1. Roberto Nelson has the highest usage percentage amongs all major conference players. Any advice on slowing him down?
AndyPanda: I would suggest taking your chances on his outside shooting, but do not let him fake and drive, because then he will draw fouls, and make the free throws, doing even more damage than he would from the outside. It's a tough quandary, because his pull-up jumper is pretty good too, and I'm not suggesting Cal not defend him on the perimeter, but taking a foul on penetration doesn't prevent points and gets you in foul trouble.
RVM: I would say it is a lot about limiting the damage he can do without opening it up too much for other players like Collier and Brandt to get a lot of open looks in the paint. By this I mean a bit of what Andy is talking about playing him smart on the outside without opening it up his driving ability, but also if you can get a good one-on-one match up against him with someone aggressive and fast on defense this will limit having to double-team him or over-relying on zone schemes. No idea if this works into Cal's schemes and player skills to be honest, but if you can do this and keep him under or even around 20 points without having anyone else on the OSU offense open things up you are in great shape. Even allowing him to beat you a bit (like scoring 20+ points) but keeping the rest of the OSU players bottled up can lead to a good situation too. Roberto on his own will not beat a quality team like Cal. Also get him in foul trouble on the defensive side can help too for he is not the quickest and best defenders out there and can get into foul trouble if he is attacked enough, and as such leading to more bench time for him.
2. Is Craig Robinson on the hot seat? Does he need to make the tournament, or just be kinda competitive in the middle of the conference? With three good seniors on the roster, it seems like if it doesn't happen this year it won't at all.
AndyPanda: In the minds of many, a lot of whom are already staying away in droves, Robinson is either on the hot seat, or they have moved beyond that point already, and are already convinced a change needs to be made. I'm not at all convinced the Athletics Director shares either of those opinions though. Some of the recruits in the last 2 classes have shown some flash, and if that continues, win or lose, Robinson may get a chance to see how much they can develop in another year.
RVM: I really don't know to be honest, seems like he should be under scrutiny for he is now well within his tenure as coach and has worked with his own recruits for multiple years now. As I know frustrates some on the Dam I don't like to get into it about calling out or even guessing about coaching jobs. I guess to get as opinionated as I want to here I do feel that his teams need to show more of a team aesthetic with the older guys, for Collier and Brandt really need to step it up this season, and I put this more on the coaches than the players here. I really like what Robinson has brought to the campus and to the basketball program, but as for the on-the-court results he needs to walk more of the walk with getting his players molded into a dynamic team aesthetic that taps into the skills these guys have along with creating strong leaders on the court not only in demeanor but in actual game performances too.
AndyPanda: Collier's suspension was for only 1 game, and though the Beavers lost, it was esentially a non-issue. Moreland is another matter. It hasn't hurt the team emotionally as far as anyone can tell, and they were still able to practice and travel with the team. But Moreland's return changes what the team can do, as well as the rotations, significantly, and that adjustment didn't go too smoothly on the Rocky Mountain road trip. How soon the Beavers re-find what they want to do with Moreland in the rotation will define the season one way or another.
RVM: I agree with Andy here and think this also gets at my questions and comments about Robinson and the need for him, and his assistants, to mold this team into a team and finally get these guys to live up to their potential during the games. As such yes they are going to have to recalibrate a bit with Moreland now part of the starting rotation, and need to do it quickly. So far it looks like they have been adjusting to the change up (as well as the more reliance on the younger guards off the bench too), and the coaching staff needs to lead in this calibration of a team identity starting this week.
4. OSU's defense looks to be the weak point of the team. Is Coach Robinson still mixing in occasional junk defenses, or is it almost all man-to-man?
AndyPanda: Man, both pressing and in half court, as well as both 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones are all still very much in the mix. How much of which, and at what point, varies game to game based on matchups and the situation, but multiple defenses are still in play.
RVM: I am not sure it is the main weak point of the team, even if I do think it nonetheless needs improving, I think again the leadership issues are problematic and also as for game performance the frontcourt play is hampering the overall schemes on both sides of the ball. I actually think with the newer guys like Hallice Cooke, Langston Morris-Walker, and Malcolm Duvivier that the weaker aspects of the backcourt defense has improved. Now over time this season that could change once teams figure out these new guys' weaknesses, but I think with a stronger presence of the frontcourt on both sides of the ball will be key to this team's success this season. Yes, that was a bit roundabout and general but figured Andy covered well the specifics well and wanted to add in a bit of a commentary to it all.
Men's Basketball Highlights: OSU vs. Coppin State 11/10/13 (via OSUBeaversAthletics)
5) Who would you believe is the most irreplaceable player on the Beavers and why?
AndyPanda: Nelson, and its not even close, because he's the one reliable scorer on the roster. Any number of other players have had big sequences, and even big games, but also have disappeared for prolonged stretches. The team seemed to rally around each other in the one game Nelson was disqualified for a dubious flagrant 2 in the first half, and won that game. But against Pac-12 quality opponents, any success Oregon St. will have will be built around what Nelson does.
RVM: Oh, yes can't disagree with Andy here of course, but will say again the frontcourt play of late has been killing the team in many ways. As such I would make the argument that it essential for players like Brandt, Collier, and Moreland to step it up for Cooke looks great as a freshman and Nelson is rock-solid steady out there as the leading scorer but this team will go nowhere even with those two guards scoring points left-and-right if the big guys don't show up to the games.
6) What do you think will be the key matchup in this game?
AndyPanda: Richard Soloman [sic] vs. Moreland. Both will get a bunch of boards, and that will be fun to watch all by itself, and Soloman will probably out-score Moreland. But by how much? If Moreland has any reasonable production on the offensive end, it could be a wild affair that goes down to the wire. I think Collier could find his game again against Kravish, but I also expect Kravish to play well enough that its unlikely this matchup will by itself be decisive.
RVM: I'll go more general and say, to change things up on you all (!), I think it will be interesting to see how the young backcourt of Cooke, Morris-Walker, and Duvivier against the Cal younger guards. Though yes Soloman against the OSU forwards will be huge too.
7) Pick the winner!
AndyPanda: I expect Oregon St. to play well at times, and have some runs. But I've seen nothing to suggest the Beavers won't also have a several minute scoring drought that puts them in a hole, and also nothing to suggest they won't have some key turnovers. The Bears will bury some uncontested 3s, and prevail in a game that is about 5 plays away from potentially going the other way.
RVM: Oh, gosh everyone and their predictions! I totally agree with Andy and all signs indicate a hard-fought Cal win but one that sees the Beavs again shoot themselves in the foot multiple times to make the final score look more lopsided than the game actually played out. I will say that the Pac-12 again looks ready (except for maybe SC and WSU right now) to beat up on itself, and since this game is on the Beavs home-court I could see also if they show up with a more well-rounded performance that OSU could win this one too. If OSU wins though I totally think it will have to be a close one, whereas the variables for a Cal win are more plentiful.