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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Brutal stretch before 'real' conference season

As everyone has noticed, the hardest part of Oakland's regular season begins tonight at Assembly Hall against No. 16 Illinois. Saturday, the Grizzlies have their annual tilt with Michigan State, this one at The Palace of Auburn Hills against the No. 7 Spartans. Next week, it's a trip to face No. 11 Tennessee in the first game of a three-year deal with the Volunteers. The Grizzlies come back to play Michigan in Ann Arbor before hosting the Lou Henson Tournament.
Coach Greg Kampe is looking for his team to be relaxed in the fire, because the upcoming gauntlet has no bearing on their conference record.
“What we talked to them about was that this is their chance to have some fun," he said. "The next four games aren’t going to have anything to do with our season. If we were somehow able to win a couple of those games, then it would have something to do with (it). But if we lose those games, it’s not going to make or break our team. They came to Oakland because they know they’ll play this schedule, so let’s go out and have some fun. Let’s compete and prove to some people that we belong. Let’s really get out there and we’ve got a chance to put the Oakland name out across the nation. Let’s see what we can do and let’s just have some fun.”


Despite the matchups with highly-touted teams like then-No. 14 Purdue, Final Four team West Virginia and MAC tourney champion Ohio, Oakland's RPI fell from 90 going into the Summit conference openers last weekend, to 102 on the eve of the Illinois game.
Kampe pointed out during his show on WXOU Monday, the Illini, whose RPI stands at 29, already knocked off North Carolina this season.
“I don’t worry about what the score is," he said. "We’re going to go in there and compete. We’re looking forward to playing it. I don’t know what the final score is going to be, but we’re going to bust our tail and we’re going to play. We’re really looking forward to the game at The Palace and we’re really looking forward to going to Michigan."
Kampe said if the Grizzlies can stick to their strengths, there may be a shot an upset in Champaign, Ill. That of course has been the Grizzlies' FG percentage defense, which is around 40 percent. The Illini are shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor, while Oakland is nearly +8 on the boards, led by Keith Benson's 12.3 boards per.
“Their strength is shooting the basketball. Ours is stopping (teams) from shooting it," Kampe said. "They’re not a great rebounding team as big as they are. They only have a plus-1 rebounding margin. Most of their games have been cupcakes. To only have a plus-1 rebound margin shows me (that with) our strength being rebounding, we have a chance going in there. If we can keep them missing shots and we keep getting the rebound, we’re going to have a chance.
The Illini, however, are shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, while, as we're all aware, Oakland is allowing 37 percent shooting from deep.
It'll be interesting to see if Oakland can give the Illini, Spartans, Wolverines and Vols the same run or more than they showed Purdue.

Related: Game preview from Golden Grizzlies Gameplan
Live blog from FightingIllini.com
Also: Illini's Tisdale throwing opponent fans into a tizzy

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