Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Game Preview: Oakland vs. IUPUI

Game 18: Oakland (9-8, 4-0) vs IUPUI (8-8, 2-1)
Thursday, January 6, 2011 | 7:35pm EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit | Radio: WXOU (88.3FM)

Oakland and IUPUI take the court together for the first time since the two squads met in the championship game of The Summit League Tournament last March. Oakland was the victor in that meeting, though both teams have since lost significant seniors who led their teams to that match. The Golden Grizzlies have been able to rebound from the losses at bit more quickly than the Jaguars and are out to a 4-0 start in league play. IUPUI isn't far behind, however, with its sole loss coming to the hands of Oral Roberts on a buzzer beater. These two teams always play one another tough, a trend that will surely continue Thursday night in the O'rena.

Making Up For Lost Production
Every off-season fans of college basketball teams want to know who in the program will replace the production lost from graduating seniors. Good programs, it goes, will have players ready to kick up their respective games a notch in order to keep on winning. The IUPUI program, in recent years, hasn't had much trouble in this regard, a very surprising fact considering many of their recent losses have been league leaders in production. This season the Jaguars needed to fill the production void left by Robert Glenn, a versatile forward who led the league with 19.9 points per game in 2010-11 (amazingly, his teammate Alex Young was second in the league). IUPUI was successful in part because it could count on forty points from two players in any given game, a luxury which helped the team to The Summit League championship game. This year, Leroy Nobles has been asked to help replace that missing production, a job he is filling admirably by notching 15.4 points per game. However, Leroy's scoring output is far from hovering around the mean. His range is from four to 31 points, and it appears that the team goes the way of Mr. Nobles.
As the table above shows, Nobles is shooting nearly 49% from the field in seven IUPUI wins while he has a 31.5% field goal percentage in eight losses. Five of his six twenty-point performances have resulted in wins for the team, the lone exception his 21 points in a last-second loss to Oral Roberts. Those kind of performances are bound to be the norm in conference play where even great individual games can result in losses in the wacky Summit League. With that said, it's clear that Nobles plays a big role in the IUPUI offense. While Alex Young will score whether the team wins or loses, the real player to watch might be Nobles. Contain him and winning is more easily realized.

Key Personnel Match-Up
Oakland frontcourt vs. IUPUI frontcourt
Simply put, Oakland will have the advantage in frontcourt match-ups throughout Summit League play. The OU bigs are just that good. However, in order for the team to capitalize on this advantage they have to play their game and get the ball to Keith Benson and Will Hudson. If this is the case, the Golden Grizzlies are darn hard to beat as we have seen in conference play thus far. IUPUI's frontcourt is full of smaller or inexperienced players who are great complements to the team's quicker guards but would struggle with Oakland's size and experience on a given night. If the Jaguars are able to jump out and capture momentum, it could force OU to play the Jags' smaller game. Such a move would erase Oakland's big man advantage.

IUPUI Player To Watch: Alex Young
An All-League preseason selection, Alex Young enters this game averaging 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. The junior forward/guard is the do-everything player for IUPUI this season, another in a long list of athletic ballers who Coach Ron Hunter always seems to have leading his team. Young is a guy who his coach has said has potential to be in the NBA, and he would know: he coached a guy named George Hill who is getting paychecks from the San Antonio Spurs these days. There might not be a key to stopping Young because, like ORU's Dominique Morrison, he's going to get his fair share of points. However, if the Golden Grizzlies can limit Young's impact on the glass and in his distribution role, then IUPUI could struggle as Young helps to make the team tick in these ways as well.

Oakland Player To Watch: Drew Valentine
Mr. Valentine is coming off of his two best performances yet in road games at Centenary and Oral Roberts where he displayed a new sense of confidence in all aspects of his game. Valentine will probably spend some time guarding the aforementioned Young, so we'll get a chance to see how he responds to a tough individual for a second straight game. On the offensive end, Valentine has been smart in his shot selection in recent games, one reason why he went 6-for-6 against Oral Roberts. If Oakland gets a similar performance from him on Thursday night, then all signs would point to Valentine becoming a very important cog as Summit League play moves on.

