Monthly Archives: March 2016

5 Reasons to Get Excited for 2016

 

In wake of my previous “Boo Bird” post, Peter has been trying to amp me up for this season — which is a seemingly impossible task. After all, I looked at the schedule again today, and dang, it’s brutal, especially later in the season. But a college philosophy professor once stressed the importance of being charitable when attempting to make a point, so here’s five reasons I am looking forward to watching the Beavers this fall.

A Nall/Cook Punch. Ryan Nall seemingly has switched positions too many times to count in his short OSU career, but appears to be entrenched at running back in wake of his strong late season performance last season. He, combined with a healthy Tim Cook, could form a dynamic combination in the backfield, one that combines power and toughness. I’m also interested to see what Kyle White brings to the mix.

Linebacker Infusion. The loss of Rommel Maego hurts, and the Beavers could have all new starters at linebacker, but two incoming players give me hope, lots of it actually. Shemar Smith, who is participating in Spring Ball, and Andrzej Hughes-Murray, already have the the weights you like to see at OLB, and are two of OSU’s more impressive recruits. Add Wesley Payne to the mix, with returners such as Jonathan Willis, and the Beavers might not miss a beat and be much improved here.

A Home run Threat. It seems like it’s been awhile since the Beavers had a player who was a threat to take it to the house anytime he had the ball. Please forgive me because I have a gut feeling I am overlooking someone, but I am thinking Brandin Cooks was the last big-play threat. But guess what, I think Paul Lucas can be that guy for the Beavers this season. He’s got the speed, agility, and vision to be a serious threat. So I look forward to seeing what the receiver turned running back can do.

Collins’ Departure. Seth Collins is a freak athletic and was a huge playmaker for the Beavers last year, but I think the Beavers will be better without the drama that came with him — and that’s why I am not going to dive into it or speculate. I think Darell Garretson and Marcus McMaryion will benefit a lot from this change, and yes, I am not giving up on McMaryion. May the best QB win.

Nowhere to go but Up. I’ve mentioned this before, but a wise co-worker once told me that expectations are the first step toward disappointment. If you read my previous post, clearly, I am not too thrilled about the Beavers right now, but you know, having low expectations means i can celebrate the small victories more and not get too crushed about any crushing defeats.

So, there you have it. While I think the Beavers will be hard-pressed to double last year’s win total, there are several things I am looking forward to this season. Go Beavs! (RW)

Thank you Lady Beavers!

What an amazing, amazing feat last night by our very own Lady Beavers basketball team!  I cannot express how proud I am of them and their selfless work and achievements this year. I also think that Scott Rueck and his staff did an amazing job getting this team to play as well as they have.

Last night reminded me of the Notre Dame and Tennessee games this year, or at least reminded me that those were important games.  In both games the Beavers had to come back and try and pull it out in the end against nationally ranked, historically relevant teams.   Both times they narrowly lost, but I feel like the lessons in those games helped them weather the storm of Baylor’s comeback and get the win in a tough, tough game.

I give a ton of credit to Baylor and their staff, they are a great team.  I have felt, in my mostly ignorance of the sport, that the National Champion would come from our lane of the tournament. I believe that had Baylor beaten us, and beaten Connecticut, they would win the final.  I also have thought that UConn is basically unbeatable. I hope now that I was wrong and that we continue on our march in the tournament.

Having played in multiple tournaments, I realize how amazing a Final Four appearance truly is. In a lot of instances, luck, health and a hot hand get you past each game in a tournament as much as coaching and talent. In some cases, if you played a certain team 10 times, they would win 9 of them, but the one you did play you won.  So to me, tournament play is a different beast than anything else you do all season. I respect and love the staff and players for OSU’s women’s hoops program and am so proud of them.

May you continue to capture the imagination of Beaver Nation (and more importantly to me,  my own daughters)  and no matter what happens, you have created a life long fan.

Go Beavs!

Beaver Nation, What Gives?

Disclaimer: The following post contains sweeping generalizations that in no way represent Peter’s views. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this rant are solely Raju’s.

To say I look forward to OSU football season is an understatement.

Recruiting barely tides me over until Spring Ball, where I read every practice report I can get my eyes on. The summer months are excruciating, while I wait for my season tickets to arrive. Fall camp spikes my adrenaline levels, and then by Wednesday of game weeks, I am ball of frenzy for the weekend.

