The Alamo Bowl gets closer and closer for the Oregon State Beavers football team (December 29th). As compared to last year when the schedule ended in dismal fashion, this holiday season feels more festive with the anticipation of a bowl game. Extra excitement this time of year for Oregon State fans is certainly welcome. As Christmas passes, we can look forward to Beaver pride on display in San Antonio. This will be a nationally televised contest on ESPN at 3:45 Pacific Time. In the giving spirit (delayed for now), I will share my in depth preview in next week’s column.
And for those of you unaware, an added bonus came the last few days as Jordan Poyer was named first team All American at the cornerback position. Well earned. Furthermore, Poyer and Markus Wheaton will participate in the Senior Bowl in late January. Holiday spirits and these Beavers keep giving. Joy to the Oregon State world!
As the football season winds down for OSU, it won’t be long for other sports to take center stage in Beaver nation (baseball is a little further out). Currently the men’s basketball team is 6-2 with upcoming games against Chicago State (Sunday, December 16th) and Howard University (Wednesday, December 19th). Both games are at home and should give the Beavs ample opportunity for a couple of more wins.
To this point of the season, Coach Craig Robinson’s squad has done well. Despite losing on the road to the Kansas Jayhawks, 84-78, the team fell behind by 14 points and rallied to within three in the final minute. Although the team came out on the losing end, the resiliency they showed against a Top 10 opponent in a tough atmosphere was significant. In a 65-62 loss to Alabama, OSU also overcame a large deficit (15 points) to come close to victory. This type of competitive fire will only serve the team well as the season progresses. Both were tough matchups. If the team looks toward opportunities for post season tournament play, those losses turn in to experiences of how to handle adversity in game situations.
I like this team’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament. It will take a minimum of 20 wins and perhaps finishing in the top four of the conference. While they have played Kansas and Alabama (neutral court) as mentioned earlier, the Beavs did defeat Purdue, 66-58. Outside of those contests the non-conference schedule is not eye popping. In the team’s defense, the non-conference schedule does not play heavily come selection time for the big tourney.
Where the Beavers need to capitalize is inside the conference. The Arizona Wildcats (currently ranked eighth) are the clear frontrunners as of now. UCLA was an early season favorite, but with three losses already (one to what is considered a lower tier team in Cal Poly), the Bruins do not look as formidable. The Oregon Ducks are off to a good start at 8-1 (with their only loss coming at the hands of #22 Cincinnati) and look to be a contender. If Robinson can get OSU to hold serve on their home court, no more than two losses, finishing near the top of the standings is not a far-fetched conclusion.
Whereas on the football program each week someone new appeared to step up, the basketball squad looks to rely on juniors Devon Collier (6 ft.-8 inch forward) and Ahmad Starks (5 ft.-9 inch guard). In addition to senior forward-center Joe Burton. Sophomore Eric Moreland leads the team in rebounding at 11.0 per game and Starks is paving the way in scoring at 14.9 points per game.
No one can predict the future. But Robinson is the right leader. He does not present a feeling of another fly by night coach. In other words, I think he is in this for the long haul. He wants to rebuild the winning tradition in Corvallis. From what I have seen the team plays with passion and a critical ‘no panic’ mode essential for long term success. Baseball is usually a reprieve from the winter sports hiatus in Beaver nation.
After shooting guard Jared Cunningham left for the NBA, I was slightly worried for Beaver fans. However, early season returns clearly has my mind shifting. It has been awhile since the basketball side of things has been a topic of conversation. The winds of change are blowing. OSU basketball has returned.