Previewing Oregon St.: Q&A With Building The Dam

Way back in the olden days of Randle, Robertson, Christopher and Boykin, the Beavers drove us Cal fans crazy with their dastardly zones and slow tempo. For whatever reason it was a poor matchup for that team. But our personnel changed, and the Bears handled Oregon St. easily last year. We finally solved the 1-3-1!

But don't get too excited - in their ongoing quest to torture Cal fans, the Beavers have changed their styles . . . to a fast paced offense and pressure man-to-man defense. Just the type of team Cal thrives against, right guy? Guys?!

Thanks to Tom Hansen, I haven't actually seen a single second of Oregon St. basketball this year. Luckily, we have AndyPanda from Building The Dam to turn to! Andy answered some questions for us, and we answered some questions for him. Check them both out before tonight's game, which is making me more and more nervous.

1) Craig Robinson has completely reworked the offensive and defensive philosophy, playing fast on offense and man-to-man defense. Talk about what those changes have done for the Beavers
More than anything, it has made the game more fun for the players, and that has translated to better team chemistry. On the tactical level, it has created more transition basket opportunities.
2) Many (well, me, at least) pegged the Beavers as a potential Pac-12 title contender after the non-conference season, but OSU lost twice on the road to UW and WSU. Were those results a major disappointment, or just some bad luck in tough road environments?
I wouldn't call the 0-2 start a "major" disappointment, but it was at least a "sizable" one, since the timing of the trip during winter break meant the home court atmosphere that usually makes the Washington trip so tough was blunted. The game against the Cougars wasn't even in Pullman; it was in a relatively tame Spokane Arena.

It was a great chance to steal a road win, and the Beavers had a chance late in both games, but they dug themselves into deep holes early, and then couldn't get over the hump when they finally started playing the way they should have. Mostly, it was a wake up call that even in a "down" year, the competition in this conference is much tougher than what the Beavers had faced in a mostly pretty soft non-conference schedule.

3) OSU has still been forcing tons of turnovers despite abandoning the various zones predicated on pressuring ball-handlers. What do opposing offenses need to do to protect the ball against the Beavers?

The usual fundamentals, less dribbling and more passing. But the passes have to be crisp and short. You can't stand and wait to catch the ball, you have to step into the pass in order cut off the angle of the defender.
Everyone knows about Jared Cunningham by now, but Ahmad Starks, who is second on the team in steals, is at his best defending passing lanes before the ball gets to his man, which is where lots of the turnovers come from.

And opponents can't assume they have succeeded once they get the ball past them. Joe Burton is third on the team in steals, not something you usually see from a post player. But Burton anticipates plays well, and isn't afraid to move around on defense, and intercept entry passes.
4) Jared Cunningham just might be the best player in the Pac-12. Tell us what he can do and how best to slow him down.
Jared can explode given the smallest opening. Opposing defenders must continue to work hard against him when he doesn't have the ball, almost disregarding the rest of the play, or he will get away. You can't cheat to the ball when he doesn't have it in his hands.

And despite the number of steals he gets, teams have to continue to attack him. Opponents need to make him work on defense, and wear him out a bit.
5) Presuming that Jorge Gutierrez is checking Jared Cunningham, who's going to step up for the Beavers to make life miserable for us?
Watch to see if Starks' shot is on. He has more made 3s than anyone else. Also, watch for Roberto Nelson off the bench. He's shooting 43% on 3 pointers. How the Bears other than Jorge defend on the perimeter will be one of the keys to the game.
6) Give us a few predictions on what will happen this Thursday.
Everyone will be watching the guard battle, how Jorge and Allen Crabbe do against Jared and Ahmad. People will want to see if Crabbe can score like he did last year in game at Gill, especially after the problems Tony Wroten's offense caused the Beavers last week in Seattle. But the spectacular guard play we should see could actually about cancel each other out. Too bad there won't be any tv; there should be a lot of highlights.

The key players I'm going to be watching closely are Angus Brandt and Harper Kamp. When Brandt plays well, and he's been shooting lights out this year, Oregon St. almost always does well. Given how much trouble WSU's Brock Motum caused the Beavers, I expect Kamp could have a huge night. The Beavers can not allow that if they hope to win.

Whichever of these players has the best night could be the decisive factor the other team can't counter.

Thanks Andy!

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