Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Keeping Tabs On: Johnathon Jones, Derick Nelson, & Dan Waterstradt

With the end of September comes the beginning of the season for many of Europe's basketball leagues. Three players who have suited up for the Golden Grizzlies within the past two years will be playing for overseas teams this year. In an attempt to highlight these former players, we've provided some basic information that should help the curious Oakland fan keep tabs on these players - Johnathon Jones, Derick Nelson, and Dan Waterstradt - in 2010-11.

Johnathon Jones
Country: Slovakia
Team: MBK Rieker Komarno

JJ will be leading the point guard position for Komarno this season. In fact, the team has already played one game, a win in which the former Oakland point guard played 40 minutes while dishing out 7 assists. While Jones was wearing the number 10 in this video of him knocking down a three-pointer, his official photo (shown above) advertises him with the familiar #23. To follow JJ's stats throughout the season, click here. The Slovakian Eurobasket page is also a great resource for actual words that are sure to be written about Komarno this season by writer Tomas Kottra, the man responsible for keeping us in the loop here at the Gameplan (and also much of this neat digital content).

Update: Check out this site to see some highlights of one of JJ's recent games. His team lost by one point in the final seconds, and at the 1:18 mark of the video you can actually see Jones taking the final desperation shot to try and win the game. Something about that shot brings back memories of his shot against NDSU after Ben Woodside's dagger. Sigh.

Derick Nelson
Country: Finland
Team: Kouvot Kouvola

Nelson's team has already played two games this season, and there's no doubt the former Oakland forward had a bigger impact in the first. He played 30 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing 8 boards for his squad. Coverage of his league is a bit more difficult to track down (at least in English), but if you want to keep up with Derick's stats, be sure to check out his Eurobasket page periodically throughout the season.

Dan Waterstradt
Country: Romania
Team: CS Municipal Bucuresti

Waterstradt appears to have spent time with two different teams in Romania last season, but he will return to Bucuresti this year, which is the same team that he was with at the end of 2009-10. Dan posted some strong averages with the club last season, so hopefully he will continue to provide results in Romania to further his professional career. There are a few highlight videos featuring the former Oakland center, but the one below takes the cake. Good to see the international game has given Waterstradt the ability to take the outside shot at-will.

We wish these guys the best of luck as they begin or continue their journeys as professional basketball players. It must surely get tough living in a foreign country away from family and friends, but hopefully these guys are using it as an opportunity to grow both as basketball players and individuals. After all, getting paid to play ball is not such a bad first gig straight out of college.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Trickle Down Effect Of Conference Realignment

This past summer was partly the summer of conference realignment, though most of the schools making moves were those of the BCS persuasion. While such moves did not necessarily have much of an impact on mid-major basketball, there were some recent changes that could have a trickle down effect on The Summit League. This is all concentrated on the west coast, where the Western Athletic Conference was poached by the Mountain West Conference. Now facing a need to fill out its membership ranks, the WAC will look at a number of schools to potentially invite for future seasons. To illustrate how this could impact The Summit League:

No disrespect meant to Southern Utah by such a scenario, but at this point it is my belief that the benefits the program brings to The Summit League do not outweigh the drawbacks.

  • Tenth member in a time of financial instability with many smaller programs
  • The State of Utah typically supports basketball quite well
  • Not a geographic fit within the conference
  • Travel to and from SUU is long and costly for conference opponents
  • No true travel partner for conference games
Add to this equation the fact that SUU has been losing more games in recent years, and you have a situation that is not mutually beneficial. While the program has found success in this conference in the past, there is no doubt they'd be more successful in a conference where road games were not cross-country trips and home games were against teams people in Utah might actually recognize. If a spot opens up in the Big Sky, there is no certainty that Southern Utah would get the invite, but it sure would make a lot of sense. The Thunderbirds would drastically decrease their travel time and have the ability to develop a natural rivalry with Weber State. It's a win-win.

For those concerned about stability in The Summit League, look no further than the University of North Dakota. It seems inevitable that the school will join the conference, especially considering the fact that the University of South Dakota arrives for the 2011-12 season. The two Dakota State schools have thus far provided the conference with competitive teams and diehard fanbases; there's no reason to think USD and then UND could not provide the same. While UND could experience some growing pains since it is relatively new to Division I, it's likely the program would be able to at least match SUU's level of play in recent years. Truly, everybody wins in this scenario. Now to see how the dominoes fall.

- WAC meeting information from "Pioneers Aim to Impress WAC Officials" on

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Value Of A T-Shirt

One of the most prominent features of any big-time college town is university apparel. No matter where your eye lands, you are very likely to see a person donning the school colors in some way, shape, or form. As a result of this phenomenon, we often say that these universities have incredibly high levels of spirit and tradition. After all, if you visit Ann Arbor and all you see is maize and blue, the rational assumption would be that people in this particular city must love the University of Michigan. The same could be said of any town with a major university within its boundaries.

Much of this spirit is generated from a university's sports teams. After all, when we think of the best college towns, typically the schools in those towns also field major sports programs, particularly in football and basketball. Consequently, visit any of those towns and you will certainly find there is no shortage of "University Name" t-shirts there; in fact, you may feel bombarded by all of the logos and same-colored apparel walking your way. The common argument for this is that there is a certain pride that one feels when sporting university colors, even if everyone else is doing it as well.

While I acknowledge that spirit is a big factor in this apparel equation, I do believe there are other reasons why the major schools have such higher levels of outfitting participation than your average commuter school in a suburban community. The main reason simply comes down to availability of the garments in question. Aside from the university bookstore, students and others at major schools can find university apparel at any number of stores. Typically, a single college town will have small mom and pop stores that sell discounted t-shirts, a separate bookstore with no ties to the school that can sell at cheaper rates, and major retailers (such as Target, K-Mart, Meijer, etc) that will carry boatloads of college merchandise at a bargain. Naturally, the likelihood that one will be able to find a value piece of university apparel is quite high; therefore, not only are the students sufficiently swagged, but parents can afford to take a t-shirt or two to back to the hometown to proudly support their child's academic endeavor. This discussion doesn't even account for the tons of people with no connection to the school who purchase these items because they are a fan of the football or basketball team, usually based on nothing but geography or family-rooting traditions. In sum, it's relatively simple and inexpensive for people to "get their gear on."

At Oakland University, there is no such luxury. Some retailers in and immediately around Rochester have started to stock a limited selection of OU apparel in recent years, but the choices are truly limited. Students and others are then left to purchase their clothing at the university bookstore, where prices are considerably high. The Textbook Outlet across from the campus offers some apparel, but it's prices are in the same vein as the on-campus shop. While Oakland does have a tendency to give away many free t-shirts every year, this tactic is just a small drop in a bucket, especially when one considers the high incidence of "wearing other schools clothing" that occurs on the Oakland campus. Once more apparel is available to students at discounted rates, perhaps parents and family friends will then be more likely to pitch in as well. Black and gold are glorious colors.

I'm not a marketing expert, nor do I have a depth of knowledge on how universities go about licensing their products to others. I imagine most fans are in the same boat, which prompts the question, "What can I, the average fan, do to help out in this regard?" For starters, we can raise the question to the appropriate folks. Next time you go into a Meijer or Target, ask them why there isn't an Oakland Golden Grizzlies section next to the Wolverine and Spartan gear. It should start out in the most important counties, Oakland and Macomb, and then extend to others. For example, I was shopping recently at a mall in Genesee County when I went into a college sports store that was mostly painted with green/white and maize/blue. However, the store did have a rack or two dedicated to some of the state's other schools, most notably Western and Central Michigan as well as Saginaw Valley State and Grand Valley State. Oakland was missing, despite being less than an hour's drive from this location. I casually brought up the lack of Golden Grizzlies goods to the store manager, who was kind in replying that their stock of merchandise is always changing so they could have Oakland in the future. On a return visit a month later, the store had a few Oakland U items on the discount rack with t-shirts ranging from $4.99 to $9.99. While I'll never be sure exactly how they got there, I'm glad I at least posed the question on my first visit.

