Monday, June 14, 2010

Oakland vs. Detroit Almost Happened

It's no secret that Oakland University's basketball schedule will feature five to six household names every year when it is released. Fans have become used to Coach Greg Kampe's scheduling philosophy, some happy with the opportunity to play big-time schools in big-time arenas, others disgruntled over the fact that these games always end in a loss. No matter how fans feel about that aspect of the non-conference schedule, many would agree that there is one team they would love to see year after year: the University of Detroit.

OU and Detroit have not met on the court for a men's game since the 2003-2004 season (a 60-76 loss at Calihan Hall). There hasn't been much in the way of an official reason as to why, but a little searching and it's easy to find out why fans from both sides believe the hiatus has occurred. No matter the case, it appeared as though the match-up would be resurrected this year with both teams fielding impressive line-ups. However, from the Washington Post, we learn the long-awaited return of OU v. Detroit has been sidelined again:
It all comes down to what coaches call self-preservation and the need to serve their own self-interests. Kampe, the Oakland coach, said his scheduling challenge is easier than most because "I don't care." After 26 seasons at the school and with strong job security, he tries to win the Summit League and schedules a who's who of power-conference teams in nonleague road games, record be damned. Next season's slate includes West Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, Purdue and Michigan State (at a neutral site).

But there are still issues. Kampe has had trouble scheduling Detroit. Finally, after Oakland center Keith Benson declared for the NBA draft, Detroit called and asked to start a series; Kampe agreed. The next week, Benson withdrew and the phone rang. It was Detroit, saying they have a scheduling conflict.

"That's the crap that happens," Kampe said.
While this report would have one believe Detroit canceled because of fear of playing a Benson-led Grizzlies team, it is impossible to prove, especially sans a statement from the Titans. Moreover, it's unfair to put the blame solely on Detroit here. The Titans clearly initiated this process, and while it is unfortunate that the game couldn't go ahead as planned, there could be a multitude of reasons why it ultimately got nixed. The least of which should be Benson, as Detroit returns double-double threat Eli Holman, a big man poised to break into All-Conference territory in the Horizon League this season. (And sadly squashes one of the match-ups we most wanted out of this season's schedule).

No, what we have here is yet another incident where two programs run into trouble when trying to plan a schedule. As the Washington Post article points out, it is incredibly tough to schedule at the mid-major level. As Oakland fans know, the result of such difficulty in this process results in a lot of guarantee games instead of matches against other quality programs at this level. Hopefully the communication which has occurred recently between Oakland and Detroit is a sign that the tides are turning in favor of a renewed series between the suburban and urban school. Such games would surely drive the competitive spirit of the respective fanbases, and perhaps the casual basketball fans of metro Detroit, too.

Aside from the Detroit news, we get further confirmation of several rumored match-ups from this article. Purdue and Michigan State have been confirmed for a few weeks now. Adding Illinois and an expected game against Michigan makes it four matches against Big 10 teams, which should do wonders for Oakland's RPI and strength of schedule considering how strong the conference is expected to be this season. Tennessee and West Virginia return solid squads coming off an Elite Eight and Final Four, respectively. While several integral pieces from those runs are gone, they should still be strong contenders and tough games for Oakland on the road. The schedule is shaping up nicely, and hopefully the finalized product will still yield a few surprises.

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