The Oregon State Beavers picked up their first 20-win season in more than 20 years yet still weren't even close to an NCAA Tournament berth. Though they return seven of their top eight scorers, Craig Robinson's team still doesn't figure to be a real threat in the Pac-12.
Had leading scorer Jared Cunningham returned to Corvallis instead of leaving early for the 2012 NBA Draft, it might be a different story. Instead, Oregon State loses the versatile Cunningham, which thrusts Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson into the spotlight. Starks is a lightning-quick point guard though not much of a true floor general. Nelson was primarily used as the team's sixth man, but is a more than capable scorer who averaged 9.3 points in just 20.8 minutes per game.
As important as Starks and Nelson will be to the backcourt, Devon Collier will be the heartbeat of the team this season. He is an extremely efficient offensive player, but who also possesses a terrific combination of athleticism and length, which allows him to defend numerous positions due his 6-8 height. Former UTEP transfer Eric Moreland served his role in his first year with the Beavers. His biggest impact was on the glass where he led the team with 6.8 boards despite playing less than 21 minutes a night. Expanding his offensive game will do wonders for both him and Oregon State.
The Beavers return a decent 1-2 punch in the middle with Angus Brandt and Joe Burton. Brandt is more skilled with a nice mid-range game, while Burton relies on his brute force to bully opponents around inside. Daniel Gomis missed all of last season with a broken leg, but should bring a defensive presence off the bench. The younger brother of former Beaver Roeland Schaftenaar, Olaf doesn't figure to crack the rotation, but could factor in due to his ability to shoot it from deep. He was added to the roster when freshman center Maika Ostling failed to qualify academically.
There will be plenty of competition on the wing for minutes off the bench with four new faces joining the fray. Charlie Barton is the only returner, and he barely made an impact a year ago. Michael Moyer becomes eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules and should backup Starks at the point. Freshmen Victor Robbins and Langston Morris-Walker will compete for playing time at the two and three with fellow newcomer Jarmal Reid being capable of playing either forward spot.
It would be more shocking if Robinson's brother-in-law, President Barack Obama was not re-elected than the Beavers ending their 22-year NCAA Tournament drought. They have the offensive firepower to put up points, but their defensive effort must vastly improve, and their bench will have to figure itself out in the backcourt to get into the upper half of what should be a slightly improved Pac-12 Conference.
Player to Watch: Devin Collier, F
Following the team's recent trip to Spain, Robinson stated that the team "will go as Collier goes." He won't have to be a dominant scorer especially since he lacks any sort of outside shot, and Starks, Nelson, Brandt, and Burton are all able to share the load on a team that finished 10th in the nation in scoring. Collier's biggest impact will be felt on the defensive end, which has been an area Oregon State has struggled the past couple of seasons.