These are the kinds of small steps the university needs to make if it's to plant itself firmly in the region and outside of it. We've written before about the need to develop lifelong Oakland U fans out of current students, and a big part of feeling that connection is to actually make it a part of oneself via clothing. In twenty years, that ratty OU shirt you use for pick-up games or to lounge around in might bring back fond memories of the glory days in Rochester. Or even more immediately, if a dad or mom or grandparent wears a shirt or hoody back at home, it may prompt them to become more involved with the university, even if by simply attending a home basketball game. Whatever the case, the value of a simple t-shirt extends far beyond the price tag. But in today's reality, the price tag does matter, especially for the cash-strapped student, and it'd become a lot easier for students to show their affection for Oakland if the merchandise were more widely available. Rochester may never be a bustling college town, but there's no reason it can't overflow with the same sense of university pride and spirit as the traditional powers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Importance Of Signage For The O'Rena

Last summer I had the opportunity to check out many college basketball arenas while on an extended road trip of the Midwest and East Coast. Even though there were no games being played at the time, I made a point of checking out the various arenas, whether it was for the storied traditions of The Palestra in Philadelphia or simply the mammoth size of Syracuse's Carrier Dome. As a fan and graduate of a mid-major school, it was also interesting to think about the differences between these places and the arena where I have most frequented games: the O'Rena at Oakland. Aside from the typical things we think about in comparing and contrasting mid-major to high-major arenas (as in...size), what struck me most about the larger places was the signage. Almost every school had large signs or billboards indicating the arena as "the home of the ____." Sadly, Oakland University has no such indicators.

Signage has to be done tastefully and in a manner that is appropriate for the particular school. For example, a gaudy electronic sign like those one sees on I-75 for The Palace of Auburn Hills would not work for the O'Rena. In my limited travels, the best university arena signage I have encountered was at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center. The arena itself is rather imposing, sitting at the top of one of the city's steep hills, with what seems like thousands of stairs to climb to reach the entrance from street level (and vaguely similar to those at Joe Louis Arena). The inside concourse is set inside a glass atrium, and it is nothing short of visually stunning and entirely modern. With all the glass and stairs making up the facade of the Petersen Events Center, the university opted to put its signage on bricks nearer to the street level. The lettering is classy and fitting of a university structure which still acknowledging the fact that some high-level hoops action goes on inside. In a sense, it's perfect.

Since I saw the front entrance to the Petersen Events Center, I have been unable to get that lettering off my mind, especially when I go to an Oakland home game. It is always a pleasure to see a flood of people entering the on-campus arena, but it never truly feels like we're entering a place where basketball is about to be played. For that reason and more, I believe that the O'Rena could benefit from some subtle signage in the same vein as the one showcased at Pitt. Presently, the front of the O'Rena is hard to distinguish from any other academic building, mainly because its facade is fairly unassuming. Additionally, folks who pass by may confuse it for the Recreation Center because of how it connects to the O'Rena and due to fact that the Rec Center's entrance is much more alluring.

There is already room available for the fresh signange on the existing structure. As I attempted to picture below, there is a rather large area of brick located above the stairs to the doors of the O'Rena. I have seen banners in this spot before, though they always look a bit tacky. Instead, some resources could be allocated toward the purchase of classy lettering like that at Petersen. Just imagine the phrase "Athletics Center O'Rena...Home of the Golden Grizzlies" attached to those bricks (or some other variation). Not only would it serve the practical purpose of identifying the building, but it would further aid in providing spectators and students with a stronger sense of pride in the program.

Certainly in today's tough economic climate, it may be difficult to justify spending money on what essentially comes down to an aesthetic addition (plus, there is already a smaller sign near the road, as is the case with every other building at OU). I understand that and realize it is a long shot. However, if there is an alumnus out there looking for a pet donation project to take on at Oakland, I would strongly urge looking into what can be done about increasing the O'Rena's curb appeal. A few letters on the outside bricks would surely accomplish the goal of making Oakland University basketball's facility more like a basketball home.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Summit League Schedule Scrutinization: Western Illinois

For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.

Western Illinois University

General Theme: Jim Molinari enters his third season with the rebuilding Western Illinois program. His schedule for 2010-11 reflects the fact that he's still rebuilding, despite showing progress in each of his seasons with the Leathernecks. He has an all-conference performer coming back in Ceola Clark as well as several other players who should make further progress. With only one true freshman on the whole roster, one might have expected Molinari to come out with a tougher schedule, yet instead we find the team with three regular season games against non-Division I opponents and a few others against those just making the transition.

Travel At A Glance: The WIU team will actually travel internationally this season, to Cancun, Mexico for the Cancun Challenge. There they'll play Morgan State and either North Florida or Prairie View A&M. Morgan State will be a test for WIU, coming off of two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The other positive aspect from this challenge is the fact the Leathernecks get two games against Missouri and Wyoming at their places. Missouri will be a loss, but Wyoming is an interesting match-up considering their recent history as a lackluster program. Outside of Mexico and Wyoming, most of the team's road games are concentrated in the Midwest.

Easiest Game: Three games against teams outside of Division I should mean three guaranteed wins for the Leathernecks. That's probably one too many by our standards, but we can't blame the coach for wanting to give his guys a chance to play at home, since very few other teams seem willing to make a trip to Macomb, Illinois.

Toughest Game: Missouri will be one heck of a battle for Western Illinois, especially early in the season when the team will not have played any schools of that caliber. The match-up with Creighton in Omaha will be difficult as well, even with a new coach leading the Bluejays.

Most Likely Upset: Wyoming. Even though the team plays in the Mountain West, they were the conference doormat last year. I figure Ceola Clark is good for at least one game where his defense and increasing offensive role due the departure of David Nurse will lead the Leathernecks to an improbable victory.

Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: From November 18th through November 24th, Western Illinois will log a ton of travel time between Wyoming, Missouri, and Cancun. It'll be difficult for the team to come out of that trip with a win.

Most Challenging Conference Stretch: If WIU wants to make any noise this year, it'll have to come during conference play. With this program, there are no guarantees; every game will be a test.

Best Individual Match-Up: Ceola Clark flew under my radar for much of last season, and after doing some more digging on him, I must say I am very excited to watch him in what will be his junior season. As a sophomore, he averaged 14.2 points, 5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.7 steals, and shot 47% from the field. That line is absolutely crazy, and he did it while winning Summit League Defensive Player of the Year. I'm looking forward to watching him lockdown opposing guards all season long.

Most Anticipated Home Game: If you're a Leatherneck fan, you're probably just glad to have home games, period. We all struggle at this level to secure marquee home matches, but it looks like WIU was hit hardest this season. When we interviewed the school's student section leader, he cited Oral Roberts and UMKC as two of the favorite opponents to taunt. Fortunately, these schools have no choice but to visit Macomb once a year.

Concluding Thoughts: Heading into the season, I have the expectation that Western Illinois will be a lock to make the field of eight for the conference tournament. This wasn't always true in the past, but Coach Molinari has shown a commitment to the school to make it a winner. This schedule should guarantee more wins, but at what cost? I sincerely hope there are enough challenging games in the non-conference to prepare them for conference competition, otherwise the momentum they had in February of last year will be all but halted.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Most Anticipated Match-Ups For Keith Benson in 2010-11

Earlier this summer, we took a look at some teams with solid centers who would provide quality competition for Keith Benson as he enters his last season with Oakland. Now that the schedule has been released, we can point to some games where Benson will go toe-to-toe with some of the nation's better big men. These games, primarily in the non-conference schedule, are important because they provide NBA scouts with a better idea of how the redshirt senior stacks up against high-major athletes. Benson played well in similar games last season, including standout performances against Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee. The following list will provide some background information on a few of the paint guardians he'll have the chance to stand up against this season, ordered by game date.

Kevin Jones - 6'8"/260 and Deniz Kilicli - 6'9"/270
@ West Virginia on Saturday, November 13
Neither of these guys are true centers, but they are likely to spend some time guarding Keith Benson when Oakland visits Morgantown. Jones will be the featured player for the Mountaineers this season, filling the void left by DaSean Butler and Devin Ebanks. He's a long, athletic forward who averaged 13 and 7 as the third-option last season. Oakland doesn't really have any long forwards to match-up with him, so it's not unreasonable to expect Benson to spend some time on him. Jones is a complete player and would be a fine test for Benson. Kilicli didn't suit up for WVU until February last season, and he was largely unimpressive when he did play. This season, he looks to improve by spending more time on the court, and his first test will likely be against some combination of Benson and Will Hudson.