Pre-Game Linkage
Our favorite Oakland feature on the web is the weekly Grizz Talk show put out by Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press. This week the OU beat writer has video interviews with Coach Kampe, senior Will Hudson, and junior Ilija Milutinovic, all available to watch here. It is always great to see the spotlight on Oakland with this program, especially from the area's main news outlet. Hopefully both die-hard fans and curious folks alike are able to learn more about the program and players through the show. You can also check out the pre-game story from The Oakland Press here. Michael Hadley of the IUPUI blog Student on Sports has his own preview, linked here. We have a Q&A with Student on Sports below. Finally, check out the official pre-game news release from Oakland here, where an interview of Coach Kampe previewing the match can be viewed.

Oakland is 9-2 at the O'rena against IUPUI since the 1999-2000 season. The last setback came during the first week of January in 2006 when the Jaguars left Rochester with a one-point victory. Oakland's current group of four-year players have a record of 4-4 all-time against IUPUI, including two Summit League tournament games.

Opponent Q&A
Michael Hadley might be one of the biggest Jaguars fans to ever grace the IUPUI campus. Not only does he run a blog, Student on Sports, about the men's basketball team, he's also one of the leaders of the school's Red Zone student section. And I can confirm that he tweets updates from all sorts of IUPUI athletics events including women's volleyball and men's soccer. Mr. Hadley is also a true road warrior as he's been to six of the team's road games this season in addition to the home games. That's dedication, holmes. Hadley knows his stuff, so what better way to learn a bit more about IUPUI basketball than by asking him!

From our perspective, there are a few losses in IUPUI's non-conference schedule which make us question the team's conference contender status. But you saw all of the games and know what's been going on, so how would you characterize the IUPUI non-conference season? And what did you learn about the team that has you excited for the rest of conference play? Worried?

MH: The non-conference schedule for IUPUI showed exactly one thing to me: This team has yet to find its identity this year. From the drubbings at Gonzaga and Duquesne to the near upsets of San Diego State and Ohio State, they just don't know who they are. One game they play hard, another they look like they're in the middle of a pick-up game. I wish I could say it all revolves around one person or key statistic, but it doesn't. Good games by one player (PJ Hubert's 5-6 3P night at Duquesne) might be a horrible game for the team. Of late, they've looked better. The near knock-off of SDSU was followed by a last second victory over San Fransisco, a win at Florida Gulf Coast, and a shellacking of WIU, we might have righted the ship. Might.

IUPUI is playing at a snail's pace this season, just behind Western Illinois in terms of possessions per game in the conference. This comes as somewhat of a surprise given the number of athletes on this team. Oakland plays at a blistering pace, using its athleticism and quickness to attack. How do you see IUPUI handling this aspect of the game? Can the Jaguars win the tempo battle?

MH: I don't think tempo is key to IUPUI's victory on offense, but more importantly it's vital to their defensive game plan. The more the zone can force an extra pass, the more forced the shots become. This, in turn, means less offensive possessions all around. Offensively, scoring in transition is important, but there has been a lot more dribble-penetration-after-dribble-penetration, eventually find an open shot. Individuals are successful when they are selfless with the ball in their hands and take high percentage shots. Rarely is there a "hot hand" for more than two halves of play, clearly illustrated by the turn in shooting percentage from half one to half two against WIU. Back to tempo, the Jaguars are able to play at a fast or slow tempo, and while they favor a slower one (mainly on defense, with the 2-3 zone), they can play either way. Ohio is a perfect example. Their offensive strategy (which I could clearly hear sitting about six inches from the bench...) was to change up their pace, going fast and slow randomly to never let Ohio get set in one mode or the other.

Tell us a bit about the IUPUI frontcourt. We were big fans of Billy Pettiford and Robert Glenn who have since graduated. Who is stepping up to fill the void in the interior?

