Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Gameplan's Semifinal Recap: SDSU

True to the form of their previous meetings, the semifinal game between Oakland and South Dakota State was an offensive juggernaut where a lot of points were scored. Oakland got out to a hot start in the opening minutes and never looked back, eventually winning by a score of 110-90. Though SDSU received large contributions from its underclassmen - notably Nate Wolters, Jordan Dykstra, and Chad White - Oakland's experience, hunger, and confidence proved to be the difference, allowing the Golden Grizzlies to dominant most facets of the match. For more on how the game went down and reaction to it from the coaches and players, check out the game stories from Paul Kampe of The Oakland Press here and Dan Fenner of The Oakland Post here. And post-game press conference video from the conference is here, plus a WXOU interview with Drew Valentine here.

Where does one start with a performance like the one the Golden Grizzlies turned in on Monday evening? Scoring 110 points in a tournament game? The stunning production of sophomore Drew Valentine? The 57% three-point shooting? Keith Benson's well-rounded game? Travis Bader's squandering of SDSU's Clint Sargent? The ridiculous turnover rate? Or how about ESPN's Andy Katz chiming in about his respect for all things Oakland? Well, as has often been the case on this blog, let's first turn to Oakland's offensive efficiency.

If you read the preview for this game, you'll remember the table included with the possession-based offensive efficiency data. In two meetings, Oakland had scored 0.13 more points per possession than its conference season average on SDSU's defense, while SDSU managed to go for just 0.04 more points per trip than its own average on Oakland's defense. In the semifinal game, SDSU managed to boost this to 0.06, but it allowed Oakland to go for 0.31 more points per possession than its season average! It was, simply put, an absolute drubbing. Consider that Oakland's 1.50 points scored per possession was not only a season-high for the team, but it also ranked second in the entire nation out of ALL games played between Division I teams this season. Here's the top five, according to BBState.com:
It's interesting that the top three performances all happened in the past three days. Syracuse's is probably a bit misleading given the fact that Depaul is a cellar dweller in the Big East, but the drubbings put forth by Ohio State and Oakland were against fairly solid teams from their respective conferences. It's been no secret that Oakland's offense has been great, but for most of the season that has been the case despite the team's tendency to turn the ball over. The team has improved in that department over the year, but one of the reasons it was so efficient last night was because of its superb turnover rate. On this night we were able to see just how explosive Oakland can be sans those turnovers. To put the team's 5.5% turnover rate in perspective, consider the following:
  • 1. Oaklands 5.5% turnover rate against SDSU was a team best out of all Summit League teams, besting the next best by nearly a full percentage point (interesting: two of the top five were by SDSU against Oakland in the regular season).
  • 2. Oakland's next best turnover rate all season was 10.8% against Southern, a game which still stands as Oakland's most dominating performance of the season (taking into account both sides of the ball).
Astouding, really.

In other statistical superlatives, the team's 57.7% field goal shooting was its third best shooting performance of the year, and its 57.1% shooting from beyond the arc was second only to the home game against IUPUI. The 22 team assists mark was tied with several other games as its third best output of the season. Games like this only come around so often, and for Oakland, it certainly came at the right time. Talk about an "A game."

The Tournament Breakout Of Drew Valentine
On a night when all of Oakland's starters scored at least 12 points and contributed so much more in other numerical categories, there was no one with a more beefy line that sophomore Drew Valentine. The forward went off for 24 points by going 7-of-8 on his two-pointers, 3-of-5 on his three-point shots, and 1-of-1 from the free throw line. Drew also chipped in a team-high 11 rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass. But no discussion of his offensive game would be appropriate without a look at his signature move, which he completed just minutes into the game:
We've seen Valentine execute that same play against so many different Summit League teams this season, so it was a great way for him to get going in this game. From there, he proceeded to get things done in transition, off the dribble, via tip-ins from offensive boards, and the standard lay-up. Here was what his shot chart looked like for the game, where the light blue lines represent drives, blue circles as makes, and white circles as misses. The "L" is for layup, "D" for dunk, and "3" for three-pointers.
Unfortunately, the shot chart doesn't capture well the intangibles Valentine demonstrated during the game. He finished at the rim like his more seasoned counterparts, and his determination on the boards was a pleasure to see. In his post game interview with WXOU's Bryan Everson, Valentine mentioned that he hasn't needed to be a featured scoring option this year with all of the great scorers on his team, but he made it clear that he can indeed be such a player when it's necessary. There's no doubting that sentiment now after this performance, which was all sorts of clutch. Like Blake Cushinberry's semifinal game last year, this is the kind of output that widens the eyes of Grizzlies fans. There's no telling what kind of ceiling the still young Drew Valentine has ahead of him, but if he makes plays like the one below, it must be pretty high.

How About Bader?
Travis Bader continues to exude the utmost confidence in his abilities despite the fact he's still just a redshirt freshman. At one point during the telecast, the commentators brought up the question of who they'd rather have in a game of H.O.R.S.E.: Bader or SDSU's Nate Wolters. One guy responded with Wolters because he had not seen Bader showoff much creativity. Within 30 seconds of that brief discussion, Bader made a winding move to the basket off the dribble that led to a nice two-point bucket. The commentators immediately gave credit to Bader for proving them wrong. What they didn't know was that it was a fairly new play for Oakland's starting shooting guard. Truth is, we haven't seen him attempt many shots from inside the arc like that. But in a key game, he again came through. He also came through from downtown, hitting four of his seven shot attempts. But hey, what's new in that regard? Well, how about a deeeep three that rivals Jimmer Fredette territory:
And Then There's That One Guy
Despite Oakland's balanced attack thus far, it was Reggie Hamilton and Drew Valentine who proved most captivating in these first two tournament games. Meanwhile, Oakland's center has - almost quietly - put together two very strong performances thus far. Fitting for a senior Player of the Year. What I enjoyed most about Benson's contributions against SDSU was his aggressive play on the offensive boards. It's not often that Kito has just as many offensive as defensive boards, but he did just that on Monday night. He was hitting jumpers and going up hard against SDSU's weaker frontline. And he completed a couple very nice passes that lead to easy baskets for his teammates. His most exciting play, though, came on an alley-oop pass where he not only connected, but also posterized Jordan Dykstra in the process:
What's Next?
The Golden Grizzlies are set to face off against Oral Roberts on Tuesday night at 9:00pm EST. The game will air live on ESPN2. The national television audience will get a chance to see a great game between the league's top teams and programs, and an NCAA Tournament bid is on the line.


  1. This blog is spot on and a joy to read! Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks a lot for the comment! Does not go unappreciated, especially since these recaps usually take a few days to develop during regular season, so right now it's total overload. I'm glad it's an enjoyable read.