JaJuan Johnson - 6'10"/221
@ Purdue on Sunday, November 21
This is the match-up of the year for Benson, and the only reason it's not for Johnson is because he plays a majority of his games in the Big Ten. Johnson is coming off a summer in which he made the USA Basketball Men's Select Team, or in simpler terms, he played the part of scrimmage fodder for the NBA guys on USA Basketball. He will be playing incredibly focused this season, attempting to lead the Boilermakers to a national championship while improving his draft stock. The scouts should be out in numbers for this game as both Benson and Johnson are predicted to be second-rounders heading into the season. Their games are similar, predicated on their length and shot-blocking ability, with a growing array of post moves and a need to get stronger and showcase more of their respective mid-range games. The personnel match-ups for Oakland are unfavorable at other positions, so watch this game to see two of the nation's top senior big men square off.

Mike Tisdale - 7'1"/250
@ Illinois on Wednesday, December 8
Tisdale has improved in each of his three seasons for Illinois, ending his junior campaign with respectable averages of 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. He, like Johnson, was invited to play for the Men's Select Team which gives him valuable experience against NBA players with NBA bodies. Tisdale has always been rather frail, but according to this coach he's added 30 pounds this summer. He has a solid shooting stroke which could present match-up troubles. In the paint, however, Benson clearly has the advantage as he is more athletic and stronger. It would provide the Oakland center the opportunity to really get some work done against a high-major talent. Come December, Benson may also have to deal with freshman Meyers Leonard, a 7-foot center who comes to Illinois as one of the most touted centers in his class. (Also look out for: 6'9"/225 pound senior forward Mike Davis.)

Draymond Green 6'6"/235 and Derrick Nix 6'8"/280
Michigan State at The Palace on Saturday, December 11
It's somewhat difficult to pinpoint match-ups for Michigan State since sometimes it seems like the whole team consists of athletic forwards and Kalin Lucas. Draymond Green is the team's chief rebounder and workhorse in the paint despite his lack of height. He's physical, for sure, and will likely find himself guarded by a few different Oakland defenders, including Benson. Nix didn't do much for the Spartans last season, despite starting in a number of games. Perhaps he will come along some more this season, especially if he's in better shape. Either way, both of these guys - and the rest of the seemingly dozens of forwards on this team - will provide Benson with a chance to compete against legitimate high-major talent.

Jared Sullinger 6'8"/250 pounds
@ Ohio State on Thursday, December 23
Heading into the season, we don't know much about Jared Sullinger, the collegiate basketball player, since he's just entering his first (and likely only) year for Ohio State. With that said, he's about as highly-touted a recruit as they come. While Benson has some height on Sullinger, the young player has a big body which should be getting used to the physical play of the college game by the time December 23rd rolls around. By all acounts, the Columbus-native is as ready to make an immediate impact as any other freshman in the country. While he may not be as tall as DeMarcus Cousins, many in hoops circles are expecting him to make that kind of impact for the Buckeyes. He's already projected as a top-five pick in 2011's NBA Draft, meaning the NBA scouts will definitely be watching this game closely. Keith Benson will have the opportunity to show off his wisdom, experience, and talent over Sullinger in a game that could have a major impact on his draft standing come the end of the season. (Also look out for: 6'8"/255 pound senior forward Dallas Lauderdale.)

So there you have it, five different games where Benson will play opposite some of the nation's better big men. Credit Coach Kampe and his staff for scheduling some of these games where the Oakland center has a chance to really prove himself beyond what he did last year. There will be other games where he'll be tested, no doubt, but these should be considered the most challenging match-ups. Play great here, and Benson will continue to increase his chances of hearing his name called in next June's NBA Draft.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top 5 Home Games Of 2010-11 For The Uninitiated Oakland Fan

With the release of the Oakland University men's basketball schedule comes much excitement surrounding the home games. Thus far, we've already given you a game-by-game breakdown of the schedule as well as a handy road game travel guide, but today's focus is all about the easiest matches to attend: the home games. I was a student once, and some of the most lasting memories I have of my time in Rochester are of attending basketball games with friends. In fact, it is something I wish I would have discovered earlier in my undergraduate career because it provided something fun and exciting to do, especially during the colder months of the winter semester. For the casual basketball fan or someone just discovering their OU spirit, it may prove difficult to attend every single home game. With classes and work and breaks in the way, this is an understandable position to be in. For that reason, I've put together a list of the top five home games which the uninitiated Oakland fan should pencil permanently marker in on their calenders.

#1. OU vs. Oral Roberts / Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 7:00pm
Despite its location in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts is Oakland's biggest rival. The two schools have battled for conference supremacy over the last half-decade or so, including many great conference tournament championship games that have gone both ways. The OU-ORU game at the O'Rena is usually the biggest draw of the year; in fact, last season saw the Grizz Gang student section expand into the bleachers; it was truly a remarkable experience. Adding to the fire is the fact that Oakland and Oral Roberts both have extremely talented teams heading into this season and should battle for top honors in The Summit League. For students, this is the most important game to attend and will likely provoke your Grizzly spirit enough to have you returning for every other game of the season (or your four-years at OU!)

#2. OU vs. Michigan State (@ The Palace) / Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 12:30pm
At first glance, new fans may wonder how this qualifies as a home game. In recent years, Oakland has utilized the appeal and size of The Palace as a means of getting high-major schools to come to Oakland County for games. The Palace would qualify as a neutral site, yet the attendance figures are attributed to Oakland U for its "home game" totals. Technically, MSU has such a large fanbase that The Palace will be more green and white than black and gold. However, it is an extremely fun time for Oakland students and a chance to see the Grizzlies take on a perennial contender for the national title. Historically, the game has been free with a student ID or very little cost, and the school has provided transportation while the Grizz Gang has distributed pizza and pop beforehand. Two years ago, the Alumni Association opened up the swanky Ameriprise Club for students to eat free food before the MSU-OU game. Even without all of the extras, it is still a rather big deal to cheer on the Grizzlies inside an NBA arena. Make sure to be there even though the semester will have just freshly ended.

#3. OU vs. IUPUI / Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 7:30pm
Though IUPUI may sound like a goofy name for a university, the Jaguars are no joke in The Summit League. While you may not have heard of them before, they have been a very consistent program at this level and always play hard against the Golden Grizzlies. IUPUI usually has one player worth watching, and that guy will be Alex Young this season. In the past, current NBA baller George Hill and former star Robert Glenn have come to the O'Rena hoping to lead IUPUI to victory, yet every time it seems the Grizzlies pull away with a win. Young will try again this season, but the Grizzlies will match-up well. This game occurs two days after classes begin for the winter semester, so students will not be bogged down with assignments quite yet. This game will be meaningful and fun, and IUPUI always provides much fodder for taunting.

#4. OU vs. South Dakota State / Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 6:00pm
Aside from standing out as the last home game of the season, it will also mark OU's Senior Night. This is a tradition which occurs across college campuses, a night where coaches, players, and fans come together to congratulate and honor graduating seniors. If you are a casual basketball fan, you might hear more about all the people leaving college early than those sticking around to earn a degree. At Oakland, leaving early is extremely uncommon; as a result, fans get to know these players very well over a four-year span. The ceremonies usually take place before and after the game, so be sure to get there early and stay a little late. While you will have only known these players for a season, it's still important to attend. This year will see the departure of two four-year players in Will Hudson and Keith Benson, as well as two-year starter Larry Wright. Wright will have spent a total of three years at Oakland, one sitting out because he transferred from St. Johns. He looks to have a promising senior season and should be honored as a high-major talent who helped the Grizzlies in many ways. Will Hudson has been as solid a player and teammate as one could ask for. He has been incredibly consistent for the Grizzlies over his time here and an all-around approachable, friendly guy. He looks to leave Oakland with a memorable senior season. Finally, Keith Benson may go down as one of the most important players in school history. He has a legitimate shot to make the NBA, and opted to stay at Oakland one more year despite earning his degree already. It will be a pleasure to hear Coach Kampe send these guys off at the O'Rena.

#5. OU vs. Valpo/Eastern Michigan / Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at TBA
This game will be happening as a part of the Lou Henson Tournament at the O'Rena. It is a very unique thing for Oakland to be hosting an event like this, as it involves four teams playing in a tournament format over the course of two days. The game takes place smack in the middle of the winter break, but fans should take advantage of the opportunity to see some quality basketball with their time off. Eastern Michigan beat Oakland at home last season in the team's season-opener; it would be great to see the Grizzlies avenge that. Likewise, Valparaiso used to be one of Oakland U's conference rivals before moving for the greener pastures of the Horizon League. There is a bit of history between the two schools, and this provides new fans with the chance to relive some of those glory days.

