UCLA Basketball: Previewing Oregon State With Building The Dam

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

As UCLA hoops gets set to take on Oregon State on Thursday night, we preview the game with our new friends down at Building the Dam, SB Nation’s resident Oregon State site.

We asked them some questions about the Beavers. Here are their responses. (For their questions and our answers, go here and be sure to follow Building the Dam on Twitter: @BuildingTheDam.)

1) Oregon State has played by far the toughest conference schedule of any Pac-12 school to this point. OSU has three straight losses, but do you think that’s indicative of where the basketball team is considering those losses were to Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon?

Building The Dam: Oregon and both the Arizona schools are very good, and so good efforts against them can easily still not result in a win, for the Beavers or anyone else. That said, Oregon St. was at a distinct disadvantage last week, just as they will be against UCLA, due to the absence of Eric Moreland, and his average double double, not to mention his shot blocking. Moreland would have missed the Arizona St. game anyway, with a stiff back, but a suspension for violating team rules benched him for the Arizona and UCLA games as well, and his average production is slightly more than the 10 point margin of defeat in both of last weekend’s games.

If there’s a silver lining to that cloud, its that some less used players got a good dose of important minutes against quality opposition, and hopefully learned something.

So far this season, Oregon St. has proven that they can play with good teams, but also that they can take themselves out of games when they don’t play their best for 40 minutes, so the record isn’t out of line with their overall performance.

2) Roberto Nelson looks good on paper for Oregon State and he seems like he can score in bunches when given the chance. What kind of scorer would you classify him as, and considering his own defensive rating of 101.5, do you think he can hold his own defensively against his likely match-up, Jordan Adams?

Most Beaver fans I think classify Nelson as a streak shooter, and I agree with that assessment. As you note, he can, and has carried the team at times, but he has also mysteriously disappeared while in plain view out on the court at times. And when he does, its often his complete game, not just the shooting. Which Roberto shows up on any given night is unpredictable too, which I’m sure frustrates him as much as anyone. Its not an effort thing, but some nights it seems nothing works, while on others, almost everything does.

3) Oregon State is top-50 in the nation in scoring and shoots at a respectable 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. However, they’ve struggled mightily shooting the ball. Do you think they’re currently in a slump and bound to break out of their conference woes or do you think those shooting stats were inflated by the non-conference schedule?

The shooting stats were inflated by some games against badly over-matched non-conference opponents, but also deflated by a slump Ahmad Starks went through while he wasn’t really well. He’s just lately gotten back to being healthy.The previously mentioned absence of Moreland had a lot to do with things going south lately, and not just because of the loss of his production. His absence inside for rebounding and shot blocking/defense means Joe Burton has had to expend a lot of energy picking up the slack, and that’s hurt his offense. It’s also meant extra minutes especially for freshman Olaf Schaftenaar, which means more missed 3s if he can’t find the range. His offensive game beyond the 3 point shot is still a work in progress as well, so extra minutes means more minutes with fewer offensive options.

4) Michelle Obama’s older brother is coaching your team and is in his fifth year as head honcho. In those five years, Oregon State has yet to make the NCAA tournament but turned in the program’s first winning season since 2005. Is he at all on the hot seat in Corvallis?

Coach Rob’s seat is getting a little warm. He’s done a lot for the program beyond just the xs and os on the floor, and last year was the team’s best in over 20 years. But of course a measure of success has whetted fans appetite for more, and some are starting to expect the team to take the next step after this much time to put pieces in place.

The AD’s office has been patient with other coaches of late, and that patience was rewarded, for example, when the football team turned around a 2+ year nose dive this past season, so don’t look for Bob DeCarolis to be trigger happy with Robinson, but when sales of tickets and t-shirts tank, and donations drop, then they have to think about that.

5) Do you think Oregon State will be comfortable playing to UCLA’s uptempo pace or do you figure that, for the Beavs to win, they’d have to slow down the Bruins’ transition offense?

The Beavers won’t mind an uptempo pace at all. When they have been at their best, its been in a more up and down style of game. Its something that Robinson has been working towards the last couple of seasons. Whether they can keep up is another matter, especially if they have trouble rebounding without Moreland, but they prefer that style.