A few days ago I wrote about how I like this basketball team. I still do for sure. I like that the players play hard for an empty stadium and in the face of negativity from fans and classmates. I respect that because I have been there. In high school, my varsity football team won 6 games in 4 years, with four of them coming in my final year. In college, I was fortunate enough to play on a team that went to a National Championship game and won 3 conference titles. I have seen both sides of sports success and I have seen how small the differences are between the two teams.
So I appreciate the Beaver basketball team’s effort, getting on the court each night and giving their all. I appreciate what it takes to do that when you know that every game defines your week and potentially the futures of the coaches you have come to adore. Player loyalty can be strong in great, average and poor teams and many players take to heart that what they do on the field or court defines the way people view these coaches.
Of course I am also not dumb. As much as I appreciate the attitude of the team, the bottom line for them is the bottom line for everyone. Winning. They have lost five very winnable games this year, and those five are the difference between the NCAA, NIT and no tournament. Win yesterday against UCLA, the ASU game and the Civil War in Eugene and this team is easily at least an NIT team. Throw in the Utah game and the Cal game, and OSU has a shot at the NCAA’s. Now, they need to either beat ASU and Arizona at home or split that series and win in the tournament. Neither of those are easy, since Arizona is probably the best team in the nation.
An NIT birth, in my mind, saves this season and saves Craig Robinson. Anything less, and I can see this being his last year. Eating three years of his contract is not going to be easy, but with attendance plummeting and a solid class coming in, a change for the positive would most likely translate in to instant wins. Craig has done a great job at OSU by bringing it into relevance within the conference and improving its place in terms of talent and facilities. For that I will always be grateful. He has also elevated the play of the Beavers bringing about a team that is competitive in conference play and has produced some NBA talent. None of that can be taken away from him and his time here.
Unfortunately, this team is better than its record indicates and I would say the last three year’s were the same. They could still do something great this year, and I believe Craig is a victim of his own modest success in some ways as he has raised the bar to a point that this level of success is no longer seemed as a great season. People are asking for a step forward and a change, and I think that missing the NIT this year would indicate that change is coming.
The coaching search will be different and whoever they get will probably win more games off the bat because every OSU coach has. After five years and a couple seasons with their own recruits, we will see if the next coach is an upgrade. I hope Craig stays as I think he is growing as a coach while he is here and i think there are enough talented players coming back and coming in that next year might be a surprisingly good one. I just won’t be shocked if this is the last year of the Coach Robinson era.