For me, heaven on Earth is a nice, crisp fall day at Reser Stadium with my friends and thousands of Orange and Black Faithful wildly cheering on the Beavers.

But for the first time since becoming a Beavers fan in 1992, I am not excited about OSU football. In fact, I am downright apathetic… To the point that I am seriously debating whether to renew my season tickets. What the hell is wrong with me?

Well, last year’s 2-10 performance doesn’t help. Neither does the coaching turnover. Or the reassigning of several current coaches. And what’s the deal with the all-over-the-place approach to recruiting QBs right now?

The biggest culprit when it comes to my boo-birdness, though, is none other than Beaver Nation.

When did so many fans become so unbearable? So quick to eat their own. So soon to dismiss the contributions of former coaches and players? And seriously, why all the disdain toward anything Mike Riley-related?

Look, I get it 100 percent that Riley and OSU both needed a change. Guess what? He made things easier by leaving on his own accord. Yes, he was too loyal to his assistants and recruiting had slipped under him in recent years. But damn, guys…

Riley’s highs far exceeded his lows. Don’t forget, OSU had the second most wins among Pac-12 teams from 2000-10, behind USC. More importantly, he ran a clean ship and represented the program, university, and community very well. Yet, reading message boards and listening to fan banter, you’d swear Mike Riley sucked at OSU, and not just a little, but majorly. Seriously?

Even worse, why are Beavers fans jumping all over players? As a journalist, my rule was to not criticize players, but that coaches are fair game because they get paid the big bucks. Would it kill fans to adopt a similar mindset? Especially considering that a large handful of them weren’t recruited by Gary Andersen and were adjusting to his style and schemes. Let’s see how Year 2 goes, even if wins are hard to come by.

What gets me the most about all this hand-wringing is how many fans are blindly worship the ground Andersen walks on — that he can do no wrong and any of his struggles can be blamed on Riley and Co. Umm, I’m sorry, did you see what I saw this past season? I saw a mess that I guarantee you wouldn’t have happened under Riley.

The real head-scratcher of the Andersen tenure? Hiring Gary Crowton midseason as a consultant, despite having a two highly-regarded offensive minds on staff already in Dave Baldwin and Kevin McGiven. What a slap in the face to Baldwin, considering Crowton hasn’t been relevant in years. Plus, he quit as Southern Utah’s OC to take the role at OSU. Weird.

And having essentially three OCs on staff didn’t prevent Andersen’s hand-picked quarterback from struggling and eventually losing his starting job, anyhow. I know Andersen is more of defensive guy for sure, but come on…

What’s that you say? This was a transition year. Bull crap. I don’t recall the Beavers stinking it up so bad when Dennis Erickson took over from Riley and vice versa. Hell, was Riley’s first year after taking over Jerry Pettibone as deflating as last season?

Think about this for a moment. If Andersen is as good as everyone is making him out to be, shouldn’t he have been able to coax a few more wins out of the Beavers, even if some of the players didn’t fit his schemes? Good coaches are able to win anywhere, right? Based on Andersen’s credentials alone, I think most fans expected at least 4-6 wins last season — not a complete reboot of the team halfway through.

And so, Beaver Nation I ask of you, what has Andersen done so far that makes your faith in him so steadfast and unwavering? See my points above the abysmal record year and this perplexing offseason. How does that make you want to proclaim him a savior?

Sure, Andersen talks the talk. But wins against two subpar teams don’t back those words well, no matter how you spin them. Yes, this year’s recruiting class is impressive on paper. However, recruiting is a crapshoot, especially when it comes to JUCO players. While OSU has enjoyed success with JUCOs (Chad Johnson, Keith Ellison, etc.), it’s also seen a lot of them not pan out too. Besides, they always say you can’t really evaluate a class until four or five years later.

Also, do you find it interesting that instead of letting coaches go this offseason, he decided to re-assign them? Isn’t that what we expect Riley to do? Hold onto coaches too long? Well, he fired his defensive line coach after one year and promptly made what looks to be a home run hire. Who is the alpha male now?

So, sorry, I don’t get all the love for Andersen right now. I hope he’s the guy, but at this point, I’ve adjusted my expectations. Before last season, I thought we could be competitive and bowl bound by 2017. Now, I am thinking that’s five years out. And part of me wonders if Andersen can get it done at OSU.

