Friday, January 21, 2011

Game Preview: Oakland at NDSU

Game 22: Oakland 13-8 (8-0) at NDSU 9-9 (3-5)
Saturday, January 22, 2011 | 8:30pm EST
Watch: NDSU All-Access ($) | Radio: WDFN (1130AM)

Oakland wraps up its annual trip to the Dakotas with a big game against the North Dakota State Bison on Saturday evening. If the Golden Grizzlies come out with a win, not only will they have beaten every team in the conference at least once, they will also break the consecutive wins steak in the conference which they have currently tied at 16. The Bison have been a tough team to figure out this season, a trend which continued on Thursday as they allowed IPFW to come back from a 14-point half-time deficit to win at the Bison Sports Arena. NDSU really needs a win after dropping its last three, while Oakland has every incentive in the world to continue its impressive run.

Since The Shot
I'm not sure how North Dakota State fans remember it, but there's no doubt it will live on in my mind as "The Shot." As cliche as it may sound, Ben Woodside's game-winning basket in The Summit League championship two years ago deserves such a title. It wasn't just a shot in the sense that Woodside made a field goal attempt, but it was also a shot directly at my gut, the end of a collective dream to see the Golden Grizzlies back in the NCAA Tournament. Bison Fever spread following The Shot, while the Golden Grizzlies went back home only to watch as NDSU was filled in on a bracket line instead of Oakland. While the OU fans who followed that team will remember the gut-wrenching final minutes of the championship game forever, there was some good that came out of the end result. The team came up with a phrase, "finish it," that was a guiding slogan during the 2009-10 season. As we all know, the team did indeed finish it and found itself celebrating on Selection Sunday last March. Since that shot, the two programs who experienced it have been on different ends of the championship spectrum. NDSU's run atop the conference, built on the backs of a redshirted senior class, was short-lived due to graduation. Oakland, on the other hand, has proven time and again it is built for long-term relevance. This season, the Bison program has won some and loss some but looks to be improved over last season. Though the team is still young, we should soon start to see whether or not that magical tournament appearance in March 2009 will pay dividends now.

Key Personnel Match-Up
Travis Bader vs. Mike Felt
After being named Summit League Player of the Week for his breakout performance two weekends ago, NDSU guard Mike Felt struggled to find playing time against IUPUI and Western Illinois. Still, his two-game assault from downtown was enough to prove that he is a valuable asset for the Bison program. Likewise, Travis Bader has been invaluable to Oakland this season as he has given the team a deadly weapon from deep to help spread the floor on the offensive end. The similarities don't end with their three-point shooting. Felt and Bader are both listed as 6-foot-3 guards. They both redshirted last season, though for different reasons, and thus are in their first year of eligibility. And they both wear the number 3, which must be a nod to their favorite kind of shot. Even though they might never be in this game at the same time, the storylines are just too good to ignore!

NDSU Player To Watch: Michael Tveidt
Michael Tveidt is one of those dudes who seems like he's been playing college basketball far beyond his four years of eligibility. Part of it is that the guy has always looked more manly than his peers, but the more realistic reason is that he's been a solid player for a very long time. Tveidt was big for NDSU in that OU-NDSU championship game two years ago, but he was never as needed by the Bison as he was last season. As a junior, Tveidt was "The Man" in Fargo, seemingly single-handedly carrying the team on his back all season long. Now in his final year, the all-conference forward finally has help again so he's not shouldering as much of the scoring load. As a result, he's shooting much better from the field this season and has seen an uptick in his assist figures. Tveidt has always been a hard working player, so enjoy his game while you still can.

Oakland Player To Watch: Keith Benson
For the first time since the last game of 2010, Keith Benson scored more than 20 points in a dominant performance against South Dakota State on Thursday. The big man was the focal point, as usual, but for once everything was clicking in the offensive sets which allowed him to take 17 field goal attempts, 12 of which went in for a 70.5% shooting night. His 17 attempts were the most he's had since the Michigan State and Tennessee games. Interestingly, after grabbing just one offensive board all month, Benson had six against the Jackrabbits on his way to 11 total. Maybe it was SDSU's lack of size or lack of a game plan (or Benson's lack of fouls), but the senior center finally had ample room and opportunities to score big for the first time in 2011. Glad to have his ridiculous stat lines back.

Oakland is 2-1 at the Bison Sports Arena in Summit League play.

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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