Column: Show us what you got, Beavers
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 01:11
The Oregon State men’s basketball team has not made the NCAA Tournament since 1990.
The University of Kansas has not missed out on the NCAA Tournament since 1989.
The Beavers were picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 this year. The Jayhawks were the unanimous choice to win the Big 12, and are ranked 10th in this week’s Associated Press Poll.
Tonight, these two programs will square off at a “neutral site” — 40 miles from Kansas’ campus, more than 1,500 miles from OSU’s.
By all intents and purposes, it’s a game no one should expect OSU to win. Most people likely expect a rout.
That being said, no one will bat an eye if the Beavers lose. So it’d be fair to say they have “nothing to lose” tonight, right?
Wrong. Unless you say missing out on a chance for national recognition — for a program that hasn’t been recognized nationally in most current students’ lifetimes — doesn’t count as a “loss.”
Because of the weak Pac-12, and because OSU doesn’t play anyone else of note before opening conference play against the University of Oregon on Jan. 6, the pressure is on OSU tonight.
Just ask head coach Craig Robinson.
“This is a game of opportunity, you don’t want to sleep on any opportunities,” Robinson said. “When you get a chance to play a team that’s ranked this high, with this kind of basketball history, in this kind of venue, national TV, you want to take advantage of it.
“I’d probably say the pressure is on us.”
Tonight, we’ll find out what OSU is made of. A true measuring stick game.
I’m not saying this season will end up as a disappointment if the Beavers lose a marquee nonconference game in November. I’m not that ignorant.
But if the Beavers don’t show me something tonight — a close loss may even suffice — there’s no reason for me to believe this season will turn out any differently than past seasons.
I want to see if OSU can defend 7-foot center Jeff Withey, a future pro. That’ll be a good indicator of whether or not OSU will be able to contend in the Pac-12 without the inside presence of Angus Brandt.
I want to see if junior guard Roberto Nelson — OSU’s X-factor, in my opinion — rises to the occasion. I want to see how the freshmen respond to playing in their first hostile environment. I want to see if the Beavers can avoid falling behind big, early, as they did in several key road games last season (at Washington, at Colorado).
This isn’t a “nothing to lose” game. It’s a “show me what you got” game.
“Some people say nothing to lose, which is whatever, but we’re going [there] to win,” said junior guard Ahmad Starks. “We’re not going [there] to lose. [Kansas] is a good team, but we’re a good team, too.”
Starks gets it, as do the rest of his teammates. This is a very important game.
The Pac-12 is down — maybe not as down as it was last year, but still down. As it stands right now, the Beavers will have only three more chances for wins over ranked opponents: No. 9 Arizona once, No. 19 Colorado twice. Things will change, but not drastically.
Therefore, OSU’s quickest path to national relevance is a win tonight.
Oregon did it last week when it defeated then-No. 18 UNLV. Colorado did it two weeks ago when it defeated then-No. 16 Baylor. Both of those results raised eyebrows across the nation and surely will carry weight when, and if, the Ducks and/or the Buffaloes find themselves on the NCAA Tournament bubble come Selection Sunday.
Tonight is OSU’s only chance in the near future to join the party.
“Colorado got one, Oregon got one,” Starks said, “so I feel like it’s our turn next.”
Show us what you got, Starks. Show us what you got, Beavers.
Because after tonight, we’ll probably have a much better feel of what direction this season is headed in.
Grady Garrett, managing editor