Oregon St. head coach Craig Robinson often wondered what was going on during the Beavers' bumpy season. - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
It's time once again to rate Oregon St. men's basketball coach Craig Robinson, using the patented 5 Beavertail system developed by Fanoverboard that we use after the season ends for each of the Beavers' major programs.
After last year's 21 win campaign, the best season for the Beavers in 22 years, 46% of Beaver Nation respondents rated Robinson somewhere above Beaverage, though 39% did see that as just Beaverage. And with the groundbreaking and highly visible construction of the now nearly complete new basketball practice facility, something Robinson is largely responsible for getting built, spirits and expectations were high heading into the 2012-13 campaign.
The team even had the benefit of extra practices in the summer, and a trip to France and Spain for some extra games, as well as team building. The early departure to the NBA of Jared Cunningham didn't even seem like an insurmountable obstacle.
And though the Beavers lost by 3 points to a then well-regarded Alabama team, which just missed the NCAA Tournament, in Madison Square Garden, things were off to a good start.
Angus Brandt was expected to be a key contributor for Oregon St. his past season.
The loss of a near double-double a night from the team's leader wasn't immediately an issue, as Oregon St. continued to play well up through Christmas, though there were some cases where large leads dwindled down the stretch. But then the basketball world caught up with what was still a high-octane Beaver offense.
Oregon St. continued to win, save a 6 point loss in Kansas City to Kansas, who just happens to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The first really ominous sign didn't come until right before the Alamo Bowl, when Towson took Oregon St. to overtime, and ultimately claimed a 1 point win. But was it just a case of being distracted by the atmosphere of the pending Alamo Bowl viewing party that was to be held immediately after the basketball game in Gill? It appeared it might have been when the Beavers bounced back for a 25 point win over UTPA 2 days later.
Unfortunately, it wasn't.
Oregon St. opened Pac-12 play at home, with the first battle of the season in the Civil War, and wound up suffering their worst loss of the year. It's worth noting, that was just a 13 point loss, and against the ultimate conference champions. The Beavers wouldn't lose by more than 10 points again until an 11 point loss at Utah in the next to last game of the Conference campaign, over 2 months later.
Trouble was, Oregon St. did lose 12 of 15 games during that time frame. The Beavers wound up 4-14 in the Pac-12, and wound up in last place. They were 1 and done in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, losing 74-68 (another of those close losses) to Colorado, an NCAA Tournament bound Buffs team that the Beavers had defeated 64-58 on their own floor 4 days earlier, for their first ever win at elevation in Colorado.
This wasn't a "bad" team, as bad teams get blown out of games. They just weren't a good enough team.
None of those losses were by more than 10 points. In fact, 16 of the losses in the 14-18 season were by 10 or fewer points. 3 were by 1 point. 3 were by 3 points. 3 more were by 6 points or less.
One to five possessions being different in each game, be they scores or stops, were all that it would have taken to win plenty of games that would have easily sent the Beavers to the big dance. But those games weren't won, and as the season wore on, and crowds dwindled, it felt at times like Oregon St. was a light year away from their season goal that was in reality within their grasp night after night.
The loss of Brandt was obviously a devastating factor in all those close losses, both in terms of production and leadership intangibles. And the problem was compounded by the loss for the season before it ever started of Daniel Gomis, leaving Oregon St. woefully short of front court size.
Robinson played a quarter of freshmen, Olaf Schaftenaar, above, Jarmal Reid, Langston Morris-Walker, and Victor Robbins, considerably throughout the season, but none ever became a reliable offensive weapon.
That became a huge problem during a stretch around the turn of the year, and especially down the stretch, when Ahmad Starks, above, went into deep, extended scoring slumps. In all to many games, Oregon St. would suffer a scoring drought in the second half of games.
There wasn't enough scoring support for Devon Collier, above, (who had his own slumps at times), Roberto Nelson, and Joe Burton, who became only the second trio on a team in Oregon St. history to all be 1,000 point scorers, joining Steve Johnson, Mark Radford, and Ray Blume.
Nelson, above, led the conference in scoring in conference games, at 19.1 points per game, and Burton, below, became the first Beaver ever with 1,000 points, 700 rebounds, and 300 assists.
But if an opponent could curb any of the three plus Eric Moreland, they could count on out-scoring Oregon St.
In last year's season review, 3 things were noted that can be copied and pasted almost verbatim into this year's analysis.
"Team chemistry wasn't a problem." Even as the losses mounted, the team continued to battle, and there were no apparent conflicts between players. That's an even better plus than it was last year, when the team was winning.
"The Beavers shared the ball well, which produced the impressive offensive numbers." At times, they were almost too unselfish, something Coach Robinson called out at times during the season.
But most telling, last year, "They didn't defend well as a team. Weak side defense was a problem all year, and worse, it was still the team's biggest bugaboo at the end." That didn't change a bit, as Robinson continues to struggle as a defensive coach, even given he employed a variety of defenses this season, using both 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones as well as man defenses regularly and interchangeably.
Depth and a lack of options were a factor at the end of games, as Oregon St. was nearly unbeatable if they were to manage to have the lead with 5 minutes left, with only a couple of games getting away. But the Beavers never won a game in which they trailed with 5 minutes left. This despite the fact discussed above that they were always still "in" those games at that point, and much later.
Recruiting, in-game adjustments, and clock management were all exposed as inadequate, and those thing all fall largely on the head coach.
Robinson acknowledged that shoring up the bench is a step that must be taken for next season, "So when guys go down there's not a huge drop off in ability from the first team and second team," Robinson said.
There was also the curious stretch early in the conference campaign, where Moreland, above, the team's leading rebounder, at over 10 1/2 per game, received a 3 game suspension, for an unspecified violation of team rules that never was explained.
Was that handled right? Did it at least deserve an explanation, given that it came at a pivotal point, following the first loss to Oregon?
This year's rating won't have a 5 Beavertail Beaverrific option, as going sub-.500 automatically eliminated that as a credible outcome.
But how much farther down does this season's disappointments rate?
In the opinion of Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis and University President Ed Ray (and possibly the University Comptroller), not far enough for Robinson to not return, though interestingly, a number of analysts who cover other Pac-12 schools have listed Robinson as someone who shouldn't return.
It could be another matter if Robinson can't lead a rebound next year. Especially considering the entire team save Burton will be back, including Brandt.
"The biggest positive that I see going forward is the only person we lose is Joe," Robinson said. "And of the guys coming back, all have significant experience, so we'll be a very experienced team."
Robinson saw the competitive season as evidence of progress, even if the win total regressed.
"They (DeCarolis and Ray) wanted to win more games, and so did I, and so did the players," Robinson said. "But the point is, we're moving the needle forward."
Is the needle moving forward?
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)