Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top 3 Wins of the Non-Conference Season

Yesterday we took a look at Oakland's Top 3 Losses of the Non-Conference Season, ranking their lost to Eastern Michigan as the worst loss. Today we'll look at the brighter side of the non-con season by ranking the Top 3 Wins. The most important win in the first two months was undoubtedly the road win against IPFW, but because this was technically a conference match-up it does not apply to the criteria here.

3. Oakland at Tennessee Tech; November 23, 2009 (W, 77 - 56)
This win became Oakland's first against a Division I opponent in the non-conference season. After blowing the home opener against Eastern Michigan and then losing on the road to Wisconsin, it was imperative that the Grizzlies pick up an early-season win. This game appeared on OU's schedule because both squads were a part of the Hall of Fame Showcase, which guaranteed games at Memphis and Kansas along with one home and one road game against a mid-major. Most OU fans expected to beat the Golden Eagles, even though the game was Tech's first at home after a grueling road trip to start the season. Up until the 13-minute mark of the second half, it appeared as if this one would go down to the wire as the teams were tied at 45. But then the Grizzlies got hot and went on a 10-0 run before closing out the game with a 21-point victory, the largest on the road this season.

While Tennessee Tech has been a middling Ohio Valley Conference team the last few years, the win nonetheless came at a very important time, and it came on the road. The stellar performance from the Golden Grizzlies in the second half put to rest some of the fears we all had about their ability to close-out games. This win won't help OU's strength of schedule or RPI much, but it surely brought out many of the team's strengths when faced with a similar opponent.

2. Oakland at Seattle; December 17, 2009 (W, 77 - 68)
When looking at the OU schedule when it was first released, many deemed this a trap game. Not because anyone was expecting a freshly-minted DI school to have a solid year, but because it was on the West Coast and two days before the more sexy match versus Oregon. However, as the year wore on, SeattleU (as they call themselves) turned out to be quite a contender behind big man Charles Garcia and first-year head coach Cameron Dollar. The Redhawks beat up on a number of usually solid mid-major teams, including Weber State and Fresno State, and they even picked up a win on the road against Utah. To go along with this, Oakland would be playing SeattleU in a venue where they had won 14 straight. (Note: SeattleU plays its games at Key Arena, the same arena where the tenacious tandem of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton unfortunately ran into MJ in his prime while wearing one of the best NBA uniforms ever).

The game was close for much of its duration, but the Grizzlies managed to get Garcia into some foul trouble and got some quality minutes from Larry Wright who scored a season-high 21 points on 6/13 FG and 7/7 FT. This was Wright's second straight-game where he played like the guy we all expected him to be, but more on that later. By the time the buzzer sounded, OU had put this one away, giving the team another quality win over a mid-major opponent, some 2,000 miles away from Rochester, Michigan. We're hoping this far-away road win is a sign of things to come when the guys travel to Cedar City, Utah in February, a place they haven't won at since the 2005-2006 season.

1. Oakland v. Green Bay; December 13, 2009 (W, 76 - 52)
This was the fourth season in a row OU had scheduled a game against the Phoenix, the last two being played in Green Bay. OU had the 2-1 lead in the series, but Green Bay was on a 5-game winning streak which included a gigantic home upset against the same Wisconsin Badgers that brought down OU earlier in the season. Without one of their best players on the floor due to an injury, it looked like Oakland would have a shot to compete against the Phoenix, and boy did they ever...

After a first-half where each team traded baskets, the Grizzlies took over for much of the second. The home team was sparked by the defensive intensity of Ledrick Eackles and the first great complete performance of the season from Larry Wright, who connected on three triples on his way to a line that included 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and just 1 turnover. Keith Benson looked the best on paper behind a 23 point/18 rebound effort, and Derick Nelson had a solid complimentary night with 15/6. Overall, the team shot 50% on the night, their highest against a DI opponent this non-conference season. In sum, everything seemed to go right in this game, and it happened on a night against a hot team from a conference we aim to compete with year in and year out. While a win against a BCS school would have been nice while out-of-conference, the Green Bay win should serve as a quality benchmark for the Grizz as they head into Summit League play.

Top 3 Losses of the Non-Conference Season

The non-conference season is all but over after yesterday's loss to Syracuse. While the Golden Grizzlies have one more game left against DIII opponent Alma College, we're going to chalk that one up as a win. Rest assured, such a loss would surmount any of the losses on the list you are about to read. But we have faith that such a travesty will be avoided.

The non-conference season was one of ups and downs for OU. They played 6 teams from the Big Six, including 3 teams ranked in the top 15 at the time of each game. According to Pomeroy, the Grizzlies currently sit at 15th in the nation in non-conference Strength of Schedule, a ranking that will likely stay toward the top as the season goes on (and teams like Wisconsin and Memphis improve). With such a difficult schedule behind the team, it is time to look back at the results. We'll start by ranking the top 3 losses here and follow it up with a look at the top 3 non-conference wins later.

