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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.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ESPN to force a reunification with Detroit?

On the final installment of “The Greg Kampe Show” Monday on WXOU, the long-time coach uttered the possibility of Oakland playing Detroit in ESPN’s Bracketbusters series next season.
“If it’s not a TV game, they try and do it based on proximity,” Kampe said afterward, noting if Oakland isn’t in a marquee matchup, it could be paired with a team like Eastern, Western or Central Michigan or even Detroit.
“I’ve always been against (Bracketbusters),” Kampe said. “I’ve always said no.”
The Summit League recently inked a deal to join the ESPN phenomenon, to Kampe’s displeasure.
“I have to follow through with what the league wants, (but) it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.”
The rivalry with Detroit went cold in recent years, as the natural in-state rivals have failed to reach a date to play. Kampe even said in February he wouldn’t be playing Detroit — ever again.
While the Bracketbusters pairings won’t be announced until next February, the Grizzlies’ non-conference schedule will be released much sooner, but don’t expect a game with the Titans.

Benson snubbed by All-America voters

NBA prospect Keith Benson was again named All-America honorable mention Monday. To say Oakland coach Greg Kampe had higher aspirations for his prized pupil might be an understatement.
“That’s crap,” Kampe said when reached for comment Monday afternoon. “He should definitely be second or third team.
“Show me another big man who’s done what he’s done, the numbers he’s put up and the winning Oakland has done.”
Benson is the two-time conference player of the year and defensive player of the year this season. He became just the second player in Summit League history to surpass 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. Benson was one of the nation’s leaders in defensive rebounds (7.4) and second in blocks per game (3.5).
Big Ten bigs Jared Sullinger and JaJuan Johnson were both first-team picks, while Kansas’ Marcus Morris and Arizona’s Derrick Williams made the second team. Fellow mid-major darling Kenneth Faried of Morehead State and Texas’ Jordan Hamilton were on the third team. Faried led the nation in rebounds, averaging 14.5 per game. Benson averaged 10.1 boards per game.
Benson ranked sixth in the country with a school-record 20 double-doubles and 31st in the nation with a .547 field goal percentage. His team-high 17.9 points per game finished fifth in the league.

Former Oakland standout takes another step

Brian Gregory, who played point guard for Greg Kampe from 1987-1990, is reportedly going to coach Georgia Tech after leading Dayton to two NCAA tournament appearances.
“We knew he was that special point guard that ran the show, knew everything,” Kampe said. “He wanted to coach very badly,” and that’s the reason he left Navy.
Gregory, Oakland’s all-time assists leader, took a job as a graduate assistant with Jud Heathcote’s staff at Michigan State a year after graduating from Oakland. He later returned to the Spartans as assistant under Izzo. He once told Oakland University magazine he has taken on traits of all his previous mentors.
“He has a similar personality to (Tom) Izzo or myself,” Kampe said. “He is a guy that will get after it while he’s coaching.”
Gregory was a three-time all-conference selection while playing for Oakland University, graduating in 1990.
The 44-year-old Gregory had coached at Dayton for eight seasons, posting a record of 172-94. He guided the Flyers to a pair of NCAA appearances, reaching the second round in 2009 with an upset of West Virginia.
The Flyers had only one losing season in Gregory’s tenure.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eackles' decision to transfer unsurprising

The news that sophomore guard Ledrick Eackles, a genuinely nice guy and team prankster, has decided to leave Oakland comes as no surprise Thursday. Despite his blinding speed and athleticism, the native of Zachary, La., was unable to fully reinsert himself into the rotation after suffering an ankle injury Jan. 6 vs. IUPUI. Eackles began his career a year ago as a spark plug off the bench and was attempting to do the same vs. the Jaguars as he planted his feet to go up for the alley-oop lob. He turned his ankle on the way up, and while grimacing in pain, converted the pass for a lay-in. He would miss the next four games and only had an impact in one more, the season finale at Southern Utah, where he had 10 points, while logging 22 minutes.
"It’s in mine and my family’s best interests for me to head back down south and (be) closer to home," Eackles said.

