OSU Preview

The Oregon State Beavers are clearly the surprise of the Pac-10 this season, winning 7 conference games after going 0-18 last year. They've continued to improve under first-year coach Craig Robinson, but they don't match up well against the Bruins, especially when UCLA is playing for a Pac-10 championship...

Easily the surprise of the Pac-10 conference this season has been Oregon State. After going 6-24 last season and 0-18 in conference, and then losing its leading scorer and rebounder, and starting over in a new system by new coach Craig Robinson, expectations weren't high for 2008-2009.

But the Beavers are 13-14 overall and 7-9 in league play, which is their best conference performance since 2005. Along the way they beat USC, won at California, Stanford and Washington State and beat Cal and Stanford at home.

Robinson's impact has been significant, starting with a completely different, more deliberate style and with far more disciplined play than in years past.

And the team has continued to improve as the season has progressed. After starting out 1-5 in the Pac-10, OSU has since gone 7-4.

The thing to also take into consideration is that the Beavs are 3-4 on the road in the Pac-10, which is a better conference road record than either USC or Arizona, and as good as Cal's. So, this is a team that tends to not drop off as much as other teams on the road.

One of the significant improvements has been in junior center Roeland Schaftenaar (6-11, 240). He's averaging 9 points per game on the season, but 14 points per game in the last 11 games. He's also the team's leading assist man, averaging 3.1 per game, which is impressive and a bit strange. Robinson is running a version of the Princeton offense, and the center tends to catch the ball high quite a bit, drawing his man and creating room for others, which also gives him the opportunity to pass the ball. Schaftenaar also will shoot a three without hesitating, so he steps out from the block quite often in this offense – which makes him not much of a rebounding threat (3.4).

Sophomore Calvin Haynes (6-2, 185), the team's leading scorer, has also improved his overall game under Robinson. Haynes could always put the ball in the basket, but he was out of control a vast majority of the time, over-dribbling, taking bad shots and turning the ball over. Robinson has done a very good job of getting Haynes under control in his more-controlled system. Haynes was a turnover machine earlier in the season; he averaged 2.6 turnovers per game in his first 12 games, and 1.2 in his last nine. Haynes missed the first several games of the season, and then starting coming off the bench and generally Robinson hasn't changed that, even though Haynes plays 33 minutes per game.

Senior point guard Rickey Claitt (6-1, 175) and junior Seth Tarver (6-5, 205) have started every game, with Claitt the workhorse, putting in 35 minutes per game. Claitt has continued to be solid all season, with a 2.2/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while also being a decent three-point shooter. Tarver, to be blunt, can't shoot, but he plays hard and physically and likes to rebound, leading the team with 5.1 per game.

After those four, Robinson has varied the use of his other players, depending on the match-ups. Nine different players have started a game for OSU this season.

Sophomore forward Omari Johnson (6-7, 205) has had an up-and-down season. He started out pretty hot, averaging around 12 points per game in his first 11 games, but he's scored in double figures just once in OSU's last 14 games, and his minutes have diminished. Against Oregon on Sunday, he played 10 minutes, had 0 points and 1 rebound. Robinson, it seems, is looking for more consistency in his system and Johnson is a pretty inconsistent player.

Freshman post Kevin McShane (6-9, 215) has started the last five games, while still only averaging 11 minutes in each of those games.

Sophomore guard Lathen Wallace (6-3, 200), sophomore post Daniel Deane (6-8, 145) and junior guard Josh Tarver (6-3, 185) round out most of the remaining rotation.

The Beavers' game plan all season has been to slow down the game, keep the score in the 50s and 60s, and not allow opposing teams to run you out of the gym. Offensively, they're very controlled and will use most of the shot clock to try to create a backdoor opportunity or a lay-up off a series of screens. They don't commit many turnovers, especially having improved in that aspect in the last month. Defensively, they make a huge effort to not allow transition points, sometimes rotating back 2, 3 or 4 players after they shoot to prevent any fast breaks. It's why they're ranked 303rd in terms of offensive rebounding percentage in the country. In fact, they're the worst overall rebounding team in the Pac-10, with a -4 rebounding margin.

The Bruins had a very good defensive game against Oregon State in Corvallis, with the Bruins being able to stay in front of OSU's perimeter players fairly easily. Haynes was forced to jack up bad shots when Holiday defended him well. Schaftenaar hadn't really blossomed yet, so it will be interesting to see how UCLA defends him this time, whether they go back to the double team. If they do, they'll have to be sharp on their rotations since Schaftenaar is such a good passer.

The fact that this game is at Pauley Pavilion and that Oregon State has improved since the team's last meeting will basically cancel each other out. UCLA is also playing to keep its conference championship hopes alive, and it's easy to envision the Bruins beating up on the Beavers in this one.

Oregon State 54

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