Men’s basketball strengthens the nonconference schedule
OSU hasn’t been one to stick its neck out, but Robinson is attempting to change that
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
Asked what he'd say to those who scoff at Oregon State's notoriously weak nonconference schedule, Eric Moreland briefly paused for before saying the politically correct answer.
"Every game counts," he answered.
Then he continued, answering the question more openly.
"This program hasn't played a big nonconference game in a while," he said. "So when we do, we want to show people that we can play big teams and we can beat them."
For the first time in a long time, Oregon State has an opportunity to build some early-season legitimacy.
Saturday, the Beavers (3-0) will face the University of Texas in the TicketCity Legends Classic Championship Rounds at the IZOD Center, home of the New Jersey Nets.
A neutral site tournament game against a program that's reached the NCAA Tournament 12 consecutive years?
Previously unheard of.
Monday, Oregon State will play either North Carolina State University or Vanderbilt University, who started the year ranked No. 7 in the nation.
A far cry from last year, when Oregon State's nonconference slate didn't include a single team that went on to make the NCAA Tournament.
"We're very excited," said sophomore guard Ahmad Starks. "These are the games you live for. Big-time arena, nice tournament, against a national powerhouse like Texas."
Oregon State's goal is to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990.
Marquee nonconference wins — particularly when they're away from home — go a long way in the eyes of the selection committee.
Craig Robinson understands this, which is why he's said he'll take a more aggressive approach than past Oregon State coaches when it comes to scheduling out of conference.
"Ideally, you play enough good times [in nonconference] to help your RPI," Robinson said. "Then you do well in your conference and you can make the NCAA Tournament."
But prior to this year, Oregon State faced just three opponents from BCS conferences (outside of the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardware Series, which was set up by the conference) in nonconference play under Robinson.
That, Robinson said, isn't his fault.
For the first three years he was at Oregon State, Robinson had to play the games that had been scheduled by Jay John and his staff.
"When I got here, quite a few games had been scheduled [for] the first three years," Robinson said. "We had to finish those relationships and honor those contracts."
Those contracts have all been honored, meaning Robinson can begin hand-picking his nonconference schedule.
This year, the Beavers play 12 nonconference games: eight home games against non-BCS conference opponents, two true away games (@ Towson, @ Chicago State) and the two in New Jersey.
Robinson said it isn't a perfect schedule, but it's a step in the right direction.
"There's the cost factor, there's the availability of the teams to come out here," Robinson said. "You want some quality away games or neutral site games, but those are hard to get. You'll never get your ideal schedule, at least at the stage we're at right now."
Sophomore forward Devon Collier, who went to high school at St. Anthony's in New Jersey and will play in front of family and friends this weekend, understands it's a gradual process.
"We're just progressing," Collier said. "It's a building block. We've got to build on the teams that we play."
A good showing in New Jersey would certainly help.
"We're trying to make a statement," Starks said. "A few wins would put us on the map, help our RPI and keep us on the tournament radar. We're trying to get something going here in Corvallis."
Grady Garrett, sports editor