Most of all, remember that all of these games are free for students by showing their student ID. We'd absolutely encourage you all to attend every game, though if you have to choose, this post provides you with a solid starting point. Good luck finding your way to games this season. They won't let you down!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Oakland Fan's 2010-11 Non-Conference Travel Guide

Over the past decade or so, Coach Greg Kampe has developed a rather clear-cut scheduling philosophy which emphasizes tough games against high-major teams on the road during the non-conference slate. One of the primary reasons for this approach is that it prepares the team for battle during the league schedule - the one that matters for Oakland - while also giving players the opportunity to play at historic arenas in front of large audiences while spreading the Golden Grizzlies identity in the process. In the last few years, OU has traveled all over the country to play the big programs, something that has been great for the team's RPI and name-recognition but has made it difficult for fans to make road trips. Fortunately, with the release of the 2010-11 schedule, Coach Kampe has what may be his most travel-friendly schedule ever.

When taking a look at the non-conference opponents, particularly the road games, it is clear that Oakland has a very favorable travel schedule. There are no cross-country trips from Oregon to New York, or brief stops in the heart of the Midwest. Instead, what we have are a whole bunch of games played in states surrounding Michigan or just outside the region. It's quite beautiful, actually, and the games are so close together that the image above could be confused for a map of fellow league members. However, as we all know, this is not the case; in fact, Oakland will spend more time traveling within the conference schedule than outside of it. Now that's something to wrap your head around!

Coach Kampe and his staff should be commended for piecing together such a great non-conference schedule. It will save the program money on its travel budget, give the team further exposure in this region, and - perhaps most important for us fans - give the Golden Grizzly faithful many opportunities to check out the team on the road. One of the chief goals of this blog is to do what we can to inspire a sense community amongst the fans, and a great way of showing support for one's school/alma mater is by showing up on the road. For this reason, we have put together a travel guide of sorts for all of the non-conference road games in an effort to give Oakland fans a reason to fill up the tank and hit the road in support of the Grizzlies this fall.

Opponent: West Virginia Mountaineers
Date: November 12, 2010
City: Morgantown, West Virginia
Distance from Rochester: 380 miles, 6 hours and 30 minutes
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: Middle-to-end of October, 2010

Why? First and foremost, it's on a Friday night so work should not interfere with any travel plans for the weekend. If you are an employed fan/alumnus, consider it a weekend getaway. West Virginia is a beautiful state and not the worst place to spend a weekend. If you are a student, you'll likely spend your Friday afternoon sleeping or avoiding homework, so why not get together with a few friends and make the drive to Morgantown? You can stop in Cleveland or Pittsburgh on the way down (or back) if you are looking for a big-city thrill, or just enjoy Morgantown for the college town that it is.

The Kicker: Bob Huggins may be the only coach who dresses more casually on the sidelines than Coach Kampe. The chance to see these two dudes coach opposite each other is golden.

Opponent: Ohio Bobcats
Date: November 15, 2010
City: Athens, Ohio
Distance from Rochester: 300 miles, 5 hours and 15 minutes
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: September 15, 2010

Why? It's a boring drive, and I hear one of the reasons that Ohio University is the fifth best party school in the country is because there is literally nothing else to do in Athens but drink. Even with that said, the ten-hour roundtrip isn't impossible, especially if done with a group of people. The ticket prices are likely to be more reasonable than any other road game this season, and Oakland has a great shot to win this game.

The Kicker: This is a battle for mid-major "OU" supremacy. Oakland U will need every last cheering fan it can get in order to help drown out the Ohio U impostors.

Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers
Date: November 21, 2010
City: West Lafayette, Indiana
Distance from Rochester: 325 miles, 5 hours and 30 minutes
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: November 1, 2010

Why? The game is on a Sunday, so it's possible to stretch the visit out so all the driving doesn't have to be done in one day and night. Plus, in the grand scheme of your life, what's a 5 and a half hour drive to support your team? Purdue will likely be in the Final Four this season, or at least legitimately contend for a spot, so it would be a great chance to see the team play. They've also got a rockin' student section, The Paint Crew, that would be interesting to see.

The Kicker: This one is about black and gold supremacy. Purdue may make the Final Four, but with a decent cheering section, Oakland could be remembered as the team that first game them fits.

Opponent: Wright State Raiders
Date: November 23, 2010
City: Dayton, Ohio
Distance from Rochester: 235 miles, 4 hours and 10 minutes
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: October 4, 2010 at 10:00am

Why? This game takes place just a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, so for students there shouldn't be too much to worry about in terms of classes getting in the way. For others, it's only about 4 hours to Dayton, so a half-day of work is still possible before making the trip to the Nutter Center and back.

The Kicker: Wright State is an upper-echelon team in the Horizon League which plays in a great college basketball city. So there's no doubt Oakland fans could glean a lot from a visit to Dayton.

Opponent: Southern / Austin Peay or Charleston Southern
Date: November 26-27, 2010
City: Hoffman Estates, Illinois (Chicago Invitational)
Distance from Rochester: 235 miles, 4 hours and 10 minutes

Why? Aside from being able to witness what should amount to two Oakland wins in two days, the Chicago Invitational is full of other great match-ups as well. The highlight would be catching Purdue and Richmond, though if the other games are of no interest to the casual OU fan, the city of Chicago can provide adequate entertainment for the weekend when not at the game. Just be prepared: even though this is called the Chicago Invitational, it's actually held about 50 minutes outside of The Windy City.

The Kicker: Hopefully this game will allow Reggie Hamilton's family and friends to come out to the game, as he's a Chicago native. It wouldn't hurt to see a few other Oakland fans in attendance since it's a lot of college basketball under one roof over a holiday weekend.

Opponent: Illinois
Date: December 8, 2010
City: Champaign, Illinois
Distance from Rochester: 400 miles, 6 hours and 30 minutes
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: October 26, 2010

Why? This one is a bit tougher to justify; it's on a weeknight and over 6 hours away. But still, we're including it here because Champaign, IL is a lot closer than Eugene, Oregon, and not far enough that a casual road trip could not be made. Illinois is expected to be in the top-4 of the Big Ten this season so it will be a tough game for Oakland to win, but the experience is what counts! On a travel note, I visited the Urbana-Champaign area of Illinois last summer and must say it is an absolutely beautiful college town. Moreover, the school's Assembly Hall is one of the most unique-looking structures I have ever seen.

The Kicker: I would go to this game just for the individual match-up of Keith Benson vs. Mike Tisdale. Tisdale was a member of the USA Men's Select team this summer, yet Benson has more long-term potential. A great competition between two solid big-men.

Opponent: Tennessee
Date: December 15, 2010
City: Knoxville, Tennessee
Distance from Rochester: 540 miles, 8 hours and 45 minutes
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: October 13, 2010

Why? If you attend this game simply for the game, hats off to you. If you are weary on heading to Tennessee in December, we've got you covered. Adults: start planning to take off a few days of work for an early holiday trip to Florida. On your way down I-75, stop in Knoxville for the night and take in the Oakland-Tennessee game. Students: you're on break already, so get together with some friends and make a road trip out of this game. Just think: it's bound to be warmer in Tennessee and you'd otherwise probably just play video games uninterrupted over the winter break.

The Kicker: It's an opportunity to see a Tennessee team that will be coming to the O'Rena the following year. You know that they will have fans at the game in Rochester, so it's our responsibility as Oakland fans to prove to the Volunteer Nation (yuck!) that Grizzlies travel just as well.

Opponent: Michigan
Date: December 18, 2010
City: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Distance from Rochester: 60 miles, 1 hour
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: "Sometime in October" - UM Ticket Office

Why? Michigan is going to be incredibly depleted this year thanks to the departure of last year's seniors and star junior Manny Harris. This team is just begging to be upset. Ann Arbor is so close to Rochester that Oakland University fans should be ashamed of themselves if they do not make it out to this game.

The Kicker: This is Oakland's best chance in years to destroy the wicked foes from Ann Arbor, and it could happen on Michigan's home court. Be there to at least attempt to rush the court at Crisler. It sure would be something!

