FACTS & STATS: Site: Gill Coliseum (9,604) -- Corvallis, Oregon. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Niagara0-0, Oregon State 0-0. Away Record: Niagara 0-0, Oregon State 0-0. Neutral Record: Niagara 0-0, Oregon State 0-0. Conference Record: Niagara 0-0, Oregon State 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAMES NOTES: As part of the 2K Sports Classic, the Niagara Purple Eagles will make a trip to the Pacific Northwest to square off with an Oregon State Beavers squad coming off its first 20-win season in 21 years.
The longest tenured coach in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Joe Mihalich has not had much success with the Purple Eagles in the last two seasons. Niagara is just 23-42 during that span, including last season's 14-19 effort. Youth was a major reason Niagara struggled last season as it featured the third-youngest team in the country although those youngsters weren't all too bad. That was especially true for Juan'ya Green who earned Mid-American Freshman of the Year honors.
The Pac-12 had a down season last year, with only two teams in the NCAA Tournament. The same could not be said for Oregon State, which won 20 games for the first time in more than two decades and a nice run in the College Basketball Invitational. Matching those numbers wont' be easy considering Oregon State's best player, Jared Cunningham, decided to forgo the remainder of his college career by declaring early for the NBA Draft.
This is the first meeting between these squads which are separated by more than 2,500 miles. Niagara has played nine games against current Pac-12 members and has a 4-5 record all-time in those contests.
Green is already one of the best players in the MAAC. He poured in points from all over the floor (17.7 ppg) and contributed in a multitude of other ways including on the glass (3.2 rpg) and in distribution (4.5 apg). Green isn't just an offensive threat though as he can also defend. He collected 63 steals last season but could stand to improve even more. In fact the entire team could use some improvement on defense after the Purple Eagles were lit up for 74.2 points per game last season. Another young play will be there to complement Green in Antoine Mason. As a redshirt freshman, Mason scored 14.1 points per game. Mason's efforts earned him a spot on the All-MAAC Rookie team. The double-digit scorers on the roster do not stop there with Marvin Jordan (10.4 ppg) also back in the mix. All that offense returning should keep the Purple Eagles at the same type of production they were at least season when they averaged 70.4 points per game.
There are a number of teams that lost prolific underclassmen last season to the NBA Draft, just ask Kentucky. However Cunningham's departure came as a bit of a surprise for Oregon State, as he ranked second in the conference in scoring (17.9 ppg). Finding other outlets will be vital for the Beavers, who score at a torrid pace. In fact the Beavers' 78.9 points per game was the 10th best mark in the country. Devon Collier (13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is the team's leading returning scorer and is very effective around the hoop after shooting a Pac-12 best 61.5 percent from the floor. Eric Moreland (5.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg) protects the rim and rebounds well, while Angus Brandt (9.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg) will further extend the depth and production from the frontcourt. In the backcourt, Ahmad Starks (12.1 ppg, 2.7 apg) will continue to be the main ball-handler. Starks can knock it down from just about anywhere on the floor and is a fearless three-point shooter (.371 percent). Roberto Nelson (9.3 ppg) also flirted with double digit last season.
Offense will not be in short supply in this game with both teams featuring a number of strong scorers. The Purple Eagles are at a disadvantage though with the long travel time they will be dealing with. However this game could be barometer for Green to see if he can compete beyond the smaller MAAC conference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 81, Niagara 74
11/09 10:34:51 ET
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