Coach Robinson is feeling the pressure as Pac-12 play begins
The Oregon State Beavers open up Pac-12 play tonight from Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington.
Hopes are high for the black and orange this season, following a 10-2 record in non-conference games to begin the 2011-12 campaign.
For head coach Craig Robinson, the pressure is on to prove Oregon State can contend for a Pac-12 title and make the NCAA tournament. It is hard to fly under the radar when your sister is Michelle Obama and you coach at the Division I level.
Robinson has posted a 40-49 record since taking the position at Oregon State in 2008. As Pac-12 play begins, what will it take for coach Robinson and the Beavs to start off strong?
Junior Forward Joe Burton jocking for position
Through the first 12 games of the season, Oregon State averaged only 35.8 team boards per game. By comparison, the Dawgs average a solid 41 boards per game. The Beavs offense has been there thus far, but the team has struggled to rebound against sub-par opponents.
Now facing a competitive Huskies team, rebounding will be key.
Look for freshman Eric Moreland to step up in this department. He is averaging 6.8 rebounds per game and is only getting better.
A victory in the rebound department will also require OSU to get significant production from junior forward Joe Burton.
The Beavers' two losses this season have been to Vanderbilt, a Top 25 team, and Idaho. The loss to Vandy is understandable, but the Idaho game should have been a win for the streaking OSU team.
Idaho led by 11 points at halftime and then jumped all over the Beavs to start the second half, eventually leading 44-28 with over 17 minutes to go in the game.
Deremy Geiger hit seven three-pointers in the Vandals' win, and outside shooting was a big part of the team's early lead.
For the Beavs to grab the win tonight in Seattle, they need to control the Huskies' outside shooting and focus on leading at the half.
Husky Mascot Sundodger pumping up the crowd
University of Washington fans are most commonly recognized for the noise they bring to Husky Stadium football games. It is worth noting that those same fans are diehard basketball supporters.
After attending games at Alaska Airlines Arena, I can assure you the crowd in Seattle does play a factor in the Dawgs' performance.
Couple that with the fact that the Beavers haven't won at Washington in nine seasons and this game garners some real significance for OSU.
The Beavs are looking to end that streak and avenge last year's 103-72 loss to the Huskies, proving this year's squad is the real deal in the process.
The Beaers are 7th in the nation with 18.3 assists per game
The big reason the Beavers are off to a strong start and tied with Stanford atop the Pac-12 is their offensive attack. OSU is currently eighth in the country in scoring, averaging 83.4 points per game—a huge step up from the struggles of years past.
The contributing factor for this scoring surge has been the way the team has passed the ball. This year's Beavs are averaging 18.3 assists per game, good for seventh in the country and a distinct advantage over Washington's 14-plus assists per game (85th in the country).
Oregon State has to keep this passing attack up against UW to dominate on the offensive end and control the pace.
Junior Jared Cunningham throwing down
The Beavers are off to their best start in 22 years due in large part to the play of junior guard Jared Cunningham, from Oakland, California.
The Beavs' losing streak at Washington can be attributed to the star players coming through the Washington program in recent years, including Isaiah Thomas, Spencer Hawes and Brandon Roy, to name a few.
This year, the Beavers look to turn the tide behind the play of their own star, Cunningham, who is averaging 16.8 points per game.
As a veteran leader it will be up to Cunningham to set the tone for Oregon State and break the nine-season losing streak in Seattle.