HOOPS: Beavs entering uncharted territory

FOR ALL THE hand wringing during OSU's non-conference hoops slate, (plenty justified, by the way), when looking at the big picture, something else emerges -- something notable. With their most recent win, the Beavs climbed again above the .500 mark. For as great a hoops ride as it was last season, OSU never once climbed above .500. Yet this year, the Beavers head into the Pac-10 slate at 6-5.

And the Pac-10 is decidedly down this year -- and tightly bunched together.

If the Beavs can find their rhythm, if they can rediscover a little of that magic from the last season's second half and postseason thrill ride, they can make a serious run this season in the Pac-10.

What that will require, however, is consistency and finding their offensive identity -- two things that have been in short supply thus far.

OREGON STATE LOST only one player to graduation last season, guard Rickey Claitt. After the title run in the CBI, many thought Oregon State would be poised to take another big step this year.

And in some ways, they have. The Beavs are tied for sixth place but one game in the loss column out of third, two games in the loss column from being tied at the top.

But Oregon State has had some rough losses, including a blowout loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and an embarrassing defeat to Illinois-Chicago. On the other side of the ledger, the Beavs have bested George Washington and Colorado and nearly upset Texas Tech, falling by four to the Red Raiders, now ranked No. 23.

So why the uneven start to the season, and how do the Beavs overcome it?

AS IN MOST things, it's a variety of factors. But the one that stands out most -- what's going on with Roeland Schaftenaar.

Last year, the center-point on Craig Robinson's band of upstart Beavers, was the catalyst. When Schaftenaar was on, making good decisions and hitting buckets on the inside and beyond the three-point line, the Beavs were a scrappy, tough team to beat.

Oregon State is not running their offense through Schaftenaar as much. And Schaftenaar isn't playing as much, logging a noticeable number of minutes on the pine.

His ppg has dipped from 10.5 to 7, and most other categories have gone down along with his minutes. He's averaging 21.3 minutes per game, as opposed to 30.3 last year. After the loss to Illinois-Chicago, he played only 5 minutes the next game.

He did, however, get in 33 minutes the following week and put up some decent numbers though he took only three shots, hitting a pair of treys.

IT'S HARD TO SAY whether Schaftenaar is in the proverbial doghouse or not. It could instead be Oregon State is simply trying to take the next step -- and that means changing his role, and he and the Beavs are struggling with the change. Or it could be a little of both.

Regardless of cause, the Beavs need to get the situation straightened out quickly if they're going to be successful this season. And if they can, the opportunities in the Pac-10 this year and myriad.

UCLA is nearly unrecognizable. Cal, Washington and others are doing their best Jekyll and Hyde impressions from one game to the next -- it's truly shaping up like a Pac-10 season where anybody can beat anybody on any given night.

The problem is that Oregon State could wind up on the short end of too many of those kinds of winnable games if the pieces don't start clicking together better. On the other hand, if they can seize hold of a little confidence, it might be stand-back-from-the-windows time, such will be the roar coming out of Gill Coliseum.

  • OSU opens up with a big in-conference tilt right off the bat, on the road at Washington where the Huskies have been very tough, on Dec. 31.

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