Oregon State is the next opponent for Florida State in the NCAA Tournament. I was lucky enough to have a chance to catch up with The Coach who covers the Beavers for the excellent website Building The Dam. The Coach was gracious enough to answer some questions about OSU. The questions and answers appear below.
Oregon State had its best season in school history last year winning 32 games and making the program’s first final four. How is this year’s team different from last year?
Great question. I think the best way to put it is that “for as different as they are, they’re both very similar”. While I think that that last year’s group was more ready for the moment, as if felt like that run to the Final Four had been the culmination of what they’d been building in Corvallis over their four-year careers, this year’s group almost seems like the team that forgot to believe that they weren’t supposed to be good again. Maybe it’s fair to say that this year’s team isn’t as talented across the board as last year’s roster but I think the culture put forth by head coach Scott Rueck over the past few seasons have turned this team into believing that they can make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, so long as they trust in one another along the way.
OSU has plenty of talent but Sydney Wiese is the headliner. The all-Pac 12 performer is a handful for any team. What makes her such a tough cover?
Everything. It sounds almost funny to say but Wiese is truly one of those players who does just about everything well on the court for Oregon State at just about all times. This season alone, Wiese broke the school record for career assists and the Pac-12 record for three-pointers in a season and she now ranks in the top-five on the school’s all-time scoring list. The biggest match-up issue with Wiese is that she is a long and lanky, 6’ 1” point guard, who has a great shooting touch and a super high basketball IQ. Not only can she score at will, but she also has the ability to get her teammates involved in the right spots and situations where they can also be successful on the court. When the Beavers need a big shot, Wiese is the one with the ball in her hands. When they’re struggling, Wiese is the one leading the group and making the smart decisions. It should be Florida State’s goal to try and disrupt her flow during Saturday’s game, as much as possible because Wiese truly is the “head of the snake” for the Beavers.
All eyes will obviously be on Wiese but is there another player (or two) that FSU fans should watch out for in this matchup?
The first player that comes to mind when answering this question is senior Gabby Hanson, who has been one of Oregon State’s most relied upon players all-season long. Hanson won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award this year but she’s also an underrated offensive talent, who always makes the needed hustle plays for this group. Hanson will definitely be a factor on both ends of the floor on Saturday. 6’ 5” German center Marie Gulich, the team’s second leading scorer, also comes to mind as most opposing teams really struggle with her ability to both play around-and-away from the basket. She’s one of those players who won’t dominate a game but can really put pressure on teams with undersized or thin front-courts. One last player to keep an eye on is freshman guard Mikayla Pivec, who is kind of like the Beavers’ “most interesting women in the world”. Pivec was named the “MaxPreps Female Athlete of the Year” in her senior year of high school and she’s just a ridiculous athlete who has been the Beavers’ spark-plug all-season long.
The Beavers are known for their defense. How do they usually try to disrupt the offense of other teams?
One of the things I think is most frustrating to opposing teams about the Beavers is that while they are a strong defensive team, Oregon State doesn’t necessarily stick to one particular style to disrupt other team’s offenses. Obviously, most good defense starts with the usual trio of tough on-ball pressure, closing down passing lanes and forcing opponents into contested shots but the way that the Beavers enforce this mentality is sometimes a bit unique. I guess the best way to put it is that Oregon State almost looks at each game as a completely new scouting report that can be utilized by doing things like forcing the ball out of key players hands in crucial decision-making times or maybe baiting poor shooting opposing players into taking low-percentage shots that they rarely hit. Overall though, Oregon State just simply keeps the ball in front of them, defends hard throughout the possession and usually does a solid job on the defensive glass, allowing their opponents to only take one shot on any given possession. Those things usually combine to create some of the ruthless defensive showings that the Beavers are capable of producing.
What most concerns you about this matchup and what makes you feel good about OSU’s chances?
At the moment, the biggest concern for Oregon State may be themselves, as since the NCAA Tournament began, the Beavers just haven’t looked like themselves. They say that teams need to peak in March to be successful in the big dance and so far, it looks like Oregon State’s best days may have come about a month too early. However, that type of lull in their performance could break at any moment, especially against a formidable opponent that may refocus the group, like Florida State. What makes me feel good about this team’s chances is that just as they’ve done all-season long, the second you count this group out, they always seem to pull another “rabbit out of the hat”. That type of potential breakthrough always seems to keep fans optimistic with this group.
Stockton isn’t exactly around the corner from Corvallis but it’s obviously a lot closer than Tallahassee. Do you think that Beaver fans will make the trip south for this game so that it will feel more like a home game for Oregon State?
If we’re comparing the number of Oregon State to Florida State fans that will likely be in Stockton on Saturday night, I’m sure it’s pretty safe to say that the Beavers faithful will probably outnumber the Seminoles out in California but then again, you never know. Anything can happen in March, right? Like most women’s basketball teams, Oregon State has a fairly small but much more devout following, who may make the 560-mile trek to Stockton. I’d expect the game to (at the very least) have a pro-Oregon State mentality.
Do you have a prediction for this game and is there anything else that you would like to add about what should be a very exciting game?
My prediction for the actual gameplay of this one is that it’s a back-and-forth contest for all four quarters and that the team who makes the right plays down the stretch will be the ones who eventually pull this thing out in the end. That being said, I’m gonna go with Oregon State over Florida State in a hard-fought, 74-71 game. To add another prediction (or to explain a hunch I’ve been having), I’m also believing that either forward Breanna Brown or guard Kat Tudor has a surprise performance in this one. Brown and Tudor are both California natives and despite Tudor (especially) playing limited minutes as of late, she could be extra motivated to be playing in Stockton, the same city where she attended high school.
Thanks to The Coach for answering our questions. Click here to see my answers to his questions about FSU. Florida State's Sweet 16 game with Oregon State will be on Saturday at approximately 6:30pm from Stockton, CA. Stay tuned to TN for more on the game.