|Oregon State is off to a good start but a possible big-time knee injury to Angus Brandt hangs in the balance. (US Presswire)|
NEW YORK -- Across the board, in every facet, Craig Robinson says this is the best Oregon State team he's coached. But know: It's a line he's used before. This year, he's really pushing it, which is weighty, considering there is certainly pressure on Robinson to start producing more Ws and NCAA tournament appearances.
"It's not pressure like you think it is, it's pressure because this group of guys, I feel so close to and am so invested," Robinson said. "They have helped turn the culture of this program around. You know when you have good kids and good players and they have an opportunity to do something, the pressure on me becomes to get them to have good things happen most of the time."
If this is really his best team, then it should keep pace in a much-improved Pac-12, which had a big-time addition of a player come true Friday night. If this is really his best team, Oregon State should get to 20 wins. Not many coaches in Robinson's spot would throw a compliment like that out there, given all that could be on the line down the road (read: his job; if you've got a really good team and can't win, more and more writing develops on the wall as the season draws on).
Robinson was still pushing his team's potential in the wake of Oregon State's 66-58 win Friday night over Purdue (1-3), which was something interesting to hear because this came about 40 minutes after his starting senior center crumpled on the deck at Madison Square Garden.
We don't know the medical verdict yet -- and won't until Sunday or Monday -- but if Angus Brandt's reaction, body language and inability to move his right knee after he went down with 5:19 remaining are a sign, it's a harrowing one.
"It doesn't look good, because that kid has a high pain tolerance," Robinson said.
Now the team waits, fearing a season-ending ligament injury. In the short-term, the 3-1 Beavers play Montana State next, but that game doesn't come until Nov. 25. Ever-looking to spin a positive on anything, Robinson offered up this anecdote outside the Oregon State locker room.
"This is a terrific, well-rounded group of kids, and to give you an idea: Angus goes down -- Joe (Burton) is heartbroken," Robinson said. "They're all heartbroken in there."
Brandt's injury aside, Oregon State will fly across the country with a sense of pride based off the toughness they exhibited against the Boilermakers. Matt Painter's teams always thrive on rebounding and stuffy, physical play. OSU's coaches weren't entirely sure this group would recover from the Alabama loss less than 24 hours before and be able to take hits on the chin from the Boilermakers.
They certainly did. There were times when Robinson said he wanted his guys to feel like they had to struggle through it, to not get that breather of a timeout when they'd expect it, but have to go at Purdue for an extra two or three possessions.
"This year we have a frontcourt that takes rebounding very seriously, very purposefully," Robinson said, adding, "I'm not stressed when I come to games like I am when you don't know what you're gonna get night in and night out. I know what I'm gonna get."
If the team can rely on Devon Collier in the way he played Friday night, then it's undoubtedly going to be a good year for the Beavers. Collier came off the bench -- but played 30 minutes -- to score 27 points and snare 14 rebounds. It was the most impressive performance of the night. Purdue had no answers for him.
Best of all, Collier, who's from the Bronx, played in front of nearly 50 family members and friends.
Robinson knows he won't be able to get that from Collier on a consistent basis, but there is interchangeability on this squad, anyway. And that's going to be needed, especially if Brandt's injury comes back with the worst-case scenario.