Eackles relished his reserve role as a freshman, playing in all but one game and even gained national attention in the Grizzlies' NCAA tournament loss to Pittsburgh. He scored 17 points in 23 minutes, keying what looked to be at the time, a possible Oakland rally.
(I'll never forget when, in a flurry, Eackles lofted a finger-roll in transition near the arc, while drawing contact from a Pitt guard. The bank fell, but Eackles was called for the charge.)
Eackles averaged 6.1 points per game last year in 15.9 minutes. He was getting even more minutes prior to his injury in January.
Eackles' season began under a bad sign, as he missed the team bus at West Virginia to open the season, leaving the starting role that night open for guard Travis Bader. The Freshman played 35 minutes, scoring 15 points. Bader started 21 games this year, compared to Eackles' three.
(Reggie Hamilton also missed the bus that day, but went on to have a much different season.)
It's also likely Eackles factored in the logjam at guard into his decision to leave. Besides Bader, freshman guard Ryan Bass saw critical minutes and transfer Laval Lucas-Perry become eligible next season. Larry Wright is the only graduating guard. That leaves a four-guard rotation, excluding freshmen (Dante Williams and Matt Poches), who might have a chance to play.
"He leaves with two straight championships and his time here was very productive for Ledrick and Oakland," coach Greg Kampe said. "I do understand why he is leaving and wish him nothing but the best. I will always cheer for Ledrick Eackles.”
There's probably going to be many of us who do the same.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Despite Pearl firing, Oakland-Tennessee still on the table

After friend Bruce Pearl was fired Monday, Oakland coach Greg Kampe said the deal to play Tennessee was still valid. If the Volunteers want out, they would have to buy themselves out of the contract, for what Kampe estimated was $50,000. Otherwise, the Vols are expected in the O'rena this season and the Grizzlies will again travel to Knoxville the following season.
Kampe hadn't spoken to Pearl as of Monday night, but said he wasn't surprised by the firing following last week's announced "wait-and-see" approach to the Pearl situation by the program's athletic director. The Vols lost by 30 to Michigan in Friday's NCAA tournament second-round game.
“I thought, for the most part, he was going to survive it,” Kampe said.
“I never thought he was out of the woods, because you never know what the NCAA is going to do. I feel bad for him. That’s a good coach. He’s done a lot of good things in his coaching career. He made a mistake that I’m sure now he vastly regrets."
The two became friends during their Division II days, when Pearl was at Southern Indiana.
Another Kampe friend, Tennessee associate coach Tony Jones, was instrumental in establishing the three-year deal between the schools last summer.
In other coaching news, IUPUI's Ron Hunter left for Georgia State, a move applauded by Kampe.
“I’m really happy for him,” Kampe said. “His salary got tripled and he got what he wanted. He’s very excited and I’m very pleased for him.”
It was revealed by CNBC sports analyst Darren Rovell prior to Friday's game against Texas, Kampe's salary is in the neighborhood of $170,000. He just finished his 27th year as Oakland's head coach and some have wondered how and why he's maintained such longevity.
“If someone offered me millions and millions of dollars, I’d probably look at it," Kampe said. "Nobody has called me," he quickly asserted.
“When I put my key in today (Monday), I was just happy it worked.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is Reggie Hamilton leaving Oakland?

Reggie Hamilton’s Twitter page is full of ominous signs today, leaving fans wondering what his next move will be. Coach Greg Kampe said the two had a meeting arranged for Monday afternoon.
The page has a backdrop of a disappointed looking Hamilton at the NCAA tournament.
There haven’t been any reports of Hamilton playing professionally, yet. He has a strong case after being voted Summit League first-team in his first season at Oakland and had another good showing in the NCAA tournament Friday, scoring 25 points. His 3-pointer that could’ve pulled Oakland within three points rimmed out with 47 seconds remaining.
Here is a timeline of the suggestive tweets:
  • cant take the f@#$ery cant wait to leave michigan
  • i cant wait when certain people text my phone straight ignore.....mood killers for real
  • GOD is the best alarm clock!
  • That meeting just gave me some clarity
  • I'm doing what's best for me I have to
  • I have a family to take care of
  • I couldn't even look at my teammates this morning
  • more lies and bs
  • with that being said i dont want anyone talking to me about basketball ill handle mine.....
UPDATE: After a meeting between Kampe and Hamilton, it was determined the point guard's Twitter account had indeed been hacked.
"Somebody was trying to have a little fun with him," Kampe said of the situation.
Later in the evening, Hamilton appeared on the Sports Block. There was no mention of Monday's situation.

