Friday, December 3, 2010

Game Preview: Oakland vs. UMKC

Game 8: Oakland (1-0, 4-3) vs. UMKC (0-1, 4-2)
Saturday, December 2, 2010 | 6:00pm at the O'Rena
Watch: OU All-Access ($) | Radio:

Oakland continues its opening weekend of conference play at home on Saturday against the UMKC Kangaroos. The Golden Grizzlies picked up a convincing first win on Thursday against an improved Southern Utah team. UMKC traveled to Fort Wayne where the team battled IPFW into overtime but ultimately came up short.

The Rouse Of The Roos
If one just looked at their record, one might say that the UMKC Kangaroos are off to a nice start to the 2010-11 season. Look a bit deeper and we see that UMKC has benefited from a rather fluffy schedule thus far. Their three Division I wins have come against teams with RPIs of 275, 338, and 344. The RPIs of the teams that have beat UMKC are 42 (Wichita State) and 124 (IPFW). Credit should be given to UMKC for taking care of business against the lower-echelon of Division I, but we probably won't know much about this team until conference games begin in earnest. On Thursday, however, the Roos did their best to show that they're not going to be conference bottom-feeders by taking IPFW to overtime in Fort Wayne. The loss surely strings, but it's a good sign for the program. If there is a reason why Coach Matt Brown's team rises from it recent stupor, it's because he finally has some seniors to count on. While Jay Cousinard and Bakari Lewis started their careers elsewhere, their contributions as seniors have been solid. But it may be four-year UMKC player Spencer Johnson who has helped his team the most.

Statistical Similarities
Non-conference games might not provide the best sample for comparing teams statistically, but they can still paint a general picture of a team's tendencies. In juxtaposing several standard team stats for Oakland and UMKC, it's eerie how similarly the team's have started the season. They shoot about the same FG% and 3FG%, commit about the same number of turnovers, and have very close rebounding rates. Where the teams differ greatly are in statistical categories that benefit Oakland.
The table above charts defensive shooting percentages as well as some assists data. As far as the defensive side of the ball goes, Oakland is doing a great job of defending the paint and surrounding area, allowing opponents to shoot just 43.6% on two-pointers. UMKC, on the other hand, is allowing a whopping 50.7% to opponents. This benefits Oakland quite a bit due to the inside presence of Keith Benson and Will Hudson, not to mention Reggie Hamilton who has shown he can get to the basket for high-percentage buckets. As for assists, Oakland clearly has better ball movement as over 60% of the team's field goals result from an assist. UMKC's 38% rate is good for 339th in the nation. As we noted in our Southern Utah preview on Thursday, Oakland typically racks up assists while playing at home, and better ball movement is usually a sign that a team is playing well. Benefit: Oakland.

Key Personnel Match-Up
Travis Bader/Ledrick Eackles/Drew Valentine vs. Jay Cousinard
Aside from some of the big man match-ups, predicting personnel match-ups at the other positions has proven difficult this year. Oakland's backcourt has a lot of versatility and thus can switch between different kinds of guards, and given OU's lack of size on the wing, we've seen a combination of players guarding opposing small forwards. Heading into the season (after the injury of Blake Cushingberry), one of the chief concerns for the Golden Grizzlies was who would step up to be a big-time defender at the wing position, primarily in the conference where a lot of premier talent is concentrated here. Tonight against UMKC, Oakland gets that first test against Jay Cousinard, a 6'6" forward who leads his team in scoring and has been a conference player of the week already. Oakland's saving grace might be Drew Valentine, who played his best game of the season against Southern Utah. Hopefully Valentine can keep the momentum from Thursday in attempting to lock-down Cousinard, who is capable of being shutdown. I listened to the Roos game against Wichita State where he went 3 of 12 from the field, mostly due to WSU keying in on Cousinard and using a changing combination of players to defend him. If that's the case, then maybe Oakland's combo of Travis Bader, Ledrick Eackles, and Drew Valentine can stay fresh enough to handle Cousinard in steady doses.

