Know The Foe :: Beaver Q&A With Building The Dam's Connor Pelton

Know The Foe Oregon State
Know The Foe Q&A is crossing over for men's basketball for the first time ever as we enlist the help of Building The Dam's Connor Pelton. The Beavers are coming of a CBI appearance and return four starters from last year's team. The Beavers were picked to finish eighth in a highly competitive Pac 12. Read on to find out what you might be able to expect from the Beavers on Sunday.

Oregon State returns four of their five starters from last year's team and it seems like there's a fair amount of optimism for this season based on that.  What are your expectations for the Beavers this year and how do you think they'll look early, in particular on Sunday night against New Mexico State?
If you're looking for a specific prediction, I'd say a 21-10 season, eighth place finish in the Pac-12, and a seven seed in the NIT sounds about right. Of course, how Oregon State gets there is the question. Early on, and quite possibly the entire season, rebounding will likely be a problem. Coach Craig Robinson's teams have a history of not hitting the glass, and they followed up last year's atrocious effort by getting out-rebounded by Lewis & Clark in last Sunday's exhibition game. The loss of first rounder Jared Cunningham won't be as big a loss as everyone seems to thin; his offensive game was inconsistent and Ahmad Starks has shown the ability to be the lock-down defender that Cunningham was.

Who is the best player on the Oregon State squad and what does he do well?
I'd have to say Starks. While inconsistent at times, thee kid can shoot with anyone in the nation when he's on. When Cunningham couldn't hit water if he was thrown out of a boat in last year's Pac-12 Tournament, Starks led the team with his three-point shooting to two upset wins, and almost a third. Discipline on defense can be a problem, but if you're like Robinson and I, you'll trade getting burned on a couple of occasions for the big steal and run-out bucket that gets momentum in your favor and the crowd on their feet.

Who is a player that is an unknown or relatively unknown player that could have a breakout game against New Mexico State?
Freshman forward Olaf Schaftenaar could be poised for a breakout game against the Aggies. Sure, he had some trouble checking into his first American basketball game (who knew you had to go the scorer's table first?), but the guy is a perfect Robinson forward. Like fellow big man Angus Brandt, Schaftenaar can step out behind the arc and stroke it. He'll be good for a couple of threes a game before Menzies realizes he's getting burned by a 6'9" Dutchman from 22 feet. 

Last season the Beavers averaged 78.9 points per game, how were they able to get that done?
Tempo, tempo, and more tempo. The Beavers were the 15th fastest team in the country in 2011-12, but their offensive efficiency was actually pretty average - just 47th. Even Cunningham admitted that late in games the team looked lost and without a plan when they had the ball. I hate to say it, but a return to the Princeton offense might be the key for this team to maximize their half-court sets. This team is full of good passers, but too many times the guards would dribble around the perimeter before jacking up a contested shot before the timer expired last season. I think some sort of hybrid offense would work best for this team, one that goes quick but incorporates smart passes and sharp cuts off of screens. 

What's do you expect to see from the Beavers defensively against New Mexico State?
Hopefully, man. That's what Robinson went for most of last year, and it usually helped avoid leaving good shooters alone in the corner. If the Beavers come out sleepy and the Aggies grab a substantial early lead, Robinson will deploy a series of trapping zones to liven things up and get some easy buckets off steals. His favorite is the 1-3-1, with the lanky Eric Moreland up top and some quick, annoying guards in the middle that are masters of thievery. 

Rebounding was a little bit of a concern in the team's exhibition win getting out rebounded 41-36.  Was that an aberration or is that a concern as the Beavers face one of the biggest front lines in the country?
Like I said earlier, this is a major concern. On defense, the fix seems simple enough. Find a man, box out, and grab the ball. On offense, the guards need to work on taking shots that are in the flow of the offense and shooting when there are bigs in position down low. Too many times last year the three big men would be clumped together around the free throw line, where they had no shot of grabbing an offensive board. 

What does Oregon State do well that you think can give the Aggies problems and what weakness does Oregon State have that worries you when you look at the matchup on Sunday?
When Starks distributes the ball nicely, the Beavers can get a tremendous offensive game going in and out of the post. Devon Collier has a ton of tools to score from anywhere inside the paint, and the Beavers have three trustworthy outside shooters in the starting five. So I'm going to take the optimistic approach, say they stay patient, spread the ball around, and offense won't be a problem. Rebounding scares me though. Not only should guys like Bandja Sy, Matej Buovac, and Tyrone Watson scare me, but going deeper into the rotation, Tshilidzi Nephawe and Renaldo Dixon can take advantage of the Beavs fundamental-lacking front line as well. 

Your prediction?
Oregon State 82, New Mexico State 76