At least at the start of the season, the focus for the Oregon State Beavers is on the players who aren't on the court.
Forward Eric Moreland will miss 14 games this season and forward Devon Collier will miss one for violating team rules.
Coach Craig Robinson has never given the reason for the suspensions for two of his top returning players. Moreland, the team's best defender, averaged 9.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game for the Beavers last season. Collier averaged 12.6 points and six rebounds.
Collier will be eligible to return Wednesday against Portland, and Moreland will return for the Jan. 9 home game against Stanford.
But Oregon State, which opens the season today against Coppin State in Corvallis, will see two players who have been sidelined for a considerable time with injures.
Senior center Angus Brandt missed almost all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Forward Daniel Gomis broke his leg two seasons ago and has never played in a regular season game for the Beavers.
Robinson hopes that those two players and a few key additions will help the Beavers improve on a 14-18 finish last season.
"What we're doing to get back on track is I've got a team that's got a year more of hard edge Pac-12 experience under their belt who lost a lot of really close games," Robinson said. "The way I look at it, you make three or four more defensive stops and you change half of those outcomes, you have a completely different season."
Point guard Roberto Nelson, who led the team in scoring last year with an average of 17.8 points, is expected to start in the backcourt with Challe Barton. Brandt is expected to start at center, with Collier and 6-foot-10 sophomore Olaf Schaftenaar in the mix at forward until Moreland can return.
Gomis is just happy to be healthy.
"I really thought I was done with basketball because of the injuries. I thought it was just a nightmare that would go on forever," he said.
The Beavers were picked to finish 10th in the league's preseason media poll.
Here are five things to look for this season from Oregon State.
MORELAND'S POISE — Robinson said he is pleased with how "admirably" Moreland is handling his suspension. "You can't replace an Eric Moreland. I mean, he's just a terrific player, a dynamic defender and rebounder," Robinson said. "What we have to do is we have to replace his production as a team. So I'm asking Roberto, and I'm asking Angus, and I'm asking Daniel Gomis and Jarmal Reid all to replace his production until he gets back."
NEW BIG — The Beavers are breaking in freshman center Cheikh N'diaye, a 7-footer from Dakar, Senegal. He is just the 10th player to top 7-feet in Beavers' history and first since George von Backstrom in 2000. N'diaye averaged 13.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per game as a senior at Army-Navy Academy in Carlsbad, Calif.
HOT SEAT? — Robinson, who is First Lady Michelle Obama's brother, is 78-89 as head coach of the Beavers as he enters his sixth season. He has four years left on his contract worth a total of $5.2 million. But some say that it is time for Oregon State to take a significant step forward.
NEW DIGS — The Beavers are working out of a new four-story basketball practice and training facility, which includes two courts, locker rooms, a players' lounge and the men's and women's basketball staff offices. The $15 million facility is located next to Oregon State's new Sports Performance Center, the athletic department's new state-of-the-art weight room.
GARY PAYTON — The best basketball player in Oregon State's history was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year. He joins former Oregon State coaching greats Amory "Slats" Gill and Ralph Miller in the hall. Payton led the Beavers to three NCAA tournament appearances and set school records for points (2,172), assists (938) and steals (321) before going on to an 18-year career in the NBA.