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Oregon State a team built on getting (and making) layups

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Oregon State's Roberto Nelson (55) celebrates with teammates Ahmad Starks (3) and Jarmal Reid (32) during the first half of their game against Purdue in the consolation round of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, in New York. Oregon State beat Purdue, 66-58.

Oregon State's Roberto Nelson (55) celebrates with teammates Ahmad Starks (3) and Jarmal Reid (32) during the first half of their game against Purdue in the consolation round of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, in New York. Oregon State beat Purdue, 66-58.

Team: Oregon State
Record: 4-1
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 62

3 Strengths

Interior defense: Oregon State boasts the 18th-tallest team according to KenPom's effective height stat, which ranks a team's average height of the center and power forward positions. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's been tough for opponents to score inside against the Beavers. Teams have made just 38 percent of their twos against OSU this year, which ranks 12th nationally. According to Hoop-Math.com, Oregon State's opponents have made just 44 percent of their layups this year (NCAA average last year was 61 percent on layups).

Shooting: Oregon State has been well above NCAA averages for both three-point shooting (36.2 percent) and two-point shooting (51.7 percent) so far this season. Part of the reason for the inside success is getting good shots, as according to Hoop-Math, a whopping 48 percent of the Beavers' shot have been layups this year (34 percent is NCAA average).

Offensive rebounding: The Beavers' size also has translated to success on the offensive glass, where it's grabbed 38.9 percent of its misses this year (43rd nationally). This deviates from a typical Craig Robinson-coached team, as in his seven years with the school, OSU has never posted an offensive rebounding percentage above 33.6 percent. Oregon State was especially dominant on the offensive boards in a 66-58 win over Purdue on Nov. 16, grabbing more offensive rebounds (19) than Purdue had defensive rebounds (18).

3 Weaknesses

Turnovers — on both ends: Oregon State has especially struggled defensively, forcing turnovers on just 15.3 percent of its opponents' possessions (334th nationally). Though OSU is a fast-paced team, it has created just 28 turnovers combined in its last three games against Alabama, Purdue and Montana State. The Beavers also have giveaway problems offensively, turning it over on 22.4 percent of their possessions (235th nationally).

Defensive rebounding: OSU's great size hasn't always translated to success on the defensive glass, as opponents have been able to pick off 33.8 percent of their missed shots (ranking OSU 208th nationally). The Beavers' last two opponents both have come away with at least 38 percent of the available offensive rebounds, with Purdue grabbing 18 and Montana State tracking down 20.

Depth: OSU's non-starters play just 26.8 percent of the minutes, which ranks 267th nationally. The Beavers have just seven players that average 10 or more minutes per game, with six of those players averaging 24 minutes or more. OSU has done a good job at avoiding foul trouble this year (just one foulout), but the short bench is something to be aware of, especially in a semi-home game for KU.

3 Players to Watch

• Six-foot-8 forward Devon Collier (No. 44) has been OSU's best all-around player this year (though strangely, he doesn't start). He's especially gifted at getting to the free throw line, drawing 8.3 fouls per game (13th nationally) while shooting almost as many free throws (37) as field goals (39). The junior from St. Anthony High School in Bronx, N.Y., is a solid free throw shooter (73 percent) and two-point shooter (54 percent) and also posts top-300 numbers in offensive rebounding and shot-blocking.

• Six-foot-7 forward Joe Burton (No. 11) will be hard to miss when he's out there because of his size (295 pounds). The senior has shown a great ability to get to the rim this year, as 34 of his 42 two-point attempts have been layups, according to Hoop-Math. Burton doesn't miss those shots either, making 68 percent of his layup attempts to help boost him into the country's top 200 in effective field-goal percentage. Burton is an interesting player in that he's a good offensive rebounder but not a great defensive rebounder; also, he boasts the best assist rate of the team's regulars, but also is extremely turnover prone, with a team-high 17 giveaways this year.

• Six-foot-10 forward Eric Moreland (No. 15) appears to be a guy that Robinson should be begging to be more aggressive. The sophomore's numbers are outstanding across the board, especially on the glass, where he grabs 22.1 percent of the available defensive rebounds (156th nationally) and 11.8 percent of the available offensive rebounds (225th nationally). He's also posted an outstanding two-point shooting percentage, making 16 of 26 twos (61.5 percent), and is a great shot-blocker, rejecting 7.5 percent of opponents' twos (107th nationally) The problem for Moreland is he's incredibly passive on the offensive end, shooting just 13.4 percent of his team's shots this year. A person that shoots that little can often turn into a liability for his teammates, as opposing teams are able to focus more of their attention on other players.

Prediction

At first glance, this seems to be a bad matchup for Oregon State, which gets 57 percent of its scoring from two-pointers (84th nationally).

While the Beavers have done a great job of avoiding blocked shots so far, they haven't taken on a center with defensive skills like Jeff Withey yet. Having a few big guys in might help divert Withey's attention a bit, but the point still remains that OSU's best source of offense (inside game) is facing the nation's third-best two-point defense and the nation's best shot-blocker.

The reason it's hard to make predictions for KU, though, is that we don't have much of an idea of which offense will show up from minute to minute, much less game to game.

OSU also will offer some challenges with its size inside, but the big number for KU will be turnovers. The Beavers can hang in and win this game if the Jayhawks have unforced giveaways against a team that should provide little-to-no defensive pressure.

Though I'm on a cold streak with score predictions, I'll go with a comfortable KU victory in a defensive struggle at Sprint.

Kansas 71, Oregon State 58

Hawk to Rock

Jeff Withey is the easy pick against Oregon State, which has had a lot of success getting layups this year. I'm sure the Beavers have seen plenty of film of the senior's 12-block performance against San Jose State on Monday, but with the volume of shots Withey's going to see inside, it's hard for me to see how he will end up with fewer than seven blocks in Friday night's game. OSU's best bet might be to see if Collier can attack him to draw a couple of early fouls, but if that doesn't happen, Withey should be in line for a big night.

Predictions tally
6-0 record, 73 points off (12.2 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Average: 4.8th in KUsports.com ratings

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