Behind Enemy Lines: Oregon State

In order to get a different perspective, and to preview Maryland's game against Oregon State (1-1) this evening, Terrapin Times spoke to Beavers beat writer Connor Letourneau of The Oregonian.

In order to get a different perspective, and to preview Maryland's game against Oregon State (1-1) this evening, Terrapin Times spoke to Beavers beat writer Connor Letourneau of The Oregonian (Letorneau is actually a University of Maryland alum who wrote for The Diamondback last year).

Here's what he had to say:

Terrapin Times:Connor, can you give us a little breakdown of Oregon State? What do they do well? Where are their weaknesses?

Connor Letourneau: Any discussion about Oregon State starts with Roberto Nelson, a senior shooting guard. He's averaging 30 points per game right now, and the offense runs through him. He's a great shooter, gets into the paint and is a team leader.

Their point guard play is less than stellar. Challe Barton is the starter, and he was the last cut for the Swedish National Team, which Coach [Craig] Robinson likes to talk about a lot (laughs). He's inconsistent and doesn't really have any sort of offensive game, and he's OK running the team. It wouldn't shock me if one of the freshmen supplants him as the season goes on.

The frontcourt, they have Eric Moreland who was one of the best defenders in the Pac-12 last year. But he's actually suspended for half the season. He led the team in blocks and rebounds last year, so he was a major defensive presence on a team that finished last in scoring defense in the Pac-12. His loss was pretty huge for them, and he's not going to come back until conference play.

They do have senior power forward Devon Collier from New Jersey. He's one of their top offensive weapons outside of Nelson. He came back from a suspension and played his first game against Portland last week, going for 11 [points] and 11 [rebounds]. He's averaged 12 points per game the last two years and is a solid option down low.

Then Angus Brandt is a senior center who is probably their third best player. He came back from a season-ending ACL terror last season and only played four games. He's getting back into form, is getting his conditioning back up and had a great game the other day. He's really starting to look like the Brandt before his injury.

TT:What's the buzz about this game out there in Oregon? Do Oregon State fans really care about playing Maryland, or are they just excited for another Obama game (Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson is Michelle Obama's brother-in-law)?

CL: The fan base is very down on Oregon State right now just because of the season-opening loss to Coppin State and Coach Robinson being on the hot seat. That [Robinson's job status] has been the main topic of conversation right now. But this is definitely Oregon State's biggest non-conference game. It's really the only noteworthy one; the rest of their out of conference schedule is against mid-majors and DePaul, so it's definitely a big game.

The coaches are excited about it, and there is the whole Barack Obama factor that people have been talking a lot about. But I talked to Coach Robinson about this game since I got on the beat in August, and this is definitely a big one for them, a litmus test to see where Oregon State is at.

TT:So it sounds like Oregon State is probably around a .500 team this year. Or is this a team that can get better as the season goes along and make a run?

CL: Probably somewhere around .500 or sub-.500. This is a team that was predicted to finish 10th in the Pac-12, and based on what we've seen so far that seems pretty accurate. They barely beat an NAIA team in an exhibition and they lost to Coppin State, who didn't have their best player and which is arguably their worst non-conference opponent. So based off that, this might be one of the bottom three teams in the Pac-12 this year.

TT: You mentioned Coppin State, and I found it interesting that Oregon State plays four games against teams from Maryland this year -- Coppin, UMES, Maryland and Towson. What's up with that?

CL: In terms of playing Towson, Coppin State and Maryland Eastern-Shore, that's because Coach Robinson and Oregon State have a tough time scheduling non-conference opponents and getting them to come out to Corvallis. It's pretty out of the way, it's not on a highway, and it's inconvenient for a lot of teams to come, especially the smaller schools. So playing [the Maryland teams], it was just a matter of those teams were willing to come out here and play.

But Maryland, that's a team they were hoping to play because they like to play one game in D.C. every year. There's the Barack Obama connection with Coach Robinson, and that's kind of a big thing for the program having the President watch their game. They're going to try to always play games in that area, and that's why they played Towson out there a couple years ago, and then Howard, and teams like that.

TT: Connor, I know you know about Maryland considering you were on the Terps beat last year and are an alum, so based off that, how do you think this game goes down? How do you see Oregon State matching up with Maryland?

CL: I think Oregon State will find some success down low with Brandt and Collier. But I also think Maryland is not going to have a problem scoring points against Oregon State's defense. I expect UMD to put up a lot of points, because this is probably the worst defensive team in the Pac-12.

I just don't think Oregon State will be able to keep pace points wise against Maryland. I was talking to someone the other day and predicted Maryland by 18, and that's what I'm sticking with.

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