Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Game Preview: Oakland at SDSU

Game 21: Oakland (12-8, 7-0) at SDSU (12-6, 4-3)
Thursday, January 20, 2011 | 8:00pm EST
Watch: Jackrabbit Extra ($) | Radio: WDFN (1130AM)

It's that time of the year again. We're in the dead of winter, and the Oakland basketball team has to head to the Dakotas for two games in Summit League action. First up, South Dakota State. The team travels to Brookings after beating IPFW to take a two game lead as the first place team in the conference. SDSU suffered a setback to IUPUI in its last game and fell to 4-3 in league play. Expect a battle.

Running The Point
One of the key storylines we've watched this season with the Golden Grizzlies is that of point guard play. After Johnathon Jones graduated, it was revealed that Larry Wright would serve as the primary ball-handler to allow Reggie Hamilton to fill in as a scorer. As Wright has battled an ankle injury, we've seen Hamilton fill that role more often than not. While both Wright and Hamilton have managed to rack up assists, they've also been rather turnover prone. Still, the team is undefeated in conference play without a "go-to" point guard so most are not complaining much. South Dakota State, on the other hand, has as pure a point guard as one will find in The Summit League in Nate Wolters. He's a great passer, limits turnovers, and can score with anyone in the conference. We wrote extensively about Wolters earlier this week in an attempt to showcase just how great his season has been. Here, we use the same stat discussed in that piece, pure point rating, to compare Wolters to Oakland's trio of guys playing the point:
As is readily evident, Wolters blows the Oakland guards out of the water by this measure. He also happens to be the best scorer of the bunch. Wright and Hamilton don't fair as well here because, well, neither player is a true point guard. Ryan Bass has been billed as one, yet he just hasn't had the chances to get experience. The combination of inexperience and lack of fit in this role has led to a decent amount of turnovers. This comparison serves as a microcosm of the teams at large. SDSU has a league-best turnover rate of 13.1% in conference games, while Oakland checks in with a middling 18.6% turnover rate. Despite this fact, the comparison also shows that OU has a bit more depth than SDSU at the guard spot. Depth is a battle that Oakland probably also wins when taking the teams as a whole.

Key Personnel Match-Up
Travis Bader vs. Clint Sargent
Clint Sargent's been around for a while, and he's never shied away from shooting threes. Now in his senior year, 47 of Sargent's 100 made field goals have come from beyond the arc, and he averages about seven attempts from there per game. If Sargent is connecting on those attempts, then the Jacks become a much more difficult team to beat. However, if Oakland can disrupt his shots early and often, then the chances of Sargent having a rough night increase as his team has lost all four games where he's had at least 10 triple attempts. Fortunately, Oakland has a few guys who can get hot from deep, highlighted by Travis Bader. The redshirt freshman is 13 of 19 on his three-pointers in January conference games so far.

SDSU Player To Watch: Jordan Dykstra
Coach Scott Nagy has used the same starting line-up all season, and for nearly every game it has featured Jordan Dykstra. Despite the fact he is a true freshman, Dykstra has been billed as one of SDSU's best recruits yet. He has not disappointed as the team's featured big man, averaging 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his debut season. At 6-foot-8, he is one of the team's tallest players and will be tested by Oakland's bigger frontcourt on Thursday night. We should learn a lot about Dykstra in such a match-up.

Oakland Player To Watch: Reggie Hamilton
South Dakota State has had an explosive offense all season, but the team has dropped a few games because of its defense. This game could play out like the Oakland-Valparaiso match if defense is thrown out the window, in which case the Golden Grizzlies will need a confident Reggie Hamilton yet again. Hamilton is fully capable of changing a game with his scoring, whether it's from downtown, driving the lane, or getting easy looks at the charity stripe. It will be neat to see the junior go up against an SDSU backcourt that can do much of the same.

Oakland is 2-1 at Frost Arena in Summit League play, though the two wins have come by a combined four points. Needless to say, expect an entertaining finish in this year's installment.

The Extra Pass
One of the more bizarre things I've come across this season was when I saw that John Gasaway of listed a Summit Leaguer in his national Top 25 Freshmen list a little over a week ago. Checking in at the 25th spot was not ORU's freak frosh Steven Roundtree, NDSU's rebounding machine Marshall Bjorklund, or OU's three-point threat Travis Bader, but SDSU's role playing newcomer Chad White. Here's Mr. Gasaway's take on the freshman forward:
No Prospectus list of top 25 freshmen would be complete without a criminally overlooked jewel of efficiency who's been relegated to coming in off the bench. Meet White, a 6-6 redshirt freshman who's making a Roy Hobbs-like 67 percent of his twos and 48 percent of his threes -- but he's yet to start for the Jackrabbits. Show him the love, Coach Nagy!
It's hard to argue with that analysis. While freshman Jordan Dykstra gets most of the love as SDSU's starting big man, perhaps White has been a bit under-appreciated. While his numbers have dipped just a bit since that list was put together, White is still shooting at an impressive clip, but his rebounding has gone stagnant in conference play. The Jackrabbit fans are likely quite familiar with #42 at this point, but for the rest of us, we thank for highlighting him in such a fashion. Consider The Chad another dude to keep an eye on in this game.

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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