There hasn’t been a lot written in this space of late because there is only so much to say about a lost season that was over before Thanksgiving. How many times do the same deficiencies need to be re-analyzed?
Lately, watching Oregon State basketball has regressed to the point of being demoralizing, something akin to watching a late 19th century buffalo shooting expedition. The outcome is known before things even begin, with only the exact timing of when it gets out of hand, and the final deficit to be determined.
In an attempt to preserve sanity, and watch some actual good basketball, I’ve been taking a closer look at Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, and even Utah, and also looking outside the Pac-12, at the likes of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and also not just Kansas, but also Iowa State and West Virginia. And the Connecticut women’s program, which has just moved past the historic 100 win in a row milestone.
Beyond just seeing some non-cringeworthy hoops, I’ve also been revisiting what the apparent differences are between well run programs, and the local one that will be hard pressed to not repeat what I had thought I’d never see again in my lifetime, let alone within a few years of seeing it happen the first time; go winless in the Pac-12.
I really haven’t learned much that’s new; its been more an exercise in re-verifying what I (and most) already knew was still true. The differences are numerous and profound, but they can really be bolied down to 4 points. Two are things I see and hear coming from Corvallis that I don’t see and hear elsewhere, and two are things I don’t see around Oregon State that I find consistently around more successful programs.
One thing I don’t see a lot of elsewhere is the endless and constant flow of marketing slogans with little if any substance that might make the spin come to pass. It’s not that there isn’t marketing and promotion everywhere, but there is a difference between selling substance and selling delusion.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that I haven’t noticed successful programs pedaling sunshine, even though in most cases, they actually have some to pedal. Meanwhile, I continually hear locally how things are going to get markedly better soon, even though there’s no tangible evidence to support such a sudden change of fortunes; only heaping helpings of hope and faith that have no basis.
This is related to something I have encountered around even the best programs; at least some degree of objective recognition of problems and areas of weakness. I continue to marvel at the phenomena in Corvallis of elevating both coaches and executive staffing to near-god-like status. This despite the absence of any track record of results that might warrant such status. Lots of other places are hesitant to elevate many in any such manner, even those whose’ accomplishments actually merit such reverence. (Anyone notice Dana Altman has now run off 20 straight winning seasons, without even a one year collapse?)
It’s a dangerous practice that tends to blind many to the very inconvenient problems that limit success for Oregon State, which as a result don’t get the attention necessary to address them.
The final thing, and probably the most important thing, was never more evident than it was during Connecticut’s 100th win, and the surrounding celebration. The Huskies aren’t just the best women’s basketball program now or ever, they are one of the preeminent programs of all time, any sport, any gender.
Sure, that makes it easier to attract the best of players, making it easier to keep the program going. But the message Coach Geno Auriemma emphasized during the game, and the acknowledgement of their incoming recruits, is that this current Husky team has deficiencies, and the focus of that incoming class is to address them.
That’s something the good programs do; they address needs, and they identify and bring in difference makers.
I contrast that with Oregon State’s recruiting commitments so far, something the local sunshine peddlers regularly cite as the reason they expect things to get dramatically better as soon as next season arrives, that the Beavers are bringing in some good guys who will help.
Oregon State currently has 2 commits for next year, 4 star 6’4″ combo guard Ethan Thompson, and 6’5″ forward Zach Reichle, one of the top in-state prospects.
The trouble is, Ethan duplicates his older brother Stevie Thompson, and Reichle is Tres Tinkle reincarnated. Both duplicate something the Beavers already have, and while they will help, and will provide depth, something else Oregon State doesn’t have any of.
And neither does anything about the 2 biggest deficiencies the Beavers have; the absence of a true point guard, and a rim-protector and rebound vacuum in the middle that’s big enough to deal with strength and long and athletic enough to contend with agility and speed in the opponent.
To a large degree, this has been an issue with Gary Andersen’s football recruiting as well.
Oregon State doesn’t move from the bottom portion of the conference to contending for Pac-12 titles and notching top 10 rankings and major post-season wins by bringing in “competition at the position”, or by getting guys who are “willing to work harder.” Those guys seek you out anyway, they don’t have to be enticed.
Whether its a 1 and done basketball player, an early departing football recruit, or a senior/post-grad transfer, or a 4 year starter, its a difference maker in a position you need a difference made in that makes a difference, not a “project”.
Oregon State women’s basketball team will be making their 4th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament next month, somewhere they were unfamiliar with for some time previously. It’s no coincidence that the best 4 year run in the history of the program, no matter how this year’s tournament goes, or any of Oregon State’s major programs, happens to coincide with Sydney Wiese being on campus. Wiese started her first game, played the second most minutes of anyone on the team that night, hit 8 of 11 shots, including 3 of 5 3 pointers, and never looked back.
That happens in successful programs, and it happens more often in basketball than any other sport currently. It has rarely happened in Corvallis.
You may have noticed that this story doesn’t have a lead picture. That’s because its hard to find a picture of something that doesn’t exist, which is an immediate solution to any of the several glaring problems Oregon State is currently facing.
When that happens, everyone will realize it immediately. When that happens is anyone’s guess at this point.