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.
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.
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.
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: