Ritchie McKay likes his young Beavers squad to move at a deliberate pace. OSU scores only 65.7 ppg, the lowest in the Pac-10. They run a low "1," "4" high offense that will resemble UCLA's in certain respects. They're 4th in the conference in FG%, 3rd in 3-point FG% and 3rd in FT%. On defense, OSU will switch between a man and a variety of zones, some matchup and some traditional. The Beavers are 5th in the conference in FG%, but only 8th in 3-point FG%, 8th in turnover margin and 10th in rebounding margin. In short, OSU usually doesn't get as many possessions as its opponents, and that inevitably spells doom for this team, even if they control the pace of the game. Indeed, OSU's 3 biggest losses, to Stanford, USC and Oregon, also represent OSU's three lowest point totals of the year.
Philip Ricci, 6-7 250 JR PF (16.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.8 bpg, 53.9% FGs, 67.4% FTs) plays out of position at C. An unknown star at Galt High (near Sacramento), he then became a big JC star who was recruited by UCLA and Arizona, among others. Ricci has a large arsenal of offensive moves and skills, and is more explosive than his wide body suggests, though not as explosive as he was before ACL surgery last year. His mobility raises a major challenge for the Bruins, as he can easily get Dan Gadzuric in foul trouble. Conversely, the Bruins will want to take the ball right at Philip and try to foul him out of the game.
Brian Jackson, 6-9 240 JR SF (12.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 56% FGs, 82.1% FTs, 45.2% 3s), out of Knappa, Oregon, plays out of position at PF for OSU. We'll have to take OSU's word for it that Brian weighs 240. He looks closer to 220. There is nothing "powerful" about his game, except the occasional monster jam. He is a highly skilled finesse player with an excellent midrange J and long-range J. He is dribbling the ball less in OSU's passing offense and scoring more inside off quick cuts to the basket. His defense remains indifferent, except that he fouls a lot. A lot. It's almost as easy to predict that Brian will get in foul trouble as it is with Dan.
Jimmy Haywood, 6-2 175 JR SG (9.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 spg, 45.3% FGs, 52.6% FTs, 45.6% 3s), out of Seattle Franklin, hasn't developed into the All-Conference 2 guard that a lot of people thought he'd be by now. Jimmy can really throw it down from long distance, but his shot selection remains mediocre and his ability to create for himself off the dribble and penetrate into the lane are limited by poor judgment as well. Adam Masten, 6-5 200 SR SG/SF (9.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 46.3% FGs, 88.6% FTs, 42.5% 3s), out of Salem Sprague, is by far the team's most consistent and fundamentally sound player. He uses his size to make nice entry passes into Philip down low and leads the team in assists. He is the team's best defender and will draw Jason Kapono if OSU goes man or matchup zone. If Brian and Jimmy had Adam's intensity and ball knowledge, they would be stars.
The fifth starter changes with the times. It might be Joe See, 5-11 180 FR PG (5.8 ppg, 2.0 apg, 70.6% FTs, 34.6% 3, out of Concord De La Salle. Joe was a deadly shooter in high school and more of a shooter than a pure point, but he's handled the point for quite a few games. He's a little slow and short, but he's a tough nut who plays with a great deal of intensity and you don't want him getting hot from behind the arc. JS Nash, 6-1 195 FR SG (4.4 ppg), out of Rancho Verde High in Moreno Valley, has also gotten several starts. He's a solid defender who came out of h.s. with a rep as a great long-distance shooter, but so far he's only hit 14.8% of his 3s. Floyd North, 6-4 215 FR SG/SF (4.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 51.5% FGs, 86.7% FTs, 40% 3s), out of St. Augustine in San Diego, has also started some games. He's an athletic, strong wing with good all-around skills. He should become a double-digit scorer for OSU next season.
Brandon Payton, 6-0 170 SR PG/SG (3.6 ppg), also out of Concord De La Salle, and the younger brother of you-know-who, transferred in from UCSB, where he was a part-time starter. He's also been a part-time starter here, though what he mainly brings to the table is intensity. His skills are limited, but he will foul people hard on defense and dive after loose balls. Imagine a Rico Hines who's 4 inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter. Off the bench in deep reserve, Jarman Sample, 6-7 205 SO PF (1.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg) and Derek Potter, 6-11 230 FR C (0.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg) await the day when others graduate.
Oregon State likes to run the same kind of grinding offense that UCLA does, but UCLA has better players. Unfortunately, UCLA usually doesn't use its talent to its maximum advantage, since the team plays out of control so often. If the Bruins play disciplined basketball, they should win this game. OSU presents some difficult defensive matchups. If the Bruins sag back in their zone to keep Dan out of foul trouble, OSU shoots the ball well enough from 3 to hurt them. The Bruins always matchup on top anyway, and OSU's perimeter players lack the quickness to shake themselves free for jumpers or penetrate into the lane, so the Bruins will presumably just play their matchup zone straight up and have Big Dan front Philip in the post.
Matt Barnes should go to the basket as much as possible and get Brian Jackson in foul trouble. Once Brian is out of the game, OSU lacks anyone taller than 6-2 who can go off for 20 points in a game besides Ricci. OSU will break selectively, but the Bruins shouldn't be afraid to send three men to the offensive glass, which would be another way of putting foul pressure on Philip and Brian. This is a game where UCLA's patience will be tested, but only if the Bruins have given up on the system. This game could tell us if they have.
Prediction: UCLA 63, Oregon State 58.