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Oregon State Men’s Basketball: A Brief History of Beavers in Road Games (1980’s-Current)

Why has it been so rough for the Beavers on the Road?

USA Today

It’s never easy on the road. The term, “Home Court Advantage,” rings true in College Basketball. The 2016-17 season has been a nightmare for the Beavers, especially on the road. The Bay Area games represented the Beavers last opportunities to get rare conference road wins. They lost by double digits in both games. The Beaver’s average score in road games is 80-62 in favor of their opponents, which is obviously not good. The Beavers finished 0-13 in road games this season, including a 0-9 record in Pac-12 play. (They haven’t been that great at home either) The Beaver’s last road win was March 5, 2016 at UCLA. In the last couple of seasons, Wayne Tinkle and his staff have constantly noted that the Beavers need to become a better team on the road. Lack of focus and energy in road games has been observed by Beaver Nation. Can the Beavers improve their efforts on the road next season and beyond?

A Beaver road win has been rare over the years. The Beavers have found numerous ways to lose games on the road. It seems that In recent years during Pac-12 play, teams the Beavers have beaten at home have pummeled them when they are away from Gill. There have been seasons where the Beavers have picked up big wins at Gill which led fans to believe that they were going to develop into a great team. Then, a week later, the Beavers lay an egg on road trips and come back down to Earth. In this piece, I am going to examine Beaver road games beginning from the 1980’s (my favorite decade!) up to now. The reason I started with the 1980’s is to compare teams that were great on the road with teams that struggled.

In the 80’s the Beavers were one of the top Men’s Basketball teams in the Pac 12. In fact, Ralph Miller and his Orange Express squad won 5 (if the 89-90 season is included) Pac-10 Regular Season Championships in the 1980’s! In the 1980’s, the Beavers grew Legends such as A.C Green, Charlie Sitton, Gary Payton, Steve Johsnon, Lester Conner, Ray Blume, and Jose Ortiz, to name a few. The Beavers played in either the NCAA Tournament (6 appearances in 1980’s, 7 if you include the 1989-90 season) or the NIT Tournament (2 appearances) in all but one season in the 1980’s, which was the 1985-86 season (12-15 season) , which is termed by some in Beaver Nation as, “The Lost Season”.

The Beavers in the 1980’s were also an excellent team on the road. In Non-Conference road games (excluding neutral site games), the Beavers had a decent 17-13 record. There were some great victories on the road such as defeating #15 BYU in 1981. The Beavers also had some difficult losses in Non-Conference play. They lost to the Portland Pilots in Portland twice in the 80’s (1981 and 1985).

Although the Beaver teams in the 1980’s had a winning road record in Non-Conference games, their road record in Conference games was very impressive. Oregon State was 58-31 in Pac-10 road games the 1980’s! What is even more impressive is that the Beavers had winning conference road records in 8 out of 10 years. In the famous 1980-81 season (26-2 overall record, AP No.1 Ranked team for 5 weeks) the Beavers were undefeated on the road.

The Basketball program fell on hard times in the 1990’s. Besides the Pac-10 Championship in the 1989-90 season during Gary Payton’s senior year, the 1990’s were mostly brutal for Beaver Nation. The Beavers entered the decade ranked as one of the winningest programs in the Nation. After Payton graduated, the Beavers did not earn a winning season. Beavers were never good on the road in the 90’s. They were 5-23 in Non-Conference road games in the 1990s’. Additionally, the Beavers were a dismal 17-63 (18-62 because Cal had to forfeit its 70-50 victory in 1996, but I did not include it in the stats) in road games in the 1990’s.

The 2000’s were highlighted by a trip to the NIT by the 2004-05 team, and the 2008-09 CBI Tournament Champions. Besides those two seasons, the Beavers had losing records in all other seasons. An example of Beaver Road woes, the 2004-05 team was 0-9 on the road in Pac-10 play! If the 04-05 Beavs would have won a couple more on the road, they may have ended the Beaver NCAA Tourney drought 10 years earlier. The Beavers were 12-22 in road Non-Conference Games overall in the 2000’s, and they were a dreary 15-76 in road Pac-10 games in the 2000s’, which explains the numerous losing seasons. There were some embarrassing losses such as an 85-41 defeat at Hawaii in 2006, or at Division II’s Alaska-Anchorage in 2007.

In our current decade, the Beavers are an improved 8-12 in Non-Conference road games and a dismal, yet familiar 12-59 in Pac-12 road games. The 2015-16 NCAA Tournament team was 2-7 (two huge road wins, btw) on the road in Pac-12 play and 2-1 in Non-Conference road games.

I would like to quickly compare Road vs Home records. This includes road non-conference games (RN-C), Home non-conference Games (HN-C), Road Conference games (RC) and Home Conference Games (HC)

(R. N.-C.) (H. N.-C.) (R. C.) (H. C.)

1980’s 17-13, 27-5, 58-31, 73-18

1990’s 5-23, 38-6, 17-63, 46-44

2000’s 12-22, 46-14, 15-76, 33-57

2010’s 8-12, 43-13, 12-59, 38-26

The losing road records were a major factor in the Beavers not making the NCAA tournament from 1990-2016. Looking at how solid the Beavers were on the road in the 80’s, validates the fact that road wins lead to championships and multiple NCAA appearances. in the 80’s. Ralph Miller’s teams played with excellent discipline and composure. Mistakes and lack of focus have been a major factor of the lack of success on the road. In addition, experts could argue from 1990-2010’s that the Beavers lacked talent, leadership, etc. Did you know the last time the Beavers beat a ranked team on the road was Jan. 5, 1985 when they defeated the Washington Huskies 52-45?

Why have the Beavers struggled on the road in the past 25 plus seasons? Could it be a lack of focus, or a lack of leadership? Are the players too comfortable at Gill and too uncomfortable in hostile environments? Or could it be that they are staying in the wrong hotels, suffering from jetlag, or maybe even a bit homesick? Whatever the reason, next season the Beavers need to learn how to win on the road. They don’t need to be perfect on the road. They just can’t continue to be non-competitive on the road. In addition, it would be beneficial to beat teams they’re expected to beat on the road. All fans are hopeful that their team can pull out a win no matter where they play home or away. We know the Beavers are more likely to win at Gill, but we also know that if the 80’s taught us anything its that Championships and tournament appearances are dependent on success away from home.