Key Losses: F David Lucas (18.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg), G J.S. Nash (9.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.0 apg)
Postseason: NIT Lost to Cal State Fullerton 85-83 in the opening round
Fort Washington, MD/New Hampton Prep
Affreville, France/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Anaheim, CA/Compton (CA) CC
Washington and Tsagarakis figure to be the two new players with the biggest impact this season. Washington, who originally signed with Minnesota, is athletic, an accurate shooter (53 percent) and is used to winning. Tsagarakis returns to active duty after missing 2004-05 with a right shoulder injury. A fearless shooter with excellent range, he set a school record for freshmen with 45 3-pointers in 2003-04 and was an energetic sparkplug off the bench. Hampton, Tarver and McGillis should play but might be a year or two away from major contributions.
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Oregon State rediscovered how to win in 2005 and advanced to the postseason for the first time in 15 seasons. Now the Beavers must keep that momentum going.
"My anticipation is this team will be better than last year's team," says coach Jay John. "But I'm also wise enough to know that you don't always know if that translates into more wins."
The Beavers are a veteran team, as eight players with significant starting experience return. They have one of the best forwards in the Pac-10 in senior Nick DeWitz, a 6-foot-8 dynamo who can finish from close and hit 3-pointers. They're deep at guard, led by whippet-quick senior Jason Fontenet. "There's a strong core of seven players who are proven Pac-10 level players," John says. "I don't know that we've been able to say that since I've been here."
However, the Beavers are unproven in the middle, as no one has yet demonstrated the ability to replace the graduated David Lucas. And they were 0-9 on the road in the Pac-10 in 2005 and 1-20 in the last 21 conference road games.
A transfer from Iowa, DeWitz was the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year and should be a cornerstone of the frontline. He averaged 14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and combined spectacular dunks with accurate (34-of-68) 3-point shooting.
Serious questions remain, however, once you get past DeWitz. Sophomore forward Sasa Cuic showed signs of brilliance early and scored in double figures in 11 of his first 13 games. But he often disappeared once conference play began as he struggled to adjust from international play to the Pac-10.
Junior center Kyle Jeffers bulked up last year and became more aggressive late in the season but remains a bit of an enigma. He averaged just 2.9 points and 2.9 rebounds.
Liam Hughes, a 7-2 project, played sparingly, as did forward Marcel Jones, an athletic 6-8 forward who has a tremendous upside. Incoming freshman Calvin Hampton should also see some minutes.
Lucas led the team in rebounding, so clearly someone must step forward and establish the inside rebounding presence that often was lacking last season.
The Beavers might have their best stable of guards since the Gary Payton era (1987-90). Fontenet gave the Beavers a dose of long-missing athleticism and super-quickness in his first year after transferring from New Mexico State. Although he sometimes played too fast and out of control, his ability to go end-to-end, break pressure and hit 3-pointers and free throws was invaluable to a program striving to shed a plodding image that turned off a dwindling fan base as well as potential recruits.
Senior point guard Lamar Hurd plays excellent defense and runs the team well, but his anemic offense and poor free throw shooting often offset those positives and made him a liability in end-game situations.
Senior shooting guard Chris Stephens led the Beavers with 48 3-pointers and is the Pac-10's leader (142) among active players.
Redshirt sophomore guard Angelo Tsagarakis also has deep range and plays with infectious enthusiasm. Tsagarakis had 45 3-pointers in 2003-04 but missed last year with a shoulder injury. "He's got to be better than when he was a freshman," John says.
A second consecutive winning season and a return to the NIT are possible, but the Beavers' first NCAA berth since 1990 is probably out of reach. The Beavers simply have too many questions to break into the Pac-10's upper echelon.
DeWitz is one of the league's best players and OSU's guard play should be strong, but the lack of an established inside presence will cause the Beavers major problems.
The non-league schedule is favorable; OSU could easily take a 9-2 or 8-3 record into league play. That would give the Beavers a sufficient margin of error for the Pac-10 season, which figures to be significantly more challenging. So for this year, anyway, OSU's hoops renaissance will again reach as far at the NIT.