Opponent: Ohio State
Date: December 23, 2010
City: Columbus, Ohio
Distance from Rochester: 230 miles, 4 hours
Single-Game Tickets For Sale On: Not available.

Why? Ohio State should contend with Purdue and Michigan State for the Big Ten crown during the regular season. While Evan Turner is gone, the Buckeyes welcome back many key pieces as well as freshman big man Jared Sullinger. OSU will be incredibly tough, but it's over the holidays and rather close to Rochester. Students, alumni, and community members alike should be able to find time for this brief road trip to Columbus.

The Kicker: If you are from Michigan, then you hate Ohio State. Even if you are like me and have rid yourself of any allegiance to UofM or MSU, there still must exist in your heart a distate for the Buckeyes. We must be there to support the Golden Grizzlies, if not only to show the Buckeye faithful that Michigan's little Summit League school has fans just as passionate as those of our state's Big Ten institutions.

Other scheduling coverage:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Game-By-Game Breakdown of the 2010-11 Schedule

In continuing with our coverage of the 2010-11 Oakland University men's basketball schedule, we have today a breakdown of each game that the Golden Grizzlies will play this season. Instead of simply giving an update on each opponent, we've attempted to provide brief thoughts on what the game means for Oakland in the context of the full schedule. For example, a discussion on a game against IUPUI on the road in February has been analyzed as such, as opposed to simply a game against IUPUI. Throughout the season, we'll have individual coverage of each opponent preceding the game.

On the road against: West Virginia (Sat, Nov. 13)
As Coach Greg Kampe is quick to point out, it's the three games in March that truly matter most for the Golden Grizzlies. Even with that said, winning those three games in March would be for nothing if the team didn't show up in November and December. See, a game against West Virginia will do wonders for OU's RPI, a measurement the NCAA Selection Committee uses when seeding teams in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, after winning those three games in March, OU's RPI and other indicators were strong enough for a 14-seed. This season, OU will be looked upon more seriously if it can keep games against RPI-boosters closer than they were in 2009-10. WVU is definitely the kind of team that OU wants to show up against. It's the first game of the season for both squads, so if the Golden Grizzlies can avoid first-game chemistry issues, then everything points to them being able to compete with a Mountaineers squad which lost its two most important pieces from last year's Final Four run.

On the road against: Ohio (Mon, Nov. 15)
This is the first winnable game of the season for Oakland. Incredibly, the Grizzlies are 8-5 against Mid-American Conference opponents in the last five years. Ohio made an improbable run in the MAC Tournament last season to earn an NCAA Tournament birth and subsequently upset Georgetown in the first round. Despite the departure of the team's best player in Armon Bassett, the Bobcats will be riding the wave of that success into the 2010-11 season. This could either inflate the team's ego to the point of underestimating Oakland or give them the foresight to know teams will be gunning for them. There's no doubt that a win against Ohio on the road would be a big boost for Oakland, especially with a duo of tough games on the horizon.

On the road against: Purdue (Sun, Nov. 21)
Purdue just might be Oakland's toughest test of the year. The Boilermakers return a trio of star seniors in E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel who are anxious to get to the Final Four. Hummel, particularly, could cause fits for the Oakland defense because he's a 6'8" forward who can score at will and rebounds extremely well. This game, aside from helping the RPI, will give us an understanding of Oakland's defensive strength, particularly to see who will step up when it comes to guarding opposing small forwards. Derick Nelson did a fabulous job in this role last season, but this year there is a considerably large question mark hanging over the job. Defensively, Keith Benson will also be tested by the likely-to-be-drafted JaJuan Johnson and the combination of Larry Wright, Blake Cushingberry, and Ledrick Eackles will face a similar battle with Moore. Needless to say, we'll learn a lot about the Oakland's defense when the Grizzlies visit West Lafayette just before Thanksgiving.

On the road against: Wright State (Tues, Nov. 23)
Like the Ohio game discussed earlier, this match against Wright State is winnable. In fact, these are the kinds of games that Oakland should expect to win if it ever gets serious about moving to a different conference one day. The Raiders are no slouches, finishing second behind Butler last season in the Horizon League. Though its coach left for Clemson in the off-season, Wright State is still a solid program, and thus a win here would be celebrated. It would also do wonders for Oakland's record and confidence heading into two must-win games.

At a neutral site against: Southern (Fri, Nov. 26)
Southern has been absolutely horrible in the last few seasons. Oakland fans should be familiar with games like this from Delaware State/Southeast Missouri in 2008 and Tennessee Tech/Central Arkansas in 2009. Southern is another school from a lesser conference (SWAC) that Oakland absolutely must beat. It's easy to overlook a team like this, so the Grizzlies must come out strong and put them away early. It would prove that the program has not taken any steps back and would also provide bench players the opportunity to get some quality experience.

At a neutral site against: Austin Peay or Charleston Southern (Sat, Nov. 27)
Charleston Southern has not had a winning season since 2003, though last season was its best in three years. While anything can happen on a neutral court, I would expect Austin Peay to beat Charleston Southern. Oakland would then face Austin Peay, a very strong mid-major program which hasn't had a losing season in a very, very long time. Typically, the Governors are always near the top of the Ohio Valley Conference, which in the hierarchy of conferences is probably ahead of The Summit League. To win against APSU would give us an indication that Oakland can hang with a contender from yet another strong mid-major league. And because the schedule is stacked with BCS powers, it's incredibly important for Oakland to take care of similarly-leveled competition.

At home against: Southern Utah (Thu, Dec. 2)
In true Summit League fashion, the first conference game comes in the middle of the non-conference season. Whether or not you're a fan of this approach, at least this early-December league game is at home this year. After boosting momentum with what we're projecting as two wins in Chicago, Southern Utah is a great draw for Oakland. Every conference game matters, and coming away with wins in December would give OU a nice boost when the rest of the conference schedule begins.

At home against: UMKC (Sat, Dec. 4)
Sticking with the prevailing theme from above, it's important for Oakland to start its Summit League schedule on a strong note, especially when SUU and UMKC are coming to town. UMKC lost a few solid players this off-season, so on paper the team looks severely depleted and ripe for attack by the Grizzlies. If OU can win both of these games favorably, then the team and fans should head into the true conference schedule with a combination of confidence and excitement.

On the road against: Illinois (Wed, Dec. 8)
This is another game that will help out Oakland's RPI and strength-of-schedule measurements as well as overall profile. Illinois is expected to be right behind Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the Big Ten this season and likely an NCAA Tournament team. It would behoove the Grizzlies to give everything they have against the Fighting Illini. Some of the personnel match-ups are favorable for Oakland, and Illinois will be lagging a bit coming off a west coast trip to Gonzaga. The components are there for an upset or, at the very least, a competitive game.

At a neutral site/home against: Michigan State (Sat, Dec. 11)
It's always important to show up against the in-state teams, especially when that team happens to be wearing green and white. Tom Izzo always has glaring things to say about Oakland and Greg Kampe, and to be honest, those thoughts should always be reciprocated to Izzo. It's great he has the Spartans playing Oakland every year, rotating between the Breslin Center and The Palace, which happens to be in Oakland's backyard. Still, MSU fans will outnumber Oakland fans, but it's a great way to showcase Grizzlies basketball. Although it always ends in a loss, this game means so much on so many levels; let's hope the OU hoops squad can simply keep it close.

On the road against: Tennessee (Tues, Dec. 13)
Tennessee will likely be rolling by the time this game comes around, which does not bode particularly well for Oakland, especially at Thompson-Boling Arena where the Vols are 70-8 under Head Coach Bruce Pearl. The game helps out the various measurements used come seeding time if Oakland were to make the NCAA Tournament, but that's likely all this game will be remembered for.

On the road against: Michigan (Sat, Dec. 18)
This game should be on upset watch from the day the season begins. While we'll know a lot more about the Wolverines by the time this match happens, going into the season they are a very young and inexperienced team with little proven ability in the frontcourt. This happens to be great for Oakland as the Golden Grizzlies will have four-year players Keith Benson and Will Hudson occupying the paint. A win in Ann Arbor would do wonders for Oakland's national profile, not to mention in-state bragging rights.

