If any of you have an older brother you will understand my concern.
When I was young, my older brother picked on me. A lot. He threw me around like a rag doll. “Do this, do that or I will…,” he used to say. Then followed some version of overpowering that most little brothers try not to put up with for long. I would do my best to rebel, to no avail. And each time I tried harder, each time was another beat down.
Those days are long gone, but not forgotten. Especially these days, as an Oregon State alumni and diehard fan, when the University of Oregon Ducks are now playing big brother to the Beavers. Obviously not the real family drama I used to see. A different kind. In athletic nature. For the last several years, OSU has played the role of lost upstart little brother to Oregon. And whenever the tide appears to head in the Beavers direction, their hopes get washed away.
The football season was better than last. But the stinging Texas loss in the Alamo Bowl looms over the offseason. Getting in the bowl was impressive and certainly helps with recruiting. I do wonder what a two game losing streak (one to the Ducks and the other in the season ending bowl) will do to those efforts.
The winds of change need to blow for long term staying power. I’m talking hope, not wishful thinking. Difficult times have dragged on long enough on the football side of things. And now? Well, in the basketball arena, the Ducks are distancing themselves from Beaver nation. Currently the Ducks have not lost a conference game and are 17-2 overall with a national ranking, sitting pretty at number 15.
Meanwhile, down in Corvallis, Oregon State finally won a conference game beating the Washington Huskies on Wednesday night, 74-66. Actually, in the last nine conference games (dating back to last season’s conference tournament), Washington appears to be the only team OSU can beat. After defeating the Huskies in that tournament, the Beavs had not won in Pac-12 play until the UW victory Wednesday. Starting with five straight conference losses damaged the team’s postseason chances. Standing at 11-8 overall, only a miracle (in other words, winning out) or capturing this year’s conference tournament would get them in the NCAA Tourney. Realistically, the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) would be a more feasible goal at this point.
I believe these Beavers can get to the NIT with a good run of wins. As I noted in last week’s column, this team has tremendous potential. One of the best I have seen. Clearly they need to improve defensively. In addition, they need to believe in themselves again. The Husky game might have put them over this hump. Confusion and chemistry have been major factors of late. Someone needs to take charge to make things work with everyone on the court. Ahmad Starks at the point, from what I have seen, could be more vocal. Or versatile Eric Moreland or Senior Joe Burton should establish leadership.
I would do anything to listen to Coach Craig Robinson’s pregame or halftime speeches. Reading what he says and hearing interviews, I do sense heart and passion for his team and players. While his status of President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law carries weight with many, the proof on the court is the ultimate barometer of success. Getting to the CBI (College Basketball Invitational, a smaller postseason tournament) does show achievement. But it is bigger picture time. And as I continue to beat the same drum of next level, that goes hand in hand with the goal of improvement. This means larger scale goals and reaching the NIT.
Play the cards you are dealt. Evaluate what has happened and apply what you have learned. With a third of the season left in the basketball season, a positive ending can still be in store for OSU. Put those losses behind you and concentrate on closing out the season with one win at a time. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the national spotlight on Gill Coliseum again?
No more little brother for the orange and black. A long lost tune all of us are dying to hear. And as much as I did not want to go here, baseball season is right around the corner. Until the Ducks win the College World Series back-to-back, guess who the little brother is on that field? Take that bro.