Obama interrupts Oakland-Texas

I only heard via Twitter, obviously, because I was at the game, but President Obama's speech about the situation in Libya sent the second-round game on CBS to a split-screen for what I've been told was about 50 seconds to the final minute.
Here's what you missed:
  • The questionable foul called on Larry Wright. Cory Joseph splits at the line to give Texas a six-point.
  • Reggie Hamilton's 3-pointer rims out with 47 seconds left.
  • Keith Benson fouls to stop the clock with 43 seconds left. Joseph makes two more free throws to push the lead to eight.
  • Hamilton elects for the easy two, his layup cuts the lead down to six with 28 seconds left.
  • Oakland timeout with 28 seconds left.
  • Wright intentionally fouls J'Covan Brown to stop the clock. Brown makes both (he was 12 for 12 from the line Friday).
  • Wright missed a jumper. Hamilton got the rebound, Benson missed a jumper. Hudson got the board and put it back in to cut it to six points.
  • Drew Valentine steals the ball and Benson gets fouled down low. They put a split second back on the clock and he closes out his career with two makes at the line to pull Oakland within four at the horn.

Hamilton's turnover near the half

Does anybody remember coach Kampe's reaction to Reggie Hamilton's double-dribble turnover near the end of the half Friday? Hamilton's reaction is the best part. Thanks to Sports Grid for unearthing the video.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The phantom (foul) of the NCAA tournament

The word from the Oakland fans was the Grizzlies were getting worked by the referees. They were whistled 17 times to Texas' 14 personal fouls, but one of the biggest Oakland fouls may have killed momentum created by in a late-second half comeback.
Larry Wright was called for a foul with just 59 seconds remaining, just 20-some seconds after he hit a 3-pointer with 1:22 left, pulling the Grizzlies within five, 80-75. That was as close as they would get. (Watch the foul courtesy of Corey at Golden Grizzlies Gameplan.)
“It was a call where I felt like wasn't a foul," Wright said. "He tripped over his own feet, but things happen.”
The crowd roared with disapproval following a replay the call and Cory Joseph split at the line after that.
A couple minutes later, the game and Oakland's season was over.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Presidential snub doesn't faze Kampe

Upon receiving news that President Obama snubbed Oakland in his NCAA tournament bracket, Oakland coach Greg Kampe said, "I didn't vote for him, either. I guess we're even now.
"I don't think a lot of people are picking us. If you look at it, wasn't Texas a No. 1 team in the country two or three weeks ago? I don't know how they fell to a No. 4 seed.
"But I'm not on the committee. I don't sit in there and look at all the information."
The President was slammed for his picks, choosing all No. 1 seeds to make next month's Final Four in Houston.

The slight rolled right off Kampe, but he acknowledged the Grizzlies need to start winning in the tournament to get more favorable seeds.
“We're always going to be in that position,” Kampe said. “I don't know if you can have a better year than we've had and get a 13 seed. Until we get into the tournament and start winning games and get to a Sweet 16 or an elite eight or Final Four, we're always going to be in that role. It is what it is.
“It's important that we come in and get a couple wins under our belts if we want to get the seeds we feel we deserve.”

Sager comes calling for Benson

TULSA, Okla. - Most of the player questions at Thursday's interview were for star center Keith Benson. Before he even took the podium, he had recorded a stand-up interview with Turner Sports personality Craig Sager.

After Sager urged the Grizzlies to go wild for the cameras, he busted out his own dance to the players' surprise.
“As players, you dream for national television to come in and talk to you and acknowledge your accomplishments," junior guard Reggie Hamilton said.
(We're still waiting for the players who were still recording to upload video)

The crowd loves Greg Kampe

TULSA, Okla. - When you're around Greg Kampe, maybe you take his media savvy personality for granted. The media sequestered at the BOK Center at Thursday's press conference were like children gathered around the fireplace to hear their family elder read a story on Christmas Eve.
So it was only fitting Kampe dropped the "My dog always answers the door even though it's never for him" story on those in attendance. A well-used anecdote to describe forward Will Hudson's rