Sunday, October 23, 2011


Before getting to the topic at hand, I want to begin by thanking everyone who purchased a copy of our unofficial guide to the 2011-12 Oakland basketball season, the Black and Gold Preview. For those who ordered last week, it should have arrived to your mailbox on Friday or Saturday. If you ordered over this weekend, expect it to arrive early this week. If you experience any trouble, please contact us.

I had very modest expectations for this project considering it is geared toward a very niche audience, but those expectations have largely been met. In fact, we're just one order shy of the sales mark we set as a goal. With that said, if you haven't ordered one yet or know someone who might be interested, please do know that you can still purchase one. Full details are available by clicking here. Even at the present mark, I couldn't be happier with the level of support. Thanks again!

Next order of business: what is happening with the blog? Well, in short, Golden Grizzlies Gameplan will cease to exist this year. However, in its place I will be launching a new website this season called Summit Madness. Thanks in part to those who purchased a Black and Gold Preview, we've got a real domain name this time, which is currently live at this moment: If you click through, you'll only see a banner and some sidebar content. It will officially "launch" on Monday, October 24. So while I'll still be analyzing Oakland hoops this year, it will be alongside analysis of the other nine teams in the Summit League as well. This is a great conference that looks as if it will be extremely competitive in 2011-12. There are tons of interesting players and teams, and with any luck, some folks might stop by Summit Madness to read our take on all things Summit League basketball.

That being said, there will no longer be any posts at this outlet. If you enjoyed the analysis offered here last season and in the Black and Gold Preview, I hope you migrate over to Summit Madness.

Thanks again for reading along over the last year!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Announcing The Black And Gold Preview!

Today marks the official beginning of the college basketball season as teams begin to practice at Midnight Madness, and with this big day comes some exciting news from this blog. Starting today you can purchase the Black and Gold Preview, an "unofficial" publication we have put together that offers a comprehensive preview of the 2011-12 Oakland men's basketball season. We are self-publishing this document as an independent, do-it-yourself initiative featuring articles with the kind of analysis you read here at Golden Grizzlies Gameplan throughout the last year.

The Black and Gold Preview features 22 pages packed full of analysis and information all about Oakland basketball. It has a slick design and was printed on high-quality paper at a print shop and features a full-color cover and black and white interior pages. To get a feel for what you will be able to hold in your hands, check out the photo below.

You can order yours at this moment for the low price of $8.99. The first shipments will go out on Tuesday, October 18. The reason for that is because if you are one of the first 20 people to order before Monday, October 17 by 11:59pm, then you will be entered in a random drawing to receive a full-color copy of the Black and Gold Preview. All other orders will feature a full-color cover, but black and white pages on the inside. In short, you have a chance to win the only full-color copy that will be made.

To help you get a further feel for what the publication is all about, check out the following content for free in PDF form:
You can order now through PayPal, the leading standard for safe and secure transactions through the web. You can use any major credit or debit card to purchase. Or you can use a PayPal account, but you DO NOT need to have a PayPal account to order. Please click the "Buy Now" button to order and follow the instructions.

Please note that we can only ship inside the United States for this flat rate. If you live outside of the U.S. and would still like to buy, please send an e-mail.

So what is inside the inaugural copy of the Black and Gold Preview?
  • Feature articles include an essay on mid-major fandom, an analytical piece on Reggie Hamilton's possible professional future, a look at the impact OU's trip to Canada could have on freshmen playing time, and more
  • Detailed look at the best games on the home schedule
  • Unique takes on all of the returning scholarship players
  • Breakdowns of every non-conference opponent
  • Complete previews of every Summit League opponent
  • Sidebar content featuring graphs and tables with data you won't find anywhere else, including playmaking ability metrics, clutch performance statistics, and raw possession data
  • And much more!
Again, all of this can be in your hands for the value price of $8.99. In an effort to be transparent, here's how we came to that price. The cost for printing, binding, shipping, packaging, and order processing makes up about 70% of the price. The remaining 30% will be used in part to reimburse the contributors who offered some of their time to make this happen. After that, any leftover amount will be used to help support a new online project for the 2011-12 season. What is that new project? Well, we've had enough new developments for one day. Come back here next Friday to find out more.

Thank you for stopping by and reading about this new endeavor. We sincerely hope you consider purchasing the Black and Gold Preview so we can make something like this happen again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

News On The Horizon

In just four short weeks college hoops fans will celebrate the beginning of a new college basketball season at Midnight Madness events around the country. The anticipation is surely growing among the Oakland faithful. The 2011-12 schedule was just released, and news about Golden Grizzlies basketball is starting to pop up more often as the season approaches. There is a lot to look forward to this year as an OU fan!

If your anticipation for the season is already high, I am hoping to add some fuel to that fire in the form of some neat news relating to this blog. Details will be posted beginning on the day of Midnight Madness: Friday, October 14. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Go Grizzlies!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Q&A with Peachtree Hoops on Keith Benson and the Atlanta Hawks

The Gameplan returns from its summer-long hiatus for a one-off post on Keith Benson and his role with the Atlanta Hawks.

Last week Keith Benson became the first ever Oakland University men's basketball player to hear his name called at the NBA Draft. The two-time Summit League Player of the Year went 48th overall to the Atlanta Hawks. He was the only pick by the Hawks organization in the 2011 NBA Draft.
To learn a bit more about the Hawks as a team and a franchise, I reached out to Peachtree Hoops of the network. Jason, a manager of the site, was kind enough to answer.

What positions were the Hawks looking to strengthen or add depth to through the draft this year? Does Keith Benson, a power forward/center, help fill a need?

Jason: They're always looking for productive front court depth, maybe a shooter at small forward or defender, and point guard help. Benson helps potentially fill those minutes in the front court, but he has to be able to continue his fine defensive rebound rate from college to fill the "productive" part.

I always hear rumblings about how Al Horford is forced to play center when he’d rather be leaned on more as a power forward. In your view, what kind of player would be the perfect complement to Al Horford in the post?

J: A legit seven footer to play center. Someone who will draw the opposition's center so that Al doesn't have to continue to try and back down and post folks who are 2-4 inches and 30-50 pounds more than he is.

(Ed. note: Well, that description doesn't really sound like Benson. It will be interesting to monitor how the Hawks approach Benson's position.)

Tell us a bit about the team chemistry of the Hawks. I remember a lot of talk during last year’s playoffs about how unreal it was that the Hawks were contending even though some had thought Larry Drew had “lost the team.” How do you think the playoff run helped this team and its view of the coach?

J: Larry Drew didn't lose the team down the stretch. They were worn out from having to play all the minutes due to the profound lack of depth after Jamal Crawford and Zaza Pachulia off the bench. Jeff Teague doesn't count because he was relegated to spot status for no good reason other than being young, from what we all could tell.

This is a team that has grown up together, but a couple of the known blind spots to their main players--like Josh Smith and his jump shots and Joe Johnson and his ball holding--are starting to wear on the team as they fail to advance past the second round.

Jeff Teague wowed a lot of folks in the playoffs, particularly in the Bulls series. He was a high draft pick, but it still took some time for him to see lengthy court time. Is it fairly uncommon for the Hawks to play rookies in anything more than garbage minutes? Or has that been more a result of the team not having too many rookies lately?

J: In this last era of Hawks players, I would say that there is no cut and dry answer here. Yes, Acie Law, Salim Stoudamire, and Jeff Teague have struggled to break through whatever roadblocks continue to confound them and provoke the coaches to keep them on the bench. Time has proven out the coaches on Stoudamire and Law, but Teague pushed through when no other options were there, and maybe something has clicked with both Larry Drew and Teague that will see Jeff get regular rotational minutes next year.

As a diehard Hawks fan, what would you like to see out of a second round draft pick like Keith Benson? What would be your realistic expectations for him over the next three seasons?

J: Understanding where the Hawks got him, all I really would like to see is for Benson to be able to:

A. Understand and execute all defensive assignments.
B. Be able to capture and maintain defensive position in order to grab defensive rebounds.
C. Any additional defensive presence like shot blocking would be great as long as it doesn't impact (B).
D. Don't be a Captain Stonehands offensively. He should finish strong around the basket.

Finally, there will be many Oakland Golden Grizzlies fans who will now have at least a passing interest in the Atlanta Hawks. Give us a couple of good reasons why we should be excited to watch the Hawks other than to see our favorite former OU baller.

J: The Hawks are a playoff caliber team with three All-Star caliber players in Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson. When they are going, they can really create a lot of exciting basketball--after all their home court, Philips Arena, isn't called "The Highlight Factory" because they show a lot of clips on the jumbotron--and if Jeff Teague gets regular minutes, he can create a lot of excitement as well.

Thanks a lot to Jason and Peachtree Hoops for helping out!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Closing Time

The 2010-11 season came to a close last Friday, and with that comes the closing of the blog for the off-season. Though the Gameplan came into existence during last year's off-season, I found it was much more enjoyable to write about and analyze actual games than hypotheticals. As such, there won't be much content here over the summer. The one exception will be if there is an NBA Summer League, especially if Will Hudson ends up with an invite. The Summer League, held in Las Vegas every summer, is one of my favorite basketball events, and it'd be a thrill to do a post or two on it if it features two former Golden Grizzlies. However, due to the potential NBA lockout, it remains to be seen if there will in fact be a Summer League in 2011.

If you read along this season, thanks a lot for stopping by. The blog was read more often than I ever expected, which perhaps shows that there are many Grizzly fans hungry for just about any coverage of their favorite basketball team. It was an honor to even be considered one such outlet.

Several conference-related posts also proved that The Summit League has some incredibly strong fanbases. It's no coincidence that the most popular posts from this season were those featuring analysis of North Dakota State and South Dakota State. It was a lot of fun to learn more about the conference this season, and several nice comments from other Summit school fans made that effort worth it.

If the blog comes back for 2011-12, it will start up on the eve of Midnight Madness. If not, it was fun while it lasted.

Thanks again to anyone who read, commented, retweeted, or e-mailed during this season. If you ever have something to say, feel free to drop me an e-mail: goldengrizzliesgameplan [at]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NCAA Tournament Preview: Oakland vs. Texas

NCAA Tournament Round of 64
(13) Oakland vs. (4) Texas
Friday, March 18, 2011 | 12:15pm EST
Watch: CBS / MMOD
Radio: 1310 WDTW / WXOU
After a week of build up that included tons of words written and expert opinions given from sources both national and local in scope, Oakland and Texas are finally on the verge of actually playing basketball. This is the moment the Golden Grizzlies have been working toward for every moment since bowing out to Pittsburgh last season. The summer workouts, fall practices, brutal non-conference slate, and conference execution were all for the chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament and make some noise while there. Even though the team's seed is better this year, its opponent might be just as tough. Texas finished second place in the Big 12 and has had the look of a national championship contender at times this season. Oakland and Texas were in the tournament last season, but both suffered exists in the Round of 64. The Grizzlies and Longhorns are hungry to change their respective fates in this year's version.

Shortly after the bracket was revealed, I put together a brief post juxtaposing Oakland's offensive efficiency stats with those of Texas' defensive efficiency. From the tables there, we could see that Oakland excels on the offensive side of the ball, particularly on its two-point baskets, while Texas' strength is on the defensive end, especially in denying two-pointers. Here, I want to take a deeper look at the Texas defense, its calling card for much of the season.

As is hopefully common knowledge by now, the Texas defense is elite. Every Longhorn player is a capable man-to-man defender, which helps explain why their defense is so good despite the fact they don't force turnovers at an alarming rate. Their guys contest shots, and they do it to the tune of allowing opposing teams to effectively shoot just 42% from the field. Due in part to this dynamic, Texas only gave up 0.879 points per possession during its league play. That figure jumps up to 0.902 points per trip when including the Big 12 Tournament. Still, it's a stellar mark. Here's a chart featuring the team's defensive points per possession through its 19 league games (green line). Offensive efficiency is also included in the blue line.
Though Texas' defensive efficiency is gaudy even at 0.902 at the season's end, we can see from the green line that it has been trending upward over the last six games or so. Because Texas was so dominant early in conference play, the collective average still looks fantastic. But let's take a closer look at the stretch run, defined as games played after February 17th. Texas' information is presented on the right side of the table, while Oakland's is included on the left for further discussion in a moment.
As the Texas column shows, the team's defensive efficiency plummeted over the last few weeks of the season. It allowed a full 0.114 more points per trip after February 17th than its season average in conference play. Offensively, the Longhorns were about the same; to see the difference, one would have to carry out the figure to the ten-thousandths. If Texas played even at its average defensive output down the stretch, it's very likely it'd be a number one seed right about now. However, the slight slip-up in the final weeks is enough to give Oakland fans a shed of hope that the Texas "D" won't be impenetrable.

Oakland's figures during this same stretch are presented as well. Because the strength of the conferences is so different, I won't attempt to make any comparisons across the team columns. But we can see that relative to Oakland's average offensive efficiency in league play, the team was performing at an even more impressive clip down the stretch. Like Texas, OU's average defensive efficiency figure benefits from some early dominance, but the squad was allowing about 0.062 more points per trip than typical during the stretch run. There is reason to be concerned in that regard, but as a glass half-full fan, I am more impressed by the fact the Golden Grizzly offense has been performing at an elite level in recent weeks. They'll need that efficiency to punch holes in the Longhorn defense on Friday afternoon.

Key Match-Up
Will Hudson/Keith Benson vs. Gary Johnson/Tristan Thompson
Will Hudson and Keith Benson have been a formidable frontcourt duo for Oakland all season, both in and out of conference. Though it is true their strength, size, and experience gave them a distinct advantage over most Summit League takers, their production generally held up well against power conference competition too. OU will need all of their combined 17.2 rebounds per game against Texas' low-post pairing of Tristan Thompson (7.6 rebs/game) and Gary Johnson (6.8 rebs/game). Thompson, like Hudson, is an offensive rebounding machine, ranking fifth in the nation in raw offensive boards with 128, just ahead of Hudson's 127. Johnson has more of a presence on the defensive glass, similar to Benson. In a game featuring two great rebounding teams, the battle on the block among these players - all with last names ending in "-son" - figures to be key.

Texas Player To Watch: Jordan Hamilton
Though Thompson and Johnson are strong rebounders, Texas' leader in that category is sophomore Jordan Hamilton who averages 7.7 per game. The 6-foot-7 guard/forward also chips in a team-high 18.6 points per game. When Hamilton is playing efficiently and locked-in on defense, Texas is a very scary squad. During some of the team's late struggles, he was taking a greater proportion of the team's shots, particularly from long-range, and when they didn't fall, Texas came up on the losing end. Against Oakland, Hamilton's greatest advantage aside from his skillset is his size. OU is not very tall at the small forward spot, but Drew Valentine and Ledrick Eackles are athletes who will try as they might to guard Texas' premier player.

Learn more about other Texas players here in a question and answer I did with's Texas blog, Burnt Orange Nation.

Oakland Player To Watch: Reggie Hamilton
Reggie Hamilton will have the fun opportunity to go up against a great Texas backcourt that features freshman stud Cory Joseph and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dogus Balbay. Oakland's Hamilton has been on some next-level stuff for much of the past two months, but he hasn't faced a guard tandem quite like this since becoming Oakland's lead ball-handler. The Golden Grizzlies will need every bit of the redshirt junior's playmaking skills in half-court situations as they attempt to maximize their possessions against the stingy defense of Texas. Most importantly, perhaps, Reggie's leadership and confidence will be an asset should the team succumb to a Texas run at some point in the game.

This will be the first game between Oakland and Texas. According to this very clever piece from, the 13-seed is 22-for-104 since 1985 in the Round of 64. The Summit League is 2-5 in such games in this time period, while Big 12 teams as 4-seeds are 3-2 against 13-seeds.

The past three tournaments have featured at least one 13-over-4 outcome, last year's coming in the form of Murray State's classic victory over Vanderbilt.

Two neat 13-over-4 situations that bode well for Oakland. In 2006, Bradley overcame another Big 12 opponent, Kansas, in the first round game held at the Palace of Auburn Hills on an Oakland University court. Furthermore, the most memorable NCAA Tournament victory for The Summit League (ex-Mid-Con) came in a 13-over-4 scenario when Valparaiso's Bryce Drew shocked the world to lead the Crusaders over Ole Miss. That game was held in Oklahoma City, just two hours away from Friday's game in Tulsa.

Though most Oakland fans will see the game tip at 12:15pm, it will actually begin in Tulsa at 11:15am due to the time zone difference. This is the earliest either team has played this season. Texas has played just one game occurring sometime during the noon hour, a 67-70 loss to Nebraska on February 19th. Oakland has played three such games: a 76-77 loss to Michigan State, a 51-69 defeat to Michigan, and an 86-78 victory over IPFW.

Pre-Game Linkage
Check out the Golden Grizzly Hoops forum where fans have been posting links and thoughts to everything they can find about Oakland and the tournament all week.

Oakland-Texas: Q&A With Burnt Orange Nation

As a part of the Gameplan's coverage of the upcoming Oakland-Texas match-up, I reached out to Peter Bean of's Burnt Orange Nation to get the scoop on the Longhorns. Though we'll both be cheering hard for our respective sides come Friday afternoon, a little blogging cooperation can go a long way toward becoming more familiar with an opponent. With that said, here's the full question and answer session with Peter. Many thanks to him for taking the time to answer.
For those who haven't seen much Texas this year, how would you broadly characterize the regular season the team put together in 2010-11? What were the high points, low points? And how do fans feel about the team heading into the tournament?

Burnt Orange Nation: Relative to expectations heading in, the season was an unqualified success. After losing three players to the NBA Draft, most of us thought this Texas squad looked like a 20-22 win team, with 9 or 10 conference wins. Instead, the Horns went 27-7 overall, finishing second in the Big 12 with a 13-3 ledger, then made the conference tournament finals before losing the rematch with Kansas.

Speaking of the Jayhawks, the high point of the season was Texas' incredible comeback win in Lawrence in which they outscored Kansas 51-28 in the second half, breaking the Jayhawks' 69-game home winning streak. The low point came in late February when the team lost three out of four to Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State, but consecutive wins over Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M appeared to right the ship heading into the tournament. Most Texas fans feel like this is a team that at its best can play its way to Houston, but we’re young and have hit some bumps down the stretch, making it hard to say for sure whether this team is ready to play consistently good basketball in March.

For the first half or so of Big 12 play, a lot of the advanced metrics writers were collectively freaking out about the incredible defensive efficiency figures Texas was putting up. Then the Nebraska game happened, and the Longhorns started to look more "normal" on the defensive end in subsequent games. What happened to bring the Texas "D" back down to earth? How do they get back to that earlier approach?

BON: Part of it is that the other teams just started hitting more shots. Simple regression. But part of it was that Jordan Hamilton went through a terrible offensive slump, and our defense suffered with our struggling offense. It's easier to get in your set defense and play great D when you're filling it up on offense. If Texas is scoring against Oakland, the defense will be there, too.

Senior Gary Johnson (11.5pts/6.8rebs), sophomore Jordan Hamilton (18.6pts/7.7rebs), and freshman Tristan Thompson (13.3pts/7.6rebs) appear to give Texas a very strong and athletic frontcourt with very balanced scoring and rebounding. What kind of teams have given them trouble on the boards this season, if at all? If they are all playing to their strengths, just how far can Texas go?

BON: Teams with real muscle inside have given Texas some trouble on the boards, but for the most part Texas has done terrific work on the boards. The Longhorns are most vulnerable when a team has more than one tall banger inside, because at 6-6 Johnson doesn’t have the length to deal with a true big.

Senior Dogus Balbay is a noted perimeter defender, but freshman Cory Joseph has also developed into a strong defender over the course of the season. Where is Joseph at in his development on both sides of the ball? Can he "change a game" with a certain aspect of his skillset? Is he further along than where Avery Bradley was last year?

BON: Joseph is one of the most polished freshman I've ever seen, and though he's had his ups and downs he's largely been one of the most consistent players on the team. He's certainly further along than Avery Bradley was offensively, and while he's a good defender, he's at this point shy of elite. He struggles at times with guards who have the size and length to take him to the post.

Which two or three guys on the Texas roster should opposing teams be aware of that do not grab the headlines as much as some of the key starters? What kind of impact can each of them have on the game?

BON: The name for Oakland to know is J'Covan Brown. He's the best "pure" basketball player on the team (it comes so naturally to him), but his head isn't always in the game and he can make some devastatingly bad plays that take him out of the game, either figuratively or literally. At his best, though? He can drop 15 in the blink of an eye and make everyone else around him better.

We know the Burnt Orange Nation is huge and very passionate. Will the BOK Center be a heavy Longhorn lean on Friday afternoon in Tulsa?

BON: If this were a football game? Sure. As is, there won't be too many fans who travel to this one. Should we make it, I’d bet we’ll have a stronger presence in Anaheim than Tulsa. Expect most of the Oklahomans to pull for your Golden Grizzlies.