At home against: Rochester College (Mon, Dec. 20):
Rochester College will be an easy win for the Oakland squad. It will give all players a chance to see the court, perhaps working on any small tweaks needed before the conference schedule begins. This game won't impact OU's season much, but as it is a part of the Lou Henson Tournament held at the O'Rena, it should spark some local interest in the team over the winter break.

At home against: Eastern Michigan or Valparaiso (Tues, Dec. 21):
This will be Oakland's final tune-up against a fellow mid-major before Summit League play, and no matter which team ends up as the opponent, a fine tune-up it will be. Eastern Michigan typically plays Oakland very close, and most fans would love to see the Grizzlies avenge last season's opening game loss at the O'Rena. Valparaiso, on the other hand, would be the sentimental favorite since it would bring back memories of the matches the two teams had in the then Mid-Continent Conference. Either way, Oakland will likely come out with a confidence-boosting win from a game that is sure to entertain fans over the holidays.

On the road against: Ohio State (Thurs, Dec. 23):
This game kind of popped up out of nowhere, considering several other marquee opponents had been rumored or mentioned by Coach Greg Kampe earlier in the offseason. However, it's a great addition to the 2010-11 schedule, and a fine way to conclude the non-conference season. Though the Buckeyes will be without star Evan Turner, they return nearly everyone from last season. The most important addition is center Jared Sullinger, a highly-touted recruit who looks to have a Greg Oden-like season for Ohio State before entering the 2011 NBA Draft as a one-and-done. OSU is a tough draw any year, but the team will be especially challenging during this campaign. By this point in the season the Golden Grizzlies could be rolling enough to take it to the Buckeyes, especially since attendance may be impacted by the game's proximity to Christmas. A win might seem improbable, but perhaps some holiday luck will kick in and the Golden Grizzlies will pull off the upset.

On the road against: Centenary (Tues, Dec. 28):
Gone from this schedule are the end-of-the-year conference home games fans had gotten used to over the past two seasons. Instead, the OU hoops squad will travel south (not a bad destination at this time of the year) to face-off against the Gents for what will likely be the last time at the Gold Dome. Oakland dominated there last season, and much to the chagrin of Centenary, they'll likely inflict the same amount of damage this year as well. Every game counts in conference play, and with the Gents severely depleted, it's absolutely essential the Grizzlies do not have a let-down performance here.

On the road against: Oral Roberts (Thurs, Dec. 30):
Many folks are expecting big things from Oral Roberts this season, myself included. They return a lot of key pieces as well as many new cogs for Coach Scott Sutton. It's so incredibly tough to win at the Mabee Center, though Oakland did it last season. For seeding purposes in Sioux Falls, it will be necessary for the Grizzlies to split the season series with Oral Roberts, at the very least. This is the type of game that will help shape The Summit League hierarchy going forward in the conference schedule.

At home against: IUPUI (Thurs, Jan. 6):
IUPUI could very well be 3-0 in the conference heading into this game and looking to prove its the real deal with a win in its first Summit League road game. Oakland, however, should be ready for the test, either enthused by its own perfect record or hungry after a defeat by Oral Roberts. Much like the series with ORU, the Golden Grizzlies must protect home court to at least split with IUPUI since the Jaguars will likely be dealt with again in March.

At home against: Western Illinois (Sat, Jan. 8):
Western Illinois has been making progress under coach Jim Molinari, to the point that they should not be written off as quickly as in the past. Even with that said, this is a home game on a Saturday during the first week of the winter semester: fans will show up. The combination of Oakland's superior roster and fan support means the Grizzlies should come out of this one smiling.

On the road against: IPFW (Sat, Jan. 15):
Oakland has owned IPFW since implementing its Athletics-sponsored road trip to Fort Wayne. The university brings too many fans down I-69 for the team not to be energized at Memorial Coliseum. It is difficult to not be excited by the prospect of a hundred or so fans out-cheering the home team. The Grizzlies should take care of business in this match-up.

On the road against: South Dakota State (Thurs, Jan. 20):
Thus begins the toughest three-game stretch for Oakland. Going out to the Dakotas expecting a sweep is foolish. Even though OU accomplished this feat last season, hopefully it does not give fans the impression that such should be done every season. It's just tough to do. South Dakota State could begin strong like it did last season, and this game will give Summit League enthusiasts the opportunity to see if either of these teams are really a part of the upper crust of the conference in 2010-11.

On the road against: North Dakota State (Sat, Jan. 22):
The Bison are so good at home, and they return my favorite non-Oakland player in Michael Tveidt who, aside from being my favorite, is also one heck of a competitor. Oakland will have to grind out wins against this squad, but a loss here wouldn't spoil the team's hopes of a conference crown.

At home against: Oral Roberts (Thurs, Jan. 27):
This is the game. By the end of January, we will know a lot about the standing of The Summit League. And no one would be surprised to see Oakland and Oral Roberts battling for the top spot. Having already played once in Tulsa, this game becomes that much more important for the Grizzlies because it means protecting home court. No one will ever forget last season's ORU-OU game at the O'Rena, for the last-second shot by JJ, the energy of the crowd, and those darn balloons. However, the Oakland administration won't be placing its homecoming game on a Thursday night, so some of those features will be missing. When it becomes time to hand out seeds for The Summit League tourney, this game will likely be pointed to as where one of these teams lost out at a "1."

At home against: Centenary (Sat, Jan. 29):
The OU Homecoming tradition is only two years old, and in those two years the team has played Centenary and Oral Roberts over the first weekend in February. As the team is on the road at that time this season, Homecoming will come a bit earlier and once again feature the Centenary Gents. All I can say is that those alums coming home this weekend will have to enjoy other activities more than this game as the Grizzlies should obliterate Centenary.

On the road against: Western Illinois (Thurs, Feb. 3):
Oakland hasn't lost in Macomb since 2001, though the games are always rather close. I'm sure Western Illinois goes into this game every season looking to change that, but it is safe to say Oakland owns in Western Hall. Larry Wright had one of his best shooting nights there last season, so if he's struggling with his shot at this point in the year, perhaps this game will give him a chance to relive his 2009-10 performance to get back on track.

On the road against: IUPUI (Sun, Feb. 6):
In terms of the mix of roster and setting, this will likely be Oakland's last big test of the conference season. While the Grizzlies will still have a lot to prove for the rest of February, most are at home and none of the teams will have the talent of IUPUI. OU will look to perform better than it did last season in Indianapolis. The venue will be different (this game will take place at Conseco Fieldhouse, an NBA arena) but the game could still have an implication on the pecking order amongst the top teams in the conference as it did last year.

At home against: IPFW (Sat, Feb. 12):
The Golden Grizzlies have just one game this week, but it will not be a cakewalk. IPFW will be looking to upset the defending champs on their home-court. It would be a program-boosting win for IPFW which would further build on its impressive showing in the conference tournament last season. If Oakland's 17-1 record last season is considered an anomaly, then one could reasonably expect the team to drop one or two games against unsuspecting teams like IPFW. While it's more likely to come on the road, the Grizzlies could come out rusty and looking ahead to the more attractive opponents the following week.

At home against: North Dakota State (Thurs, Feb. 17):
If Oakland is competing for a conference championship and 1-seed in the tournament, then Coach Kampe will have them ready to close out the season strongly. He has always said he likes to see his players at their best toward the middle-to-end of February in preparation for March. With the roster he has coming back, this game against NDSU should be wrapped up with a "w."

At home against: South Dakota State (Sat, Feb. 19):
Oakland students will be on break for the last home game of the season when South Dakota State comes to town Saturday, February 19. This is a sad development not only because it will be a meaningful game in terms of the standings, but also because it will be Senior Night for three Golden Grizzlies. Keith Benson, Will Hudson, and Larry Wright will all likely be honored, and though we're Wright fans, it will truly be difficult to say goodbye to four-year players Benson and Hudson. I've always cherished those nights as a way to honor the seniors for what they have given the program; hopefully the O'Rena will be packed despite the mid-semester break.

On the road against: UMKC (Thurs, Feb. 24):
UMKC could be battling for a slot in the conference tourney by the time this game rolls around, so they're likely to be hungry. As is worth repeating, every game in The Summit League counts, and Oakland could very well still need wins to secure a regular season championship or better positioning in the tournament. The Grizzlies will need to come out strong to put away the Kangaroos.

