Last season, OSU's guard play was not good. They didn't take care of the ball and they didn't shoot well. Starting point guard Josh Tarver did by far the best job of taking care of the basketball, which is what one should expect from a starting point guard, unfortunately he still wasn't very good, racking up 123 assists and 92 turnovers (1.34 assist/turnover ratio). When contrasted against California point guard Ayinde Ubaka's league-leading 2.12, it becomes academic to say that despite leading the team Tarver still has work to do. He didn't shoot the ball well either (36 percent from the field, 22 percent from 3).
Starting shooting guard Wesley Washington struggled just as much, shooting a solid .43 percent from the field but just 13 percent from 3. Now add in the performance of primary reserve Jack McGillis, who actually played almost as many minutes as Washington did, and you can immediately begin to see why the Beavers had problems. McGillis was actually their best shooting guard statistically, averaging 40 percent from the field and 36 percent from three - in addition to 23 assists vs. 34 turnovers. On top of their offensive problems, the Beavers' backcourt was also struggled defensively. They couldn't stop penetration, didn't close out on shooters and they didn't play good help defense. All of this resulted in the worst scoring differential in the league by 2.7 points per game (-6.1 overall). The Beavers and the Arizona State Sun Devils were the only two teams in the league with negative run differentials and the Beavers' differential was almost double that of the Devils.
While the Beavers' front court was undeniably better than the back court on both sides of the ball, they were still just OK. A quick survey of the Beavers' stats paints a pretty clear picture of just how bad they were on both sides of the ball.
• 9th in scoring offense (63.4) • 8th in scoring defense (69.4) • 10th in scoring margin (-6.1) • 10th in free throw percent (.596) • 9th in field goal percent (.418) • 10th in field goal percent allowed (.465) • 10th in 3 point field goal percent (.290) • 10th in 3 point field goal percent allowed (.368) • 10th in rebounding margin (- 4.1) • 10th in assists per game (12.09) • 9th in assist/TO ratio (.90)In fact, the only thing the Beavers did appreciably well last season was force turnovers, finishing fourth in turnover margin and just barely ahead of UCLA for first place in steals per game at 7.69. The problem is that they appeared undisciplined defensively, gambled far too often and completely sacrificed any notion of position defense in order to force those turnovers. Look no further than their opponents' shooting percentages for evidence.
One semi-bright spot for the Beavers was in their front court, which faired far better than their backcourt counterparts. However, as was a theme for this team, the front court did not play good team defense, and outside of Kyle Jeffers' 32 blocks they didn't protect the lane at all. On the plus side, versatile power forward Marcel Jones was acceptable defensively, holding his own under the hoop while displaying the ability to step away and defend the perimeter. Jones is a good all-around scorer, possessing a solid back-to-the-basket game - as well as the ability to shoot it out to 3-point range. He can even put the ball on the floor, and while he doesn't have any standout skills, he is fairly athletic and is a solid al-around ballplayer. Jones led the Beavers in scoring at 15 PPG, but managed only 5.8 rebounds in 31.1 minutes per game.
Sasha Cuic was the Beavers second leading scorer and the only other scorer on the team to average double digits (11.7). Beyond that, he was a huge disappointment. The 6-foot-10 forward saw his numbers go down across the board as compared to the season prior. He shot 49 percent from both the field and from 3 point range in ‘05-‘06 while averaging 13.5 PPG, yet only 4.5 RPG; unacceptable for a 6-foot-10 player averaging 25.7 minutes per game, but also not nearly as bad as his '06-'07 performance. He shot 45 percent from the field and only 30 percent from 3 last season, saw his scoring average dip almost 2.0 PPG and his RPG average fall to an abhorrent 2.8. Cuic looked lost on the floor at times last season and didn't appear to be giving 100-percent effort. Probably more than any other player on the team, Cuic failed to play within the team concept. He generally played soft and certainly didn't defend well, lacking the bulk to defend inside and the foot speed to defend the perimeter.
Kyle Jeffers - on the other hand - was the other bright spot. Jeffers was an athletic, energy guy who rebounded fairly well and was a decent shot blocker. He wasn't a great shooter but selected shots well and had the ability to get to the hoop inside. He shot by far the highest percentage on the team at 55 percent. Jeffers generally played hard and knew his role.
In the end, the Beavers won't have to worry about poor performances from five of their top eight players in terms of minutes from last season because they won't be playing for Oregon State this season. This off season, for varying reasons, they lost Cuic, Jeffers, Washington, McGillis and Angelo Tsagarakis (one of the best names in college basketball). The irony is that, although the Beavers were pretty bad last season, and many of those players had pretty poor performances, you can bet they'd love to have at least some of them back. The Beavers return just four players that averaged double-digit minutes a year ago (Marcel Jones and Josh Tarver averaged 20-plus, while Roeland Schaftenaar and Seth Tarver averaged 12 minutes a piece). So instead of a bunch of underperforming experienced players, they will be forced to play a bevy of freshman in backup minutes.
Fortunately, the Beavers do get one major addition in their front court in Giles. The former Rainier Beach star had a somewhat rocky two years in Lawrence and didn't play a ton, averaging eight minutes as a freshman and 16 minutes as a sophomore. However, he was extremely productive in the somewhat limited minutes he received as a sophomore. In only 16 minutes per game he scored 6.2 points, averaged 4.8 rebounds and blocked an outstanding 48 shots. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior is extremely athletic and long, and a phenomenal shot-blocker with a solid array of low-post moves. He doesn't play much on the perimeter (although he does have a reasonably effective jumper), but he doesn't have to because he is so effective inside. If Giles can pick up where he left off at Kansas and stay out of trouble, he should give the Beavers an effective and intimidating inside presence. If he lives up to his considerable potential, the Beavers could climb out of the cellar.
Either way, with Giles in the fold and Marcel Jones returning to the front court, Oregon State Head Coach Jay John at least has enough talent in the front court to hold their own, if not occasionally get the better of the monster front lines in the conference. The problem is going to be in the backcourt, where they return only two players with any significant experience (the Tarver brothers). Even so, neither Tarver is a particularly effective shooter, as previously noted, and although they can be disruptive at times on defense, the gamble to much which often results in easy buckets for opponents. Neither player is notably adept at creating their own shot either limiting their effectiveness on offense. Considering they are by far the best non-freshman options in the backcourt, it could be a tough year for the Beavers. To top it off, outside of freshman forward Omari Johnson, who is fairly long and athletic with some upside, their recruiting class is also not particularly noteworthy.
Bottom line – The Beavers have serious backcourt problems and it will be their undoing. They will probably sneak up on a few teams and win a couple games in which their backcourt steps up and Giles and Jones play well, but other than that, it just looks like their limited backcourt talent will prevent them from competing at a high level. To top all that off, Coach John cannot be let off the hook for last season merely because he had a lack of talent. The Beavers looked poorly coached and seemed to completely give up late in the year. Coach John is going to be on the hot seat all year, and if last season's performance is any indicator, expect Oregon State's defense to continue to be poor and possibly get worse with the inexperienced players they will be relying upon.