Pac-10 Basketball: Will the West Be Best? Part 3

Lew WrightSenior Writer IApril 19, 2008

In part three of this series, we'll take a look at Oregon State and Stanford.  First up, let's look at one of the classic college campus settings in the country, Corvallis, OR.

Oregon State University

When talking Oregon State basketball, just about everyone associated with the Beavers believe that it's time for a change.  In the past few years, OSU hoops degenerated from so-so to flat out awful.  No arguments there.


The big change for the Beavers began about midway through last season when the school administration parted ways with Coach Jay John.  Everyone had seen enough.  After firing Coach John, the Beavers went on to lose every Pac-10 game.  Yikes!  That's a change?


After an extensive search to find a coach capable of turning around a program that became the doormat of the conference, the administration at Oregon State tapped Brown head man Craig Robinson.  What?

Coach Robinson led Brown to a stellar two year record in the Ivy League of 30-28.  OK.  The 19 wins his team posted this past season was a school record, topping the previous high of 17.  In other words, if you don't associate Brown with Top 25 basketball, you're not alone.


The press release announcing the arrival in Corvallis by Coach Brown and a new staff offers some insight into the man and the direction he wants to take Beaver basketball.  He likes to run an "up-tempo, unselfish offensive scheme".  At the same time, his squad will run a "disciplined, team-oriented defense".  His focus will be on teaching "fundamental basketball skills".  Oh, almost forgot.  While doing all that, his goal will be to have a 100% student-athlete graduation rate.

If Coach Robinson can make all that happen, OSU will return to the lofty levels of years past.  It's going to take a few days before Beaver followers see any of those goals happen.


One thing that won't be changing much next season is the roster for the Beavers.  Marcel Jones was the only senior on the team last season.  That's a plus for Coach Robinson.  He will inherit a squad that has plenty of Pac-10 experience.  However, you might remember that the experience for this group amounted to a big donut when it comes to wins last season. 

There were only two young men who committed to OSU, and only one of those has signed a letter of intent.  The prize recruit is four-star player Eshaunte Jones.  He's a talented point guard that would fit nicely into Coach Robinson's plans.  However, he hasn't signed an LOI, waiting to see if he wants to play there now.  Jones was recruited and impressed by Coach John, who became a part of the changes in Corvallis.  Kavon Rose has signed an LOI, but could be granted a release if he chooses.  Rose is another guard who comes from the Detroit area where they play hard-nosed hoops.

Even if there is plenty of change in the basketball program at Oregon State, don't expect to see an immediate turnaround.  The best OSU followers could hope for is that Coach Robinson can do what Coach Tony Bennett did at WSU (which took a total of four seasons) or Coach Herb Sendek at ASU (which took two seasons).

Oregon State will remain at the bottom of the Pac-10 next season, but they should elevate their play enough to avoid adjectives such as "doormat".

Stanford University

There will be plenty of changes happening with the Stanford basketball program in the coming season.  Some of those changes are yet to be made.

The Cardinal enjoyed a very nice season this past year.  Under Coach Trent Johnson, they made it to the Sweet 16, one of three Pac-10 teams to do so.  Though the team couldn't get past an excellent squad from Texas, they made a solid run in the NCAA Tourney and finished second in the Pac-10.  Then things happened in Palo Alto...


Coach Johnson was a little piffed that the administration at Stanford didn't put a nice contract extension on the table after the loss to Texas.  They wanted time to think things over.  Fine.  That hesitation proved to be the undoing of the administration.  It gave Coach Johnson time to answer his phone when the folks from LSU called.  He listened to what they had to say.  Liking what he heard, Coach Johnson announced he was packing his bags and taking his show on the road to Baton Rouge.  Stanford's loss is LSU's gain.


Well, it seems that change comes slowly for the folks in Palo Alto.  Unfortunately for them, their best choice to replace Coach Johnson was Mike Montgomery, who was very successful in his days as the head man for the Stanford basketball program.  Too bad.  Montgomery had already signed on with the school's arch rival Cal.  Heck, Montgomery still lives in Menlo Park, so he would have been the perfect fit.  So for now, Stanford is taking their time.  Tick Tock.


The two best players from last season's team, Brook and Robin Lopez have made themselves available for the NBA draft.  Brook is a lock as a first round pick.  Robin?  Not so much.  The team also loses uber-sixth-man Taj Finger to graduation.  They will be replaced by some nice looking prospects who haved signed LOI's for next year. 

Miles Plumlee is probably the best of the three and will hopefully be part of the answer to, "Who will replace the Lopez twins?"  Jeremy Green is a natural shooting guard from Austin, TX.  Green is a nice player, but apparently not nice enough for Coach Rick Barnes at Texas.  The other recruit is Jarrett Mann, a small forward who can score.  Did I mention Mann could score?  He's a terrific athlete who can smother an opponent on defense.  One thing to keep in mind, all of these players were signed by Coach Johnson.  They can ask for a release from their LOI and sign on to a program where they think they will fit better.


The most dramatic change for the Cardinal might be their imminent fall from the best in the Pac-10.  At this point it's hard to tell just what's going to happen because of the "what if's".   What if the school administration can lure a top-flight coach to move to Palo Alto?  What if Robin Lopez comes to his senses and returns for another year of seasoning?  What if all three talented freshman decide to stick with their commitment to Stanford? 

At this point, it looks like it's going to be a "wait and see" posture regarding Stanford. 

In Part 4, we'll take a look at the "U" schools.  UCLA and USC.