On the road against: Southern Utah (Sat, Feb. 26):
This trip is brutal, put simply. Oakland has a tough time winning in Cedar City, not always because the Thunderbirds are particularly talented, but because of the sheer distance of the trip and short turn-around time. No matter how I look at this game, I just can not find any positives with it showing up as the last match of the year. If seeding for The Summit League Tournament is already set in stone, then the result won't matter much; but do we really want to see our team lose its last game to SUU before heading for Sioux Falls? Similarly, if Oakland needs to win this game for a day-off in the tournament, a game at Southern Utah is almost as bad a draw as at Oral Roberts. Basically, this road trip always stinks but coming at the end of the season is just painful.

So there you have it, breakdowns of every game in the 2010-11 season. We plan to preview each game more in-depth as they come (with more current information, of course) but this should give the casual fan an idea of what to expect based on preseason expectations, paper rosters, and the like.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Initial Thoughts On The 2010-11 Oakland University Men's Basketball Schedule

After several months of speculating how it would all come together, the Oakland University men's basketball schedule has officially been released today by the university. For those following along with our schedule tracker, there aren't too many surprises, but it is great to see it in its finished, perfect form. Aside from thoughtful pieces on the Oakland basketball community and geeky analysis of the game, the process of scheduling and nitpicking future/potential opponents is one of our favorite things to do with this outlet since it blends together a love of the Golden Grizzlies and the national scene of college basketball. With that said, there will be a number of articles in the next few days breaking down various aspects of the 2010-11 schedule, starting today with some general thoughts on its construction and what it all means for Oakland.

Travel: There will be an entire post dedicated to this topic, but it's neat to bring up the fact that Oakland's non-conference schedule very much sticks to one region. There are no coastal or deep south trips, and even the Tennessee game is a straight trip down I-75 from Rochester (though the team will probably enjoy a plane ride). Credit Coach Greg Kampe and his staff for putting together a incredible non-conference schedule in terms of travel.

Now With More Home Games: Home games in the fall semester! As a student, I always lamented the fact that Oakland rarely had home games in the fall semester. This time around, though, students will have the chance to see two Summit League games in early December, as well as an exhibition game which provides a great chance to see players who may not get much playing time this season. Moreover, the Lou Henson Tournament is one of the coolest things I can remember happening at the O'Rena. Hopefully there will be some deals on tickets to help get fans into the non-OU games featured. Should be a good two days of college basketball.

But No NYE: I had quickly gotten used to going to Oakland games on New Year's Eve afternoon the last two years, so it is with some sadness that we see the team will be on the road this year during the holiday.

Big Ten: I haven't done the research, but it's probably safe to say that Oakland will play more Big Ten squads this year than any other team, save for Big Ten schools themselves. The Golden Grizzlies will play an incredible five different Big Ten games in 2010-11, which is great on a number of levels. First, the Big Ten is the biggest conference in the region, so it's always great to see Oakland get a chance to play in those arenas (though a return game would be nice one of these days!). Second, the Big Ten has its own television network which gives Oakland some added exposure since the games are likely to air on the BTN. Third, the power conference is expected to be one of the strongest in the country this year, with two legitimate Final Four contenders (Purdue and Michigan State). Oakland will play both of those schools in addition to Ohio State and Illinois, which are projected to round out the top-four of the league (though Wisconsin probably has something to say about that). Finally, big men! Most of the schools that Oakland will play this season have highly-touted big men, including Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Illinois' Mike Tisdale, and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. Coach Greg Kampe is giving Keith Benson every opportunity to shine against the best competition in the country with these games.

Non-Conference Breakdown: Big Ten (5), SEC (1), Big East (1), MAC (1 or 2), Horizon (1 or 2), SWAC (1), and [Big South (1) or Ohio Valley (1)].

Easiest Game: Aside from the non-DI games, Southern should be the simplest test for Oakland. In the conference, a depleted Centernary squad should lay over for the Grizzlies.

Toughest Game: I have to go with at Purdue. It's an early-season game, but the Boilermakers have a veteran roster coming back that is incredibly focused on reaching the Final Four. The individual match-ups may also cause fits for Oakland. Plus, students will be on-campus packing The Paint Crew, taunting every Grizzly move. I expect this game to end like most of the BCS games from OU's 2009-10 season.

Most Likely Upset: The greatest chance for an upset in 2010-11 is when Oakland travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan to face the Wolverines. John Beilein's team is depleted this year, and though they will have a number of games under their belts by the time Oakland comes to town, I still feel strongly that OU may be the better team.

Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: @Illinois, neutral site against Michigan State, @Tennessee, and @Michigan. Will any mid-major program in the country face a more difficult stretch of games?

Most Challenging Conference Stretch: @ South Dakota State, @ North Dakota State, and home against Oral Roberts. Amazingly, Oakland came away from the Dakota trip 2-0 last season. Both teams should be solid again this year, and lightning rarely strikes twice. The team then faces an Oral Roberts squad that could be tops in the conference this season. This is an important stretch, too, because it's about midway through Summit League play and will set the pace for how the team performs in the all-important month of February.

Best Individual Match-Up: This one could go in a number of different directions, though they all likely involve Keith Benson. With that said, the battle between Benson and Purdue's JaJuan Johnson is most interesting because both are projected as second round draft picks in 2011. There will likely be a lot of scouts at this game, so it will be a great opportunity for Benson to gain some ground amongst his fellow big men draft prospects.

Most Anticipated Home Game: The Oral Roberts game will be a must-attend, but in terms of anticipation, I'm going with the Lou Henson Tournament. As noted earlier, hosting a tournament like this is an exciting opportunity for the Oakland program. It will provide fans the opportunity to watch some quality mid-major basketball at a value price. If Oakland manages to handle Rochester College in the first-round, either a match-up against Valparaiso or Eastern Michigan would be accepted with open arms.

Stay tuned to the Grizzlies Gameplan for more schedule coverage over the next few days. We have lined up a number of schedule-themed posts which we're excited to share with the Oakland U community.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Summit League Schedule Scrutinization: Southern Utah

For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.

Southern Utah University

General Theme: If there is one thing that sticks out about the Southern Utah men's basketball schedule in 2010-11, it's that the Thunderbirds will not be taking any guaranteed beatings at the hands of BCS powers. Instead, the team has put together a cavalcade of games against teams largely operating at the same level. The T-Birds play a few games against Big West competition and will see a pair of in-state teams - Weber State and Utah State - come to Cedar City. UNLV on the road stands out as the only game where SUU will be supremely over-matched. The team will also travel to Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout where they'll face Drake in the first round and either Ball State or St. John's in the second. From there, they'll either have Houston Baptist, Arizona State, Weber State, or Alaska Anchorage.

Travel At A Glance: The SUU non-conference schedule plays to SUU's region, with games in Nevada, California, and Alaska. Truly, the Summit League portion of the team's schedule is just further proof that they're wasting a lot of money on travel by sticking in this league.

Easiest Game: There are no easy games for SUU, aside from the teams they play outside of Division I. Hopefully they'll take care of Centenary this year, proving that their much more talented than a team reclassifying to Division III.

Toughest Game: This one definitely goes to UNLV on the road. There aren't too many incredibly tough games on the SUU schedule (well, without knowing their other opponents in Alaska) so there shouldn't be too many non-conference thrashings. This will be positive for the team's confidence heading into conference play.

Most Likely Upset: Southern Utah will have to play forty great minutes of basketball on November 20th if they want to take down Utah State when that team visits Cedar City. It's nearly impossible to win at USU, so the Thunderbirds should be glad to get them at home. A win over a quality in-state team would do wonders for SUU's profile.

Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: Utah State, even if the game is on SUU's home court, will be a very tough game for Roger Reid's players. They follow that game with a trip to Alaska where they'll have to plan for an unknown opponent twice in two days. This could be a particularly gloomy stretch if things are not jiving for the T-Birds.

Most Challenging Conference Stretch: Perhaps I'm overestimating the toll of the Alaskan trip, but to go from Alaska all the way to the Midwest for games against Oakland (12/2) and IPFW (12/3) on just four days rest sounds brutal to me. Oakland and IPFW will be doing everything they can to avoid a letdown in these matches, which is why it will extremely tough for SUU to come away from here with anything other than an 0-2 conference start.

Best Individual Match-Up: With Davis Baker gone, it's difficult picking any one player who stands out for Southern Utah. They'll have quite a few new faces this season, but my best guess is that junior Matt Massey will begin to fill the roll of team-leader, at least in the paint. I remember Massey as a frail post-player last season, but if he was able to add some muscle during the off-season to go along with natural progression, he could jump up a bit from the 8 points and 4 rebounds he averaged last season. Seeing him play against some of the better bigs in the conference will tell us a lot about his role for Coach Reid.

Most Anticipated Home Game: Basketball has been fairly solid in the state of Utah lately, and a big reason why is because of the success of Utah State. Stew Morrill's team is unbeatable at home and has been able to receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament out of the WAC. Morrill has a pretty firm scheduling philosophy (he rarely takes "guarantee games" without some kind of return game in Logan, Utah) which has brought a lot of excitement to the program during his tenure. Southern Utah should look to the Aggies for both how to build a winning program and avid fanbase. They can start by showing up to play for the game at Centrum Arena on November 20th.

Concluding Thoughts: This is a sound schedule for Southern Utah. The team hasn't taken on more than it can handle and was able to secure a number of intriguing home matches in the process. Hopefully the Thunderbirds can put together a decent season built around the opponents seen here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summit League Schedule Scrutinization: SDSU

For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.

South Dakota State University

General Theme: South Dakota State may have the flashiest non-conference home slate of any team in The Summit League for the 2010-11 season. Between November 18th and December 11th, the Jackrabbits will play seven straight games at Frost Arena, including a high-profile match against WAC member Nevada. UW-Milwaukee will also head to Brookings in that span. Coach Scott Nagy has to be happy with that portion of his schedule as it will provide the team an opportunity to play in front of its rabid fanbase more often than most Summit teams do in the early months. Aside from the home games, Nagy's team will also make a unique trip to Michigan to face both Western and Central, before stopping to play Minnesota on its way back to South Dakota.

Travel At A Glance: As pointed out above, the Jacks will not have to travel much this season outside of the typical Summit League destinations. Credit the coaching staff for putting together a schedule that will save the team on its travel budget.

Easiest Game: Eastern Illinois had its first winning season in a decade last year, finishing with a respectable 11-7 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference. My college basketball knowledge isn't deep enough to know if EIU is expecting bigger things this season (seriously, covering the far reaches of The Summit League is hard enough), but I do know that South Dakota State should expect to take care of the Panthers. If SDSU has arrived like many people believe, they absolutely must beat a mid-tier OVC squad.

Toughest Game: Tubby Smith is a proven coach, and even though last season was a struggle and he's lost a number of players over the past two seasons at Minnesota, you can never count out a Smith-led group. SDSU will be playing the Golden Gophers after a trip to face two promising MAC schools in WMU and CMU, so it's hard to expect that the Jacks will keep this one close.

Most Likely Upset: The Jackrabbits have as great as shot as ever to take down Nevada when the Wolf Pack visit Frost Arena. Outside of this home game, don't count them out when they face Iowa on November 14th in Iowa City. Iowa will be implementing a new system under new Head Coach Fran McCaffery while SDSU will already have an August Canadian trip and its first regular season game under its collective belt. They'll be ready and will give the Hawkeyes fits.

Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: From December 18th through the 23rd, the program will play at Western Michigan, at Central Michigan, and at Minnesota. That's a tough stretch of games in a limited amount of time. If the Jacks can come away from that with a 1-2 record, it should be considered a success.

Most Challenging Conference Stretch: SDSU ends the season with three straight road games against IPFW (2/17), Oakland (2/19), and Summit rival NDSU (2/26). IPFW will be gunning for a favorable seed by the time that game rolls around, Oakland will be celebrating senior night, and NDSU will always be tough in Fargo, especially in the last game of the season. Sure is a challenging way to end the conference schedule.

Best Individual Match-Up: Having not seen him play yet, I'm not sure who he'll match-up well against, but I'm most excited to see freshman Jordan Dykstra. The 6'8" forward led his team to two straight Iowa state championships and was named the AAU Player of the Year in his homestate while in high school. He had a couple impressive showings during SDSU's recent trip to Canada, scoring 14 points on two different occasions. It looks like Coach Nagy has in Dykstra a player who will compete right away. He could blossom into an All-League player in The Summit League, providing for a number of enticing match-ups throughout the season.

Most Anticipated Home Game: Nevada. Hands down. While the Wolf Pack is down two players through the NBA Draft, it always seems like they're a team to be reckoned with in the WAC (and soon-to-be the MWC). Getting them to go out to Brookings is a good sign for the SDSU program.

Concluding Thoughts: I absolutely love all of the home games early on. Most schools in The Summit League never experience such bliss outside of the conference games, so the staff should be commended and the fans urged to show up for those games. With this schedule, SDSU has a great shot to enter conference play with an impressive record built on quality wins instead of pure fluff.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summit League Schedule Scrutinization: Oral Roberts

For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.

Oral Roberts University

General Theme: This is a rather beautifully pieced together schedule for Oral Roberts here in 2010-11. The Tulsa-based team plays three games against Big 12 competition (all on the road but worth noting Oklahoma and Texas Tech will make return trips to Tulsa in future years, and Missouri played and lost there last season) and a couple against the Missouri Valley and Conference USA in addition to being included in a three-day tournament over the holidays. For whatever reason, the Golden Eagles get Arkansas-Little Rock at home and in Las Vegas, which counts against them as the only odd feature of the schedule.

Travel At A Glance: The ORU coaching staff has done a tremendous job in securing many nearby road games. The series with Tulsa is always perfect since the two schools are in the same city and both competitive; the Big 12 teams are always close enough; and even a trip to Akron shouldn't seem too far since it's still in the footprint of The Summit League. Touché, Oral Roberts.

Easiest Game: Talking Bob gets Arkansas-Little Rock twice in what should be two easy wins. No excuse there.

Toughest Game: The Golden Eagles play three Big 12 teams, yet thankfully none of them are called Kansas or Kansas State. They will compete with all three teams, but the toughest of the bunch will be Missouri. Even though Oral Roberts beat them last year at the Mabee Center, Mizzou coach Mike Anderson has a touted recruiting class to pair with an experienced bunch coming back. Kim English and Co. will not let ORU beat them for the second year in a row.

Most Likely Upset: Coach Scott Sutton's squad had the most upsets in the conference last season, beating Stanford, Missouri, and New Mexico at various points in the non-conference portion of the year. This season, they'll go to Salt Lake City to play Utah and will get Miami (The U) in Las Vegas. It wouldn't surprise me if Oral Roberts beat both of these teams, or at the very least Miami on a neutral court. If I were an ORU enthusiast, I might also make the trip to Norman because the Golden Eagles will keep it close against a reloading Oklahama Sooners team.

Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: @Oklahoma (12/11), @ Missouri (12/16), neutral site against Miami (12/21). Even though Oral Roberts could conceivably win any of these games, it's still one tough stretch of games against three straight high majors.

Most Challenging Conference Stretch: Like a few other teams this season, there is not a particular stretch of conference games that will be too daunting for this experienced team. With that said, they'll travel to North Dakota State (1/6) and South Dakota State (1/8) just three days after a game at Akron on January 3rd. The back-to-back travel alone could cost the Golden Eagles a game or two on the trip.

Best Individual Match-Up: ORU has a loaded roster next season full of guys who will compete for First Team honors in The Summit League. Dominique Morrison, Michael Craion, and Warren Niles will each look to have standout seasons while much-hyped redshirt freshman Hunter McClintock will seek to make an immediate impact. Morrison is one of the more dynamic forwards/wings in the league, and he'll have the chance to battle with the likes of Alex Young (IUPUI), Michael Tveidt (NDSU), and Drew Maynard (Oakland) all season long.

Most Anticipated Home Game: There are no marquee home games for the Golden Eagles this season, though Indiana State from the Missouri Valley is a nice get. The Oakland game at the Mabee Center could be most interesting due to the fact ORU will be gunning for the championship this year and seeking to avenge last season's rare home loss to the Golden Grizzlies.

Concluding Thoughts: Another year, another solid schedule for Mr. Sutton. He has put together a list of opponents that will test his team and give them a chance to win. Barring injuries or setbacks, Oral Roberts will be scary this year. And this schedule - with so many upset opportunities - could really help register the Golden Eagles' name in the national hoops conscious early in the season.