MH: We, too, were huge fans of Billy and Rob, as well as six man of the year Jon Avery. Losing all three in a single season could've been the biggest blow to IUPUI since joining D-1 basketball, but that's a different story. So far Christian Siakam has been filling in to start, but he's faced some major foul trouble and hardly sees 20 mpg. Donovan Gibbs has done a fine job as a freshman, but he's more of a mid-ranged player, almost a skinny Petiford. Mitch Patton has done a great job inside when the opposing team has someone his size, but it seems he's been either too slow or too short recently. I think he will make a bigger impact against a team like SUU or UMKC who are similarly sized to IUPUI, but aren't particularly fast. I'm extremely hard pressed to say any of the three are doing a great job, but then again they have some crazy huge shoes to fill. If their standards weren't so high, I could say they were right on track, but the drop off is obvious. Especially when your wingman (Alex Young) is averaging more rebounds than anyone.

Introduce us to some of the IUPUI freshman and sophomores. Who has been able to crack the line-up? What kind of impact have they made?

MH: I've mentioned a couple already, though they're worth taking a better look at. Mitch Patton is a 6-9 center who can pull up and take a three when it's open. He has a lot to work on in the paint, but it's more about adjusting to the speed of the college game than anything. Donovan Gibbs was a highly touted recruit from Kentucky, a 6-7 forward who was unfortunately thrust into a post roll that he doesn't feel comfortable owning. Once the offense finds a way to get him the ball from 12-16 feet, his offensive numbers are going to explode. PJ Hubert is a sharp-shooting guard from near by Greenfield, IN. He was in a boot with an undisclosed injury until the Duquesne game where he went 5-6 from three. He hasn't been that good since, but that's not to say he's not capable of it on any given night. The final new-comer would be Stephen Thomas, a point guard transfer from the University of Dayton. It is my opinion that he could be one of the best PGs ever at IUPUI, but there's not exactly a vault of archived footage for me to review. He can blow up for 16 points, or dish out six assists, or maybe do both. He drives the lane and floats them in, as well as hits a high percentage of his three pointers, all while being a vocal leader on both sides of the ball. The freshmen aren't seeing a whole whopping amount of time, but instead are more role-players. Stephen is a red shirted junior really freakin' good.

These two programs have had a lot of success in The Summit League over the past five years or so and always seem to have some entertaining games. As a fan of IUPUI and the conference, what do you like about this series and why are you happy to see Oakland on the schedule twice a year?

MH: Ya know, I've always thought IUPUI could be the best team in the Summit League if they didn't have to schedule Oakland or Oral Roberts... That being said, there are a lot of great programs in The League that make our messed up relationship thing what it is, but none are better than Oakland. Greg Kampe, no matter how much I might despise him when he's smiling at the end of the Summit League Championship, knows what he's doing. The schedule he puts together for OU creates a down-hill effect for the players, which is extremely dangerous for the rest of The League. Do I fear Oakland when I see them on the schedule? No. Do I think "this is going to be a hell of a test"? Yes. Oh Lord, yes.

You can check out Michael's preview of the Oakland-IUPUI game here. We thank him for taking the time to answer our questions!

The Extra Pass
Fans of college basketball in Michigan are probably familiar with the stories of Trey Zeigler and Ray McCallum, Jr. The two were highly-touted in-state recruits who chose to play Division I basketball for their fathers at Central Michigan and Detroit, respectively, despite offers from schools in the elite conferences. Both players are starting this season as freshman and making a noticeable impact on those programs. IUPUI coach Run Hunter could find himself in a similar situation as his son, RJ Hunter, is a top-rated recruit in the Class of 2012 out of Indianapolis. According to, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard has offers from Cincinnati, Iowa, Miami (The U), Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and ... IUPUI. While those offers aren't confirmed on any other recruiting sites, there is no doubt that the younger Hunter is getting interest from some big time programs. As we saw with Zeigler and McCallum, though, there is always an outside shot he ends up playing for his father, a fact which would probably make the Jaguars a contender for many years to come. Keep an eye out on Hunter's recruitment.

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.


  1. can you start putting time zone's whenever you put a time for anything in?

  2. For sure, joker. Thanks for letting us know. For future reference, it'll always be eastern standard time.

  3. Very interesting about RJ. For the Summit League I hope it happens. For Oakland I hope it doesn't. Why didn't Kampe have a son who was great at basketball?