3. Oakland at Oregon; December 19, 2009 (L, 72 - 60)
Oakland had beat Oregon two years in a row, including last year where Jonathan Jones TOOK OVER in a stunning overtime victory in Eugene. We had their number. This was the game we'd finally knock off a BCS team. It was written.

It looked like it might actually happen as Oakland tied it at 44 at the 9:42 mark and were down by just 2 points 2 minutes later. But then Garret Sim hit his only bucket of the game, a 3 pointer, and his teammate Jamil Wilson did the same about a minute later to put the lead to 8 points. The Grizzlies could have fought back, but a questionable charge against Derick Nelson resulted in two shots for the foul, two shots for the double technical assigned to Coach Kampe, and the ball for the Ducks (where they would add 2 more points). All of a sudden, the Ducks had scored six points in what was essentially one possession, putting the Grizzlies in a hole they could not bounce back from. The guys still fought hard for the remaining 3 minutes or so, leaving Mac Court for the last time with a respectable 12-point loss. A respectable deficit means very little, though, when your team fought back to tie a game you very well could of, and should of, won. The Wisconsin loss was tough to stomach because Wisconsin wasn't predicted to be very good when OU played them, but then they went on to beat Duke and show they will be a player in the Big Ten this year. This loss hurts more then because the Ducks had proved through a month of play they were indeed nothing to write home about.

2. Oakland at Memphis; November 30, 2009 (L, 77 - 46)
Anyone who watched this game knows that it will likely go down as OU's worst performance of the 2009-2010 season. Going into the season, this looked like a winnable game as Memphis had a new coach and lost all of its big recruits. However, the Tigers got lucky when Eliot Williams, who was granted an immediate transfer from Duke, began to shine early in the season and became a key reason why Memphis nearly picked off No. 1 Kansas on a neutral court. A winnable game quickly turned into a game in which it was hoped the Grizzlies would at least stay competitive.

Compete they did not. Half-way through the first half, it appeared that the Grizzlies simply did not want to be on the court any longer. It worsened in the second half when the Tigers began capitalizing with fastbreak points (16 of them) and points off of turnovers (29 in total). OU committed 23 turnovers before it was all and done. They shot 33% from the field, a range that has become all-too-familiar this season. Finally, the Tigers held Keith Benson to 9 points, the only time this season he has failed to reach double digits in scoring. This 31-point loss, while bad, came at the hands of a formidable foe on the road. This is why the next loss was even worse...

1. Oakland v. Eastern Michigan; November 14, 2009 (L, 81 - 77)
During the 2008-2009 season, Oakland dominated the MAC. The list of victims included Toledo, Eastern Michigan, and Kent State in a post-season tournament. Winning games against MAC teams is a big positive for Oakland because the MAC, along with the Horizon League, is often considered to be more premiere than the Summit League when it comes to Midwestern mid-major hoops conferences. This stat combined with the fact the Grizzlies were receiving a lot of preseason hype and were opening up the season at home made this loss to Eastern Michigan entirely unbearable.

The three-headed monster of Jonathan Jones (23/9 assts), Derick Nelson (20/12), and Keith Benson (15/13) all had great games statistically, but it was a lack of help from the bench and poor three-point shooting (4-22) that ultimately cost the Grizzlies the game. It was a tough loss to take, especially considering the crowd was large and loud for most of the game, providing a solid home-court advantage. It comes in as our worst loss of the non-conference season, though, because it ended up being OU's only loss to a mid-major program, and an in-state mid-major at that. It is important for Oakland to win the in-state battles with the Directional schools (and Detroit if they'd ever allow it) because it helps with recruiting and increasing OU's stature in Michigan. Not only that but EMU hasn't exactly turned out to be a dominant team this season, as they've lost to two teams expected to be the class of their respective leagues, The Citadel (SoCon) and Missouri State (MVC), and got blown out by an Evan Turner-less Ohio State by 51 points in their only game against a BCS team. To makes matters worse, the EMU loss broke the school's 14-game home winning streak. Needless to say, this is OU's worst loss of the non-conference season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Welcome to The Golden Grizzlies Gameplan

As the title says, welcome to the newest blog chronicling the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies men's basketball team. We'll try our best to provide readers with quality content as the conference season gets underway. This endeavor has been in the back of our minds for a few years now, but it never came to fruition, mostly because there were always others who did a good job already. But many of those blogs have gone the way of the buffalo, so we're attempting to step-in. Hopefully you will enjoy what we have planned. Thanks for stopping by.