UMKC Player To Watch: Spencer Johnson
Spencer Johnson is having somewhat of a revival season for UMKC in what is his final year as a Kangaroo. After an impressive sophomore campaign, Johnson didn't inflict the same kind of damage as a junior when all of his performance numbers dropped considerably. Through six games this season, Johnson is playing like it's two years ago, shooting over 50% from the field for about 12 points a game to go along with 8.7 rebounds. Johnson can also stretch defenses with his ability to knock down the occasional shot from beyond the arc, making him player a for which preparing is tough. It's also worth noting that while Cousinard may get more attention, Johnson has been the more efficient player (a measure of a player's total impact) with an average of 15.3, which puts him only behind Keith Benson, ORU's Dominique Morrison, and Will Hudson for most efficient players in the conference. That's some good company.

Oakland Player To Watch: Drew Valentine
Can Drew put together a second consecutive good game for the Golden Grizzlies? We sure hope so. Valentine had a very complete game against Southern Utah, most notably marked by his 7 assists to just 1 turnover. The sophomore also finally started to connect from downtown, which gives OU an additional threat on the perimeter when needed. Here's to hoping the home court will continue to boost Valentine's confidence on what is still a very young season.

This is a series that used to go back-and-forth quite a bit prior to 2007. Since the conference tournament that year, Oakland has won eight straight against the Kangaroos, including three at the O'Rena by an average margin of about 12 points.

Bullet Points
  • Where is Kirk Korver? The Oakland student section's favorite UMKC player hasn't logged any minutes yet this season for the Roos, much to our wonderment. We've done our fair share of digging to figure out where the sophomore has been to no avail. Even though his team features more productive players, Korver is still an interesting person to keep an eye on. If he's injured, we wish him a speedy recovery.
  • Reggie Chamberlain has been a bit of an impact player for Matt Brown in his first season with UMKC. After sitting out last season due to transferring from Wichita State, the guard has contributed 10.7 points per game, including 20 on 4-0 three-point shooting when UMKC visited his former team at the beginning of the week. The emergence of this Reggie probably means they won't be missing the other Reggie. Speaking of which...
  • Oakland fans are probably well aware that Reggie Hamilton transferred to Oakland from UMKC, a team he left in the middle of his second season. Hamilton was a productive player while he wore a blue and yellow uniform, something he has replicated early in his time in the black and gold. Transferring inside of the conference is a bold move for both the player and the school accepting that player, but fortunately Reggie will be in an arena where he's loved. We'll see how he does against his old team.
The Extra Pass
Typically we'll use this section to add any neat things we find on the Internet about the opposing team, whether it's from a traditional media outlet or from a college basketball blogger or whatever else pops up. This is a fairly easy task for non-conference games against bigger-name opponents who get a lot of ink, both printed and digital. When Summit League games begin, we're reminded of the harsh reality that most of these schools face as minor blips in otherwise major media markets. UMKC might be the hardest hit of conference schools as it is in a fertile college basketball area that is dominated by coverage of Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri. The Kansas City Star has written a total of one feature article on UMKC since the season started, a brief preview of the team. Moreover, the university's student newspaper has all but one minor blip about the basketball team since the season began (at least on its website). UMKC does not have a fan blog and its fan message board suffers from weak participation. This is not a condemnation of UMKC by any means, but simply something we as Oakland fans should think about so as not to take for granted the coverage we are provided. As a fan blog, we know our role and that's to offer whatever analysis and goofy animated .gifs we can to help drum up some fan interest on the web. But as a community of fans, we're fortunate to have some dedicated people covering the team at the games and using their access to inform us about the daily ongoings of the team, led by Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press and continued admirably by the student reporters of The Oakland Post. As an example, if one of Oakland's players were not playing, you can be sure we'd all know why (in reference to Kirk Korver). As we just finished the Thanksgiving season, it's a great time to be thankful for the coverage Oakland gets because it's far from the norm in The Summit League.

Other Conference Games On Thursday
Centenary at WIU (8:30pm) - The Gents hung with IUPUI, will be be easier in Macomb??
SUU at IPFW (7:30pm) - IPFW had a scare at home against UMKC. Must beat SUU.
Oral Roberts at IUPUI (7:00pm) - Our first chance to see if IUPUI is a contender or a pretender in the conference this season. ORU is playing really, really well right now.
NDSU at SDSU (8:30pm) - The biggest game of conference play for now. SDSU hasn't beaten NDSU in about a million games. Can the Jacks stay perfect?

As always, if you're interested in getting in on the conversation with other Oakland fans before, during, and after the game, we highly suggest checking out the Golden Grizzly Hoops forum: Game Thread.

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