As Washington State rolled through its defensive strategies for the Beavers and their Princeton-style offense, the emphasis was on communicating. Letting your teammate know what you are doing and knowing what he's doing. Coach Tony Bennett emphasized more than once that the pack wasn't going to work unless the Cougars talked. We'll see how well that lesson sunk in about 24 hours from now. On the link you can find the unedited version of my advance. Read on.
• Before we get to the advance I wanted to share a little about the group watching practice today. I looked around, did some research and figured out there were 1,988 NBA games represented by the people in Beasley Coliseum. The players, in order of NBA tenure, were Mychal Thompson, in town to watch his son play during the NBA all-star break; Craig Ehlo, who will be doing the color on Saturday's FSN broadcast; Tony Bennett; and Kyle Weaver, shooting his smile throughout practice. I'll take those four guys in a pickup game any day. ... Weaver talked a little about his life right now and couldn't stop smiling. Living the dream would probably be the right term here, even if that dream means living in Oklahoma City. ... Thompson, who does color for the Lakers broadcast team, said he was just trying his best to stay warm. In that, Aron Baynes' parents could sympathize. Remember, it's summer in Australia. ... Mike Harthun's family is in town as well.
OK, now here's our advance ...
• PULLMAN – Talk about change.
Craig Robinson has brought it to Oregon State, maybe even more than his brother-in-law, Barack Obama, has brought to the Washington that's not in the Northwest.
"Coach Robinson and his staff, they're doing a very fine job," said WSU coach Tony Bennett. "They also have some maturity and some talent. Good strength, good athleticism, guys who have played a lot of games in the Pac-10."
Robinson, in his first year replacing Jay John, has the Beavers, who have just one freshman in the their top eight, competing, something OSU didn't do often in last season's 0-18 Pac-10 season, the first winless year in conference history.
The Beavers are doing it by running Robinson's Princeton offense and using a variety of zone defenses, all of which has shortened games – and led to 10-13 overall and 4-8 Pac-10 records.
The Princeton philosophy, as developed by legendary coach Pete Carril, is a spread-court passing game that emphasizes back cuts, opening the lane by stepping the bigs away from the basket.
"It stretches us out," said WSU post Caleb Forrest, "so it gets us away from the basket and opens it up for the guards to drive in there, because they're not in danger of getting blocked. It also makes us guard bigger guys who can shoot it."
The biggest threat, literally, for the Beavers is 6-foot-11, 240-pound Roeland Schaftenaar, the junior from the Netherlands who not only is second in the team in scoring (9.3 points per game, 10.0 in Pac-10 play) but also has hit 37 percent of his 3-point attempts.
In Washington State's 61-57 overtime win in Corvallis, the Cougars harassed Schaftenaar into a 2 of 10 shooting night, holding him to five points.
"(Aron) Baynes did a really good job at times on him," said Forrest, who also drew Schaftenaar. "We know he can shoot, so it's just a matter of getting out to him.
"He's tall enough he can shoot over you, but most of the time he doesn't look to shoot if he's not open."
Which is the Beavers' biggest strength.
"They do a really good job of being patient," Forrest said, "and, when they get good shots, they take them."
If that sounds familiar, Robinson would be happy. He said after the first WSU game how much he wants his team to play at the same speed as the Cougars. One way the Beavers do that is through their 1-3-1 trap and 2-3 matchup zones.
"It slows down the game," Forrest said, "but that's not too bad because that's what we want anyways."
But not as much as a win, no matter how it comes. After Thursday's dominating 67-38 win over Oregon, the Cougars are 13-11 overall, 5-7 in Pac-10 play in their pursuit of a postseason berth.
"None of us seniors want this season to end," Forrest said. "For half of us, at least, Daven (Harmeling) and I, this will be the end of our structured basketball. So we want to keep it going."
• That's it for this evening. We will be back in the morning with links. Don't forget guys, tomorrow is the 14th of February. And you know what that means. It's a basketball Saturday. Till then …