we have plenty of options who can lead the team in scoring.
OSU is also doing well defensively. Save for the Idaho, Texas and Vandy games, OSU has done a really good job in shutting down the opposition and applying copious amounts of ball pressure. The Beavers are besting their steals per game so far, averaging 10 steals a game, 1 more than the 9 per game they have had last year. I don't have the average opposing FG% this year, but I am sure that it ranges in the high 30s and low 40s or less. Which is good.
Now of course, I'll need to temper my expectations because those numbers are piled against subpar teams, but I will be more concerned when OSU can't do what they did against them.
What do we need to work on? For starters, we need to prove that we can shoot the 3. So far, OSU shoots 35% from the 3, which is good, but it's only because we don't take a lot of them. The ratio between 2 point attempts and 3 point attempts are around 3 to 1, and given how some possessions end with FT attempts rather than 2 point attempts, the Beavers probably shoot the 3 in much less than a quarter of their possessions. Now, I am not trying to tell the team to take 3s if a better shot is available, but there will come to a time when they'll need to prove to the Pac that they can shoot it. As someone pointed out, Idaho gave everyone else a game plan to stop the Beaver attack. Force the ball away from the basket and force us to take 3balls. If UCLA's Ben Howland opts to zone, can we bust the Bruins out of it? It'll take a good shooting performance from all, but mostly to Nelson and Starks, the best outside shooters that are not afraid to launch it there either.
Another thing to consider: Can we win in a game in the 50s? 60s? I won't be surprised if an opposing coach tells his team to get back immediately on defense once a shot goes up. Should this happen, the chances for a fast break opportunity will dry up, forcing the Beavs to go half court. Can the Beavs score consistently in the half court? So far OSU has been coasting due to a thriving transition game, causing the game to be over before anything got started. But if that's gone, can we generate points in the half court without resorting to street ball?
Finally, we also need to win road games. Hec Ed, Pauley, Haas, M. Knight, Maples are all fantastic home courts with good fans. OSU has largely stayed home in the non-conference. Hopefully, they can adjust to hostile road settings and get Ws.
Well, that's all I have to say about the Beavs strengths and weaknesses. If you have anything to add please do so on the comments box. Best of luck in the inaugural Pac 12 schedule