05.Feb.2011 Basketball: Washington State @ Oregon State
There's a lot to ponder after the Beavs defeated Washington by 12 points Thursday night. How does that happen when the same roster lost by 30 in Seattle? There are hundreds of viable theories. Below are two of them that seem like patterns to this angry beaver's eyes.
1. The home crowd's energy dictates the Beaver's focus. This is a decent observation since the bad OCC loses had small, dead crowds and in those games the Beavs lost focus. Additionally, the team has just one win on the road–a game at Howard where Obama's presence demanded their attention.
2. Beavers play with great energy (@home) versus Goliath teams, against whom they have nothing to lose. In such situations, they've beaten the two best teams in the league, Arizona and Washington, and took the third best team, UCLA, down to the wire. Conversely, they have come out flat versus inferior or equal opponents.
The Beavs goal is short-sighted and immediate versus superior teams: slay Goliath and shock the world. But against middle of the pack teams, the purpose becomes blurred and the vision long-term. Put another way, beating average teams and winning the Pac-10 requires more day to day focus than taking down one giant. I'm not sure why they lack the confidence set high goals. People will want to blame Robinson, but should he lie and set false goals? When he's confident in his roster, he will probably list winning the Pac-10 as a goal. The roster is good, but it's not yet at the point where Craig should go all Rex Ryan on the league.
Then there are the players. They must wonder, "big picture: what are we playing for when we face…Stanford or Texas Pan-Am?" People will blame Robinson for their aimlessness, but step outside yourself and imagine being one of these players. Now try to imagine what your goal as a team would or should be. Having a clear vision must be especially difficult on a team comprised of unproven players. These recruits are not McDonald's All-Americans who have been told they are the Lord incarnated since birth. They play at Oregon State, an outpost of college basketball. It's easy to understand why a freshman or sophomore would fear "stepping up" as leaders and offending a group of seniors who all lack said leadership. Starks may assume that role. His attitude, backed up by his play, show promise and carried the Beavers to a victory Thursday night.
Back to Robinson for a moment. People want to blame the man because everything starts and stops at the top, or so we're told. Well, to me it looks like Craig's plan was to be patient the first half of the year, let the seniors have their time, and only name names once absolutely necessary. For fans this was painful because we saw flashes of greatness, and it always came from the youth. I kept thinking, "Robinson is not dumb, he must have a reason." Well, we saw him call out the seniors finally, and then play the fiery Starks for an extended minutes. Do you believe the timing–the halfway point of the season–was coincidence? It seems calculated.
Tonight should be telling. Was Thursday's upset dumb luck? Did Washington just lay an egg? Is Robinson's patience with the seniors truly shot? Has coach seen the light and learned his best rotation, or did he know it all along and held back for reasons only known to him. We'll see in a few hours.
If my theory holds true that the Beavers can only attain short term goals (such as slaying Goliath's behind energetic crowds), then tonight's game versus a middle of the pack Cougar team should see the team revert to a double-digit loss. However, maybe I am just flat out wrong, and the Washington victory will have instilled so much confidence the Beavers go on a second half run. You can definitely make that argument, and I have a twinge of hope that it's true. This is one of those situations where I'd love to eat crow. The bottom line is line is that what I wrote is all just fun, thought provoking wankery, and the fact that fans are excited about a men's basketball game for maybe the third time this season (and first in months) has to mean something. That being said, I have what you'd call tempered enthusiasm, and I'm not one to believe in "change" until I see it. The trend is your friend.