Yesterday, we discussed Oregon St.'s men's basketball season, and rated 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, and now its time to rate Coach Scott Rueck's work with the women's basketball team.
Rueck, an Oregon St. alum, made the jump from Division III George Fox to Division I, and the Pac-10, before last season, after the departure of LaVonda Wagner, and most of the team as well. The mass exodus of players that precipitated Wagner's removal left only 2 scholarship players on campus.
Compounding the problem, the regime change came so late that recruiting was largely completed everywhere. Scraping a team together required holding open tryouts on campus. Because of that, most thought Oregon St. would be lucky to win a game in the 2010-11 season. Despite that, Rueck's Beavers won 9 games, and just as importantly, was competitive in the majority of their losses.
Still, any grade starting so late would have to be an incomplete; there just wasn't enough time for Rueck to even begin to take all the steps needed, or for a complete evaluation, and so no Beavertail assessment was made a year ago.
Despite exceeding all expectations, and the 9 wins, the Beavers lost more games that they were in position to have a chance to win than they won. Depth was an issue, especially in the post, where El Sara Greer was persistently double teamed with no backup.
Given his first opportunity to recruit, Rueck brought in a 1-2 punch in the post, in JC transfers Patricia Bright and the towering 6'7" Thais Pinto, and also freshman guard Ali GIbson.
Bright, above, proceeded to lead the conference in blocked shots, and set a new Oregon St. single season record. Gibson, below, was 6th in the conference in both 3 pointers made and 3 point accuracy, and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.
Meanwhile, the team's lone senior, Earlysia Marchbanks, below, was named to the All-Conference first team, and finished in the top 10 in 6 different individual statistical categories.
The result was the best women's season, and the most wins, at Oregon St. in 20 years, as the Beavers, originally picked to finish in the bottom 3 in the Pac-12, posted a 20-13 record, and an 8-8 conference record, including a sweep of arch rival Oregon, good for a tie for 5th. place, after climbing as high as 3rd late in the season.
For that reason, just as the best men's season in 22 years meant the 1 Beaver Tail Beaverbysmal option was removed from Coach Robinson's rating possibilities for this year, so to has it been eliminated from the options for Coach Rueck.
The season was not without some bumps in the road, however.
After a 9-1 start against a mostly relatively soft non-conference schedule purposely crafted to afford time to develop a winning mentality on a very young team, St. Mary's brought Oregon St. down to earth in their final non-league game, beating the Beavers by 20 points right before Christmas.
After a Pac-12 campaign opening win over Washington, a double overtime loss to Washington St. started a skid in which Oregon St. lost 3 in a row, and 5 of 6 games, though Oregon St. did come within 7 points of upsetting perennial power Stanford on the Cardinal's own court.
The Beavers finally recovered to beat USC 65-61 in overtime in Los Angeles, which launched them on a 6 game winning streak that elevated Oregon St. into third place.
Sage Indendi was instrumental in the Beavers sweeping the Ducks this season.
But then the Bay Area powers came to Gill, and Oregon St. ran into a wall. Final 4 bound Stanford, disinterested in Oregon St. in the first meeting until they found themselves in trouble, came to Corvallis to make a point, and demolished the Beavers 78-45 in a game that was no where near that close.
Oregon St. stumbled to the finish of the regular season, and then was upset in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament by Washington St. 65-56. Despite losing 5 of 6 down the stretch, Oregon St. still received not only a bid to the WNIT, but a high enough seed that they didn't have to leave home in the first 3 rounds.
Given second life, the Beavers beat UC-Davis 66-48, and then exacted a measure of revenge on St. Mary's, downing the Gaels 56-41 to reach the 20 win milestone. The season came to a end 3 days later, however, when Washington, a team Oregon St. had twice beaten by 5 points, out-muscled the Beavers, with the Huskies claiming a 55-49 win.
Reaching the 20 win mark was a major goal and accomplishment for a program that essentially started from scratch less than 2 years earlier. And given Rueck's track record, more player development is bound to occur. Pinto, a major project when she arrived, made great strides. Bright should develop a consistent offensive game to compliment her interior defense. And Gibson should be in the conversation when it comes to the conference's top back court players.
However, finding a replacement for Marchbanks, easily the team's best go to player, as well as the unquestioned team leader, will be a tall order, but also the single most important one Rueck and the Beavers will face.
Because the next step up will be much tougher than those taken in the last 2 seasons. Oregon St. still was only 2-6 against the "southwest 6", the California and Arizona schools. Recruiting team speed that will allow the Beavers to run the floor will be one of the next challenges.
More help is on the way, including 4 time Oregon All-State selection Samantha Siegner.
The good news is in the team's attitude. No problems with team rules, grades, transfers, or suspensions have disrupted the progress. And even when things are not going well, one can usually see what Rueck is trying to accomplish. That's no small detail in today's game, men's or women's, where team ball easily goes out the window.
Even a 2 tail, below Beaverage rating would seem to require an explanation in the comments.
But what are the expectations? The investment in the women's program approaches that in the men's program, and as such, results are a reasonable expectation from a program that once was regularly on a much higher level than has recently been the norm.
So cast your vote, and state your case. Going fan-overboard with the ratings is encouraged!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)