Let’s get real, Corvallis is never going to be a hot destination for blue-chippers. Also, while OSU is making strides in the facilities race, it still lags behind most of its Pac-12 peers. A renovated or new West Side is sorely needed, but I think it’s safe to wonder if that will ever become a reality. As a result, I believe it takes a special kind of coach to win here. Time will tell if that’s Andersen. In today’s instant gratification society, five years is an eternity…

I know my opinion is unpopular. How dare I not be all in? Why do I not see Andersen’s better than Riley in every way? What kind of Beavers fan am I? But am I really the only one that feels this way? I doubt it. If you take a hard enough look, there’s reason for skepticism, or at least concern.

Optimism is a great thing, but sometimes its OK to take off the orange-colored glasses. Try it sometime. You might find it easier to cherish the past, embrace the now, and look toward the future.

Go Beavs! (RW)

Quick Hits: Spring Ball

It is that time of year again!  When the days are both sunny and rainy at the same time in Corvallis and when we are all getting our Orange and Black dusted off for the Spring Game. Or at least I am.  There area  lot of great stories this spring:

  1. Will Garrettson take the reigns at QB or will McMariyon put in the work to get the call in September?
  2. Who will play Center?
  3. What shape will the offensive backfield take?
  4. Who will step up at corner opposite DeCoud
  5. What will the identity of our linebackers be this fall?
  6. How will new coaches Clune and Hall work in their new roles?
  7. How will the 2 headed OC and changes is personnel coaching work out?
  8. Who will step up on the defensive line, especially at defensive end?

Amid these questions is a hint of sadness.  The past few years I have taken a couple days off to drive up to Corvallis and catch a practice.  With practices being closed now, I have to admit I feel a little disconnected.  Which is probably not a bad thing.  It just makes it harder for me to get super excited about the nuance of Spring Practice.

Fortunately, the Spring Games under Andersen seem to be a better show than in the past, and I really am hoping to be blown away with the quality of play with a full year now for the players to learn the system and a few months to work on what they learned in the 2015 season.

QUICK HIT BULLETS:

  • Raju is going to ruffle some tails tomorrow.  Be sure to check it out. and you have been warned.
  • My defensive recruit breakdown is almost done.  I wanted to watch more film before finishing it because defensively this is the most important class OSU has signed since 2005
  • I will have a write up on why this defensive class is so important on Friday
  • Next week I plan on starting my Lineman Wish List series on some Beaver targets on offensive line I want to see us go hard after.
  • Life for Peter has been a whirlwind the last few months and as it dies down, I will continue to make some changes to the site.  My goal is by Fall Camp to have a brand spanking new site with a lot of fun features to it. We will see… promises from this guy flow like a river, but delivery is sometimes tough. 🙂

To the Sweet 16 they Go!!!

What more can I say about those Lady Beavers?!? Nothing really, because they keep on dominating. Their latest conquest? A 69-40 dismantling of St. Bonaventure in the second round of the NCAA tournament! What a treat for the 6,000+ fans who packed Gill, and watched the Beavers set the tone with defense — and then use an offensive outburst in the second half to run away with the game.

The win propelled the Beavers into the Sweet 16, for the second time in school history (1982). They face DePaul on Saturday afternoon in Dallas. DePaul upset Louisville to make it to the game against the Beavers. Don’t get me wrong, because it will be a tough matchup, but I like the Beavers odds against DePaul more than Louisville. Also, the win set an OSU record for wins in a season: 30!

To make it to the Elite Eight, the Beavers will need to get standout performances from their Big 3 of Jamie Weisner, Sydney Wiese, and Ruth Hamblin. And really, that will be key for OSU the rest of the way, as they could face teams in the Elite Eight who are more athletic and physical. But like the commenters said, when you have a scorer like Weisner, it helps so much against strong teams. But my key will be Hamblin. As she goes, so do the Beavers.

While it’s important they get her involved, the Beavers must resist the urge to force things if there’s nothing there. Hamblin is as tough as they come and she gets clobbered a lot, but 3 against 1 is never good odds. So the Beavers’ shooters need to come out strong and open things up for everyone. Slow starts like the one against St. Bonaventure could hurt them against the DePauls, Baylors of the world.

