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 http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5386812469537892059&postID=401645719111201247said 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.