We love doing these Q&A's every once in a while with our blogging brethren at SB Nation, so here's one from WSU's next opponent, Oregon State. Many thanks to Andy Wooldridge at Building the Dam for his responses. You can find my A's to his Q's here.
CougCenter: This seems like another season that's failed to live up to its potential. What's gone wrong?
Building the Dam: Perimeter defense against teams willing to make multiple passes went wrong, allowing too many outside shots that were uncontested. Chalk a lot of that up to youth and the switch to more man defense than some of these kids have ever played. Oregon St.'s offense was going so well that it distracted attention from the defense for a while.
CougCenter: How do OSU fans feel about the junk defenses (such as the 1-3-1 trap) that Craig Robinson likes to throw out there? They don't seem to have worked on a consistent basis throughout his tenure.
Building the Dam: Beaver fans are ok with the zones, both 1-3-1 and 2-3. We have seen that mistakes, be they in man or zone, give up open shots and rebounds. Ultimately, a variety of defenses that keep opponents off balance probably works best, and Robinson has gone back to using them more than in the earlier part of the season because of challenges the team ran into in man defense.
CougCenter: The Cougs slowed down Jared Cunningham with a zone last time. Any chance that works again?
Building the Dam: The zone the Cougs threw at the Beavers was a surprise, and the team's overall inexperience meant it took longer than it should have to adjust. Whether it works again depends more on how the rest of the team adjusts than how Cunningham does. If everyone else stands around, or if the outside shot won't fall for Ahmad Starks, Oregon St. will struggle. But the Beavers have seen a good amount of zone since back on New Year's Eve, and should have a better idea about how to handle it this time.
CougCenter: Ahmad Starks had a big game against the Cougs in Spokane; is he the guy we should worry about as a secondary threat this time around, or is there someone else to watch out for?
Building the Dam: Starks is capable of lighting things up at any time, and so to is Roberto Nelson. But Devon Collier is the player to watch. He's the team's second leading scorer, but disappeared in Spokane. He needs to remain active away from the ball, and when he does, he's often good for about 18 points.
CougCenter: Ultimately, are the fans losing patience yet with Robinson?
Building the Dam: It was a bit of a mixed bag during the three-game conference losing streak, but more with some individual decisions than the overall direction of the program. Robinson's recruiting has been good, and that continues to provide promise going forward. The team is still young, yet is looking at a chance at some sort of postseason, with 15 wins in the books and still at least 8 games to go, and most of them at home.
I think most fans will see how the stretch run goes before deciding if the improvement this season constitutes sufficient progress, or if its time to heat up Robinson's seat. The biggest issue with Robinson, as with the team, is with consistency, and eliminating more of the bad stretches that crop up and negate a lot of positives.