I am not an Oregon State Beavers men's basketball expert, so in order to get a good sense of what can be expected from the Beavers when the DePaul Blue Demons travel to Corvallis in December, I reached out to Andy Wooldridge of the SB Nation site Building the Dam, who graciously answered all of the questions that I posed to him. Building the Dam really is an awesome site and I highly recommend that you read their pieces, especially basketball-focused ones, in order to get a full range of coverage for the December 18th matchup.
Below is a transcript of my questions and Andy's responses. Sit back, grab a snack, get to reading, and enjoy:
Newton: After experiencing another down season,
Wooldridge: It will take a while another year to restock the roster, so the important thing in the first year is to get the team to play with consistency, and not have either major defensive lapses, or long scoring droughts. The team may or may not be deep enough to win a lot of games, but it needs to not be a major contributor to its own downfall by playing poorly in stretches.
A bonus would be if Tinkle and his staff can get better offensive production from some of the holdovers, which would indicate better player development.
Newton: Wayne Tinkle is one of the winningest coaches in the history of
Wooldridge: Under Robinson, there were far too many times when a shot was taken that took the rest of the team totally by surprise, and when no one was in position to rebound a miss. There needs to be better communication, and also better court awareness in the half court. More cutters through the lane would be helpful as well.
Newton: What one player has the ability to make or break this season for the Beavers, depending on their performance?
Wooldridge: There was thought that it might be freshman Chai Baker, who could be the offensive weapon necessary to jump start a team that has next to no returning point production, but last week he suffered a heart issue, and whether he will even be able to play is an unknown.
Note: For more coverage regarding the Chai Baker situation, visit Building the Dam's basketball section.
With Baker in limbo, it would seem to be another newcomer, JC transfer Gary Payton II. He has an opportunity to be both the best offensive and defensive player on the team. (Not that that hasn't happened before with a Payton.)
Newton: What is your prediction for how
Wooldridge: At this point, I expect
DePaul is coming off an even worse season, and so this should be an actual good matchup, of hopefully somewhat comparable teams, even if the post-season in any form might be a stretch for either squad. I'd like to think Tink can shock everyone with how fast a start he gets off to, but reality tells me Blue Demons will demonize the Beavers in the end of a competitive contest.
Newton: Where do you see
Wooldridge: For Coach Tinkle to still be here in six years, he will have had to have gotten
Coach Robinson actually performed pretty well at home, and though virtually everyone is better at home, his teams performed well below average on the road, relative to what they did at home. If Coach Tinkle can play .500 ball on the road, he will have something going.
I also expect to see more success in recruiting local talent, and we have already seen evidence of the beginning of that, with the commitment of four-star in state recruit Drew Eubanks, and a more relevant nonconference schedule, with games against teams the local fans have actually heard of. A few should be nationally known, and most of the rest should be regional teams, producing games people will want to turn out to watch.
The DePaul series was very much the exception, and not the rule, of the schedules Coach Robinson provided most of the input on putting together.
My final thoughts:
As anyone can tell you, it's extremely difficult to assess how well a team will do in a game that is less than four months away. Despite that, I can tell you that I think that 2014 will be a difficult year for both teams involved. Both teams are coming off of subpar seasons and they're both certainly rebuilding. Oregon State is working to find success under a new coach, and DePaul is attempting to win enough to save the job of their coach of four seasons. There's no question that this game is winnable for either team, both of whom will be scrambling to pick up a victory, meaning that this game will certainly be hard-fought and a critical test of the two squads before they press on into conference play.