But you know what? The Beavers are favored in Saturday’s game, so I am just going to enjoy the ride and let them do what they’ve done all season, win… Go Beavs! (RW)

Finding the Silver Linings

Sure, the Beavers’ first NCAA tournament appearance in nearly three decades didn’t go quite as planned, as VCU escaped with a hard-fought victory. But that shouldn’t diminish what was a fantastic season for the OSU men’s basketball program.

Just consider the numbers: 19 wins (including Oregon, Cal, Colorado, and Utah), a .500 Pac-12 record, a win in the conference tournament — and of course breaking that 26-year drought and making the dance! All of that in only Year 2 of the Tinkle Era.

And while the Beavers lose one of the greatest players in program history in Gary Payton II, it stands to reason that the future is pretty DAM bright. They’ve got another strong recruiting class coming in, highlighted by 4-star guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who was just named Washingon’s Mr. Basketball. Add that class to a freshman class that will be a year older…

At the beginning of the season, I thought Derrick Bruce could make the biggest impact of this year’s freshmen. Turns out I was a little off, but damn his emergence late in the season was awesome. No disrespect to Stevie Thompson, but Bruce might have more upside. Either way, his performance should make Beaver Nation extremely excited about a guards/wing trio of Bruce, Thompson, and and Tres Tinkle. And then there’s Drew Eubanks, who oozes potential, NBA potential, if he can develop a few post moves and learn to play defense. Remember, he’s only been playing organized ball since his freshman year.

But you know who might be the X-factor? Big G. If Gligorije Rakocevic can get more into shape and increase his quickness, he could be a load down low. A well-rounded complement to Eubanks. He’s smart, has the size, and a surprisingly soft shoot, he’s just a step slow right now. So if he can improve his positioning, he could really be big (pun intended). I’d love to see a starting front court of Eubanks at the 4 and Big G at the 5.

Despite the excitement and promise surrounding the program, don’t assume things will get easier. The Pac-12 will be a dogfight again next season, unfortunately led by the Ducks. So it’s important that Coach Tinkle and Co. continue to help the returning players grow and grow. And let’s be honest, there could be some valleys as the Beavers adjust to life without Payton. One thing that could ease some of that pain would be landing a JUCO or graduate transfer power forward, as rebounding was one of the Beavers’ ongoing struggles this season.

All things considered, though, there’s a lot of silver linings despite the early exit from the tournament… as the Beavers had one their best seasons in ages and showed enough to signal that they are on the right track to getting the Orange Express rollin’ again. Go Beavs! (RW)

What a winter!

It was March of 1990 and a group of 8th grade boys huddled around a 13″ tV in the library to watch the Oregon State Beavers take on the Ball State Aces.  As we watched the Gary Payton led Beavers struggle to score against a tough Aces defense, our confidence and cockiness as a fan base waned as the game went to the wire.  A 27 foot 3 pointer as time ran out left us shocked and speechless.  That shock and silence would have been even more deafening had we realized we would not again watch the Beavers in the NCAA tournament until we all turned 40 years old. The 10th winningest program in the Nation fell on hard times following that fateful bucket as time ran out.

This week I filled out an NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament bracket and was delighted to see Oregon State University as one of the teams to pick.  Sure, I already knew after seeing the announcement ceremony, but for some reason it really hit me when I clicked on them to beat VCU in their game on Friday. It was a flash back to that day in ’90 not just because of a familiar name but because of the excitement it brings.  Every team has hope for something magical during the madness.

And that feeling doesn’t end with just the Men’s Hoops team.

Women’s Basketball also has had a magnificent season culminating in an NCAA tournament appearance.  While the Lady Beavers have been the class of the conference, the win at the conference tournament really sealed this team as one of the most special teams in Beaver history. As I have mentioned before, one of the best sports experiences I have had in the past few years was watching the Women’s Civil War this year.

While my history with the Women’s team has fewer core memories, I still remember meeting Carol Menken after a game at Gill Coliseum and also having a reasonably large crush on Tanja Kostic in High School. I am proud of the renaissance of both programs and as I get ready to watch both today (while trying to get some work done) I cannot think of a March that had more Beaver Madness in my life time.

Go Beavers! (PRO)

 

Lady Beavers Keep on Soaring

Conference title, check. Pac-12 tournament champions, check. Highest NCAA tournament seeding ever. CHECK! The OSU women’s team learned Monday that they will be the No. 2 seed while hosting a regional, meaning they could play two games in the friendly confines of Gill.

