Inside OSU basketball: Lineups, freshmen, Pac-12 at a glance
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 01:11
Before turning our attention toward Friday’s game against No. 10 Kansas in Kansas City, let’s address a few midweek items for the Oregon State men’s basketball team.
As one might imagine, the majority of the storylines center around the loss — and ensuing trickle-down effect — of senior center Angus Brandt to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
• The first thing most people wanted to know after the announcement that Brandt would miss the remainder of the season was who head coach Craig Robinson would insert into the starting lineup.
We got our first answer Sunday, when freshman forward Jarmal Reid started alongside guards Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks, and forwards Joe Burton and Eric Moreland.
Devon Collier, the Beavers’ second leading scorer, came off the bench. Robinson has said he’ll experiment with both Reid and sophomore guard Challe Barton starting because he likes to have a scorer like Collier come off the bench — a la Calvin Haynes two years ago and Nelson last year.
That will work against teams like Montana State — teams OSU doesn’t necessarily need a fast start against.
But I don’t think OSU can afford not to start its best lineup against a team like Kansas. There’s the chance OSU could fall behind by double digits before Collier even gets the chance to enter the game, which is why I think we’ll eventually see Collier in the starting five by the time Pac-12 play begins.
Friday will be our first indicator of whether Robinson agrees with me on that front.
• One thing I’ve been keeping an eye on, and will continue to keep an eye on, is how Robinson uses his freshmen.
Obviously, the injury to Brandt thrust Reid — the Beavers’ fourth forward — to the front of the freshmen pecking order. Reid played just seven minutes Sunday, but that’s because he twisted his ankle during the game. He’s expected to play Friday, and I think he’ll continue to get the most minutes of any freshman.
Freshman guard Langston Morris-Walker appears to have worked his way into the rotation, getting at least 10 minutes in each of the past two games. He told me that the coaches told him he’s essentially the Beavers’ eighth man.
Against Purdue, Robinson inserted Morris-Walker into the game for Nelson on several key defensive possessions late in the game. Part of me thinks that was Robinson’s way of sending a message to Nelson, who’s struggled on the defensive end at times. But, part of me thinks the late-game defense-for-offense substitution pattern is something we’ll see throughout the year. Either way, it shows Robinson thinks highly of Morris-Walker’s defensive abilities.
Freshman forward Olaf Schaftenaar had a nice showing Sunday, scoring nine points on 3-of-8 shooting from 3-point territory. Schaftenaar is another guy who will see more minutes with Brandt out, as the Beavers sorely need someone outside of Nelson and Starks who can knock down outside shots. Before the season, Robinson said Schaftenaar was the Beavers’ fourth best outside shooter, behind Starks, Nelson and Brandt.
Freshman guard Victor Robbins has gotten the least game time, and didn’t help himself with two turnovers in two minutes against Purdue, but obviously that could change as he still has plenty of time to earn the coaches’ trust.
• I think Robinson will, and should, use more three-guard lineups with Brandt out of the equation.
Against Montana State, the Beavers used a three-guard lineup for a total of 9:41, all in the second half, including the last 7:25 of the game when OSU had a comfortable lead.
• On a non-lineup related note, it’s important to track the success (or lack-there-of) of teams around the Pac-12 during nonconference play.
Last year, the Pac-12 was atrocious during nonconference, and that came back to haunt the conference on Selection Sunday when only one Pac-12 team received an at-large bid. Washington, the regular-season conference champions with a 14-4 record, didn’t get an invite to the tournament.
If the Beavers want any hope of receiving an at-large bid — yes, that’s a long way off, but whatever — they better hope they have a few chances for quality wins versus ranked opponents during conference play.
So far, I’d give the Pac-12 a “B-” in nonconference.
Arizona, ranked No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press poll, and Colorado (No. 19), have been solid thus far. The Buffaloes already have notched big wins over then-No. 16 Baylor and Murray State.
Oregon, which received votes in this week’s AP poll, has also been a pleasant surprise for the conference, having defeated then-No. 18 UNLV in Las Vegas, Nev., last week. Undefeated California has beaten everyone it should have beaten, and received votes this week as well.
UCLA has been, without question, the biggest disappointment. The Bruins have a bunch of really good freshmen and began the year ranked No. 13, but have lost to two unranked opponents: Georgetown and Cal Poly. The Cal Poly loss was inexcusable, as UCLA blew an 18-point second-half lead. Those are the kinds of losses the Pac-12 cannot afford to have during nonconference if it wants national respect.
So, while you’re on winter break, keep an eye on the results around the Pac-12; They matter more than you probably realize.
Grady Garrett, managing editor