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OSU v. UCLA Preview And Where We Are

Let me begin with saying that this team still has a shot to make the Tournament and the biggest game of the year may be coming up.  In recent years when the PAC 10 sent 4 or less teams to the Tournament the worst record to get in the Tournament was 11-7 in PAC 10 play.  (Of course last year ASU went 12-6 and did not get in.)  Short of winning the tournament, I think a 11-7 record is the minimum to have a chance to make it to the big dance.  We already have two losses.  So how do we get there?

First the easy games to predict.  Considering how UW has owned better UCLA teams recently, I think it safe to say we will lose to them on the road.  I feel okay that we will not pull another Montana and can beat Cal, Stanford, OSU, OR, ASU at home.  On the road, I will give us Oregon as an easy game.  They are that terrible.  According to the Prime Ticket guys UCLA is 39-3 in the first of a PAC 10 pair the last 42 games.  I think that means it is safe to say we beat Stanford on the road on a Thursday. That gets us to 8-3.  That means we have to go 3-4 in the remaining seven games.  

The rest of the games are a bit tougher. We play Arizona on Thursday on the road and Saturday at home.  This may be a bad break for us as we could easily lose both and would probably split the other way around.  USC at home.  We had better win but considering the way USC has owned us that is objectively tough to say.  Thus to get to the minimum 11 PAC 10 wins we have to need to win three of the following four:  OSU tonight on the road, ASU on the road on a Saturday. Cal on the road on a Saturday, or WSU on the road on a Saturday.  Given our record on Saturday games,  OSU is almost a most win.  As Bruin Report Online says:

This game has now taken on the qualities of a must-win game for the Bruins if they want to be playing past the Pac-10 Tournament in March. The Bruins are looking for a little bit of mojo while OSU and Coach Craig Robinson will be looking for further growth. This game isn’t a “gimme” by any means for the Bruins and they will need to play better than they did in their past two games, both losses, if they expect to be successful on Thursday.

Again we need to do much better, that is just a minimum to have a hope.

On to the OSU game preview, remember the game starts early tonight at 5:33 Pacific time.

First check out, Ryan's interview here.  Second, instead of detailed review of the matchups, I will pull a couple highlights out of some of the reviews. 

The official report shows how we have owned OSU recently:

The Bruins have won the last 11 games by an average of 22.4 points per game (817-571), including the last five in Corvallis by an average of 16.0 points per game (350-270). Last year, the Bruins won at Oregon State 62-52 on Jan. 30, 2010.

The official reports also details Lazeric woes in the injury section:

Junior guard Lazeric Jones has a ruptured tendon in his middle finger on his right hand. He injured it in the first half in the loss to Washington and was limited in the second half (played just seven minutes and didn't attempt a shot). He started in the Bruins' loss at USC (Jan. 9) but is 0-for-10 shooting from the field in the last two games.

Speaking of the same thing, according to CBH, we once again face one the best players in the conference, this time in Jared Cuningham:

Howland, during the Pac-10 teleconference call on Tuesday, praised the progress of Oregon State under Robinson. "They’re a much improved team over where they were a year ago,’’ he said.

Howland has also taken note of the improvement of OSU sophomore G Jared Cunningham, who leads the Pac-10 in steals and has averaged 19.2 points over his last six games.

"He’s got to be one of the best players in our league,’’ said Howland.

"I saw that dunk he had against Arizona, and it was unbelievable, the athleticism.’’

Malcolm Lee will again be called to play D on him. As ESPN notes:  

Malcolm Lee has his work cut out for him: Jared Cunningham has averaged 19.2 points over the past six games.

ESPN also notes another potential troubling statistic:

Tyler Honeycutt vs. Creativity -- Tyler Honeycutt is the first to admit that, sometimes, he tries to do a bit too much. The stat sheet shows it. Honeycutt goes into Thursday's game with a team-worst 47 turnovers. The next closest player, point guard Lazeric Jones, is far behind with 30. . . .He has a nauseating 0.81 assist-to-turnover ratio. Keep an eye out for the choices he makes against Oregon State, one the nation's leaders in steals.

The Beavers rank No. 2 nationally in steals per game (10.87)

From Oregon State's website, a few miscellaneous notes:

QUICKLY: Oregon State is 2-2 to start the Pac-10 for the second consecutive season ... T ... Sophomore Jared Cunningham is averaging 19.2 points over the past six games ... Cunningham is first in the Pac-10 in steals at 3.1 per game ... Sophomore Joe Burton has made 50 percent of his shots or better in 13 of the 15 games ... Freshman Ahmad Starks has made a three-pointer in 11 of the 15 games ... Junior Kevin McShane has a career-high six rebounds against Washington ... Senior Calvin Haynes has moved into 24th on Oregon State's all-time scoring list with 1,122 points.

vs. UCLA: . . .  UCLA won the first game last season, 62-52, on Jan. 30 at Gill Coliseum. Reeves Nelson had 14 points and 12 rebounds and the Bruins used a late 12-2 run to pull away. Calvin Haynes led the Beavers with 16 points. Freshman Tyler Honeycutt had a career-high 18 points to lead UCLA to a 65-56 win on Feb. 25 at Pauley Pavilion. Haynes had 14 points and Joe Burton added 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

OFFENSIVELY: Oregon State is averaging 73.9 points per game this season after averaging 60.3 points per game last season. The Beavers have scored 80 or more points in five of their 15 games after scoring 80 or more in only one of their 32 games last season.

UCLA should once again have a front court advantage.  Malcolm Lee will again have a tough defensive assignment.  The steal angle is interesting.  Remember what Montana's Will Cherry (that nation's leader in steals) did to UCLA?

This is a game the Bruins should and must win.  But UCLA will have to keep its cool and show some maturity tonight or they will lose.  In other words, it could be nervous time. 

Go Bruins.