This is OSU’s third straight tournament appearance and the second year in a row they are hosting a regional. Last season, the Beavers beat South Dakota State in their opener before being eliminated by a Gonzaga team featuring Ellie Tinkle, the daughter of OSU men’s coach Wayne Tinkle.That early exit fueled the Beavers this season en route to another amazing performance under Scott Rueck, who has turned a team left in shambles into one that’s a national powerhouse.

And while Friday’s game will undoubtedly be a battle, on paper it appears as if the Beavers have a favorable path to the Sweet 16, needing to get past Troy and then the winner of the Oklahoma State/St. Bonaventure game to make the final 16. Their previous best is also a Sweet 16 appearance in 1983.

The Beavers have the talent, depth, leadership, and heart to go far in this year’s tournament. It would be a great send off for the team’s five seniors — and continue to send a message that the Beavers are a force to be reckoned with on the national scene.

Oh and fun fact, part two… OSU is the only Pac-12 school to have both its women’s and men’s teams playing in the tournament this season. Who would’ve thought? Talk about a double whammy of March Madness.

It’s a DAM great time to be a Beaver! (RW)

 

Beaver Nation, It’s Dancin’ Time!!!

The drought, curse, or whatever you want to call it, is finally over! After 26 long years, OSU’s  back in the NCAA tournament. The No. 7-seeded Beavers (Man, doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?) face VCU on Friday morning in  Oklahoma City.

What a job by Coach Tinkle and Co, to get the Beavers here in just two years. I’ll be honest, I would’ve been perfectly happy with the NIT this season. But the Beavers won some key games down the stretch to put them in strong position to make the NCAA tournament, minus Tres Tinkle to boot. And just like that, they are going dancing! Congrats to all the players for buying in and keeping focused. They have been so much fun to watch this season.

Some perspective… the last time the Beavers went to the tourney, I was 8 years old. I really wasn’t into sports, much less college basketball. And when I did start getting into sports a few years later, I didn’t realize the significance of the Gary Payton and Scott Haskin cards I was pulling out of packs.

I became a big Beavers hoops fan during the Eddie Payne era, enthralled by the promise of Corey Benjamin, Carson Cunningham, and J.B Bickerstaff. I attended OSU during the Ritchie McKay and Jay John years. And then I watched as Craig Robinson landed strong recruits and started off strong, only to come up short.

So despite being a huge hoops fan, it’s always been hard for me to get excited about March Madness — because the Beavers haven’t been it it since 1990. It will be weird filling out my bracket this week and finally seeing OSU, and you better believe I am picking them against VCU. Maybe I’ll go crazy and pick them to go far 🙂

Friday can’t get here soon, enough! Go Beavers! (RW)

Beavs Inching Closer to the Dance

With a wild 86-82 victory at UCLA on Saturday, the Beavers earned the crucial split they needed to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. They conclude regular season play with an 18-11 record, including a 9-9 mark in conference play. That alone could be enough to get them into the dance, but a win in the Pac-12 tourney would be huge.

And the Beavers have extra motivation. They face Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. tonight in tournament. The Sun Devils routed the them, 86-68, back on January 28 in Tempe, OSU’s worst loss of the season. ASU has been hot of late, but they should be less of hurdle than say Oregon, Cal, or Arizona.

At a glance, the Beavers need to avoid another slow start against ASU, as the Sun Devils raced out to a 21-6 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half during the teams’ previous meeting. OSU also needs prevent ASU’s guards from penetrating at will this time around as they constantly broke down the Beavers’ defensive scheme. And finally, Gary Payton II needs to bust loose. He was held to a season-low two points. The good news is,  I don’t see there being a repeat of most of this Wednesday night.

If the Beavers can defeat ASU, I think without a doubt they will make the NCAA tournament. Nineteen wins, combined with their strength of schedule and the Payton storyline would be hard to ignore. And while I’d be happy for the Beavers to even get one of the play-in games, it would be great if they could sneak in a higher seed. It would just seem more legit 🙂

But I shouldn’t get too greedy. After all, it’s been 26 years since the Beavers last made the big dance. How awesome would it be to finally enjoy March Madness with the Beavers — and to fill out a bracket with the Beavers in it! I’d have to keep myself from penciling them into the Final Four.

Here’s to a strong showing in the Pac-12 Tournament. And a happy Selection Sunday for the Beavers! (RW)