Game 29: Oakland (19-9, 14-1) vs SDSU (18-9, 10-6)
Saturday, February 19, 2011 | 6:00pm EST
Saturday's tilt between Oakland and SDSU comes with equal parts sadness and excitement. For the former emotion, it'll be the last time we see Keith Benson, Will Hudson, and Larry Wright play a game at the O'rena. All three players have been major contributors for Oakland over the years, and while it will be hard to see them say goodbye to their home arena, it also serves as cause for celebrating their careers. And while the actual outcome of the game won't have a major impact on Oakland's season (the team has already clinched the league championship), the Golden Grizzlies will surely be motivated to send this trio of seniors out with a bang. The night's opponent, South Dakota State, is on a bit of a roll as of late. The Jacks have won four straight as it looks like they've finally found a way to put together enough defense to allow their explosive offense to win games. It's also been a season of firsts for the Jacks as they are coming off their first win at IPFW in their fourth year of league play. Now they'll look to get their first win at the O'rena while spoiling Oakland's Senior Night.
The Ultimate POT
Back in the early part of the conference season, I introduced a concept here, gleaned from Big Ten Wonk, about the perimeter-oriented team. Using IPFW as the subject, the numbers showed that the perimeter-oriented offense of the Dons in turn made them a league leader in turnover rate but squashed their chances of getting to the free throw line or accumulating many offensive rebounds. Well, now that we're almost to the end of conference play, I decided to gather the numbers again for league games only. The result of that process shows us that South Dakota State is now the ultimate perimeter-oriented team.
This first table shows us that 37.2% of SDSU's shots come from beyond the arc, which puts the team just behind UMKC in that department. Unlike UMKC, though, SDSU makes a high percentage of these shots. As a result, the team's perimeter orientation is well-employed. They take a lot of threes, and they make a lot of threes. However, as the next table shows, this is not without its statistical consequences.
First, perhaps the best consequence of such an orientation is a lessened turnover rate. The thinking on this matter is that the more shots a team takes from deep, the fewer chances it has to turn the ball over on a dribble-drive through mishandling or an opponent's block. SDSU's gaudy turnover rate is also helped by Nate Wolters, who rarely turns the ball over even as one of the team's most productive players off the dribble. Second, we see that SDSU is an average team when it comes to offensive rebounding percentage. Here, one might assume that with more players on the perimeter there are less bodies attacking the basket for the offensive board. The evidence suggests this is partly true, though it helps that the Jacks have a few guys who have proven effective on the offensive glass (Dale Moss, Jordan Dykstra). Finally, without as many guys driving to the basket, SDSU rarely gets to the free throw line. In fact, in conference games only the team has the lowest free throw rate in The Summit League. Again, Nate Wolters throws a wrench in that assessment as he is one of the best in the league at drawing contact. Clearly, SDSU has a perimeter-orientation and takes advantage of its benefits, and while the disadvantages are proven, the team has a game-changer in Wolters who has the ability to make moot several of these points.
Key Personnel Match-Up
Reggie Hamilton vs. Nate Wolters
When the All-League teams are announced a few weeks from today, the First Team should feature the two lead guards in Saturday's match-up. Nate Wolters is a sure-fire pick for the conference's top team, evidenced by the 18.8 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.5 rebounds he's averaging per game. Not only has Wolters been an impact player for SDSU, he's been their featured option in just his second year. The 6-foot-3 point guard had 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists on Thursday night to lead his team to its first win on the road against IPFW. Dude's a baller, simply put. On the other side of the ball stands Reggie Hamilton. The junior is having a stellar season for Oakland, averaging 16.8 points, 5.0 assists, and 2.6 boards a game. Those numbers are greater in conference play where Hamilton has been responsible for a number of late-game heroics to help will Oakland to victory. Even though these two guys won't always exclusively guard one another in this game, it will definitely be the most intriguing match-up as it features two potential First Team guards looking to keep their teams hot heading into the conference tournament.
SDSU Player To Watch: Clint Sargent
It seems that every Oakland opponent down the stretch here has featured a noteworthy senior playing his last game at the O'rena. SDSU's senior class might not be the winningest bunch compared to other senior classes around the league, but they sure have been influential in helping the program make the transition into a Division I contender. Clint Sargent has perhaps been the most productive of the Jacks' senior bunch over the course of the past four years. The Iowa native has primarily served as the team's principle threat from beyond the arc where he is shooting 41.4% on the season. Sargent seems to get hot in spurts, and if history is any indication, his 1-for-6 line on Thursday means that he's likely to bounce back with a much better performance against Oakland.
Oakland Player To Watch: Keith Benson
In the game against NDSU, Keith Benson did what seniors do. With the game close throughout the second half, Benson came up big to help lead his team to victory. After making just 2-of-7 field goals in the first, Benson went 6-of-11 in the second in addition to racking up four of his five blocks. And one of those blocks occurred with 47 seconds left on an NDSU shot attempt that could have tied the game. Keith Benson has rarely come up short in big moments for Oakland, and he showed on Thursday that such a trend is far being overturned. For now, Kito will have his last opportunity to come up big with timely dunks and game-altering blocks inside of the O'rena on Saturday night.
Oakland is 3-0 at home against SDSU since the Jacks joined The Summit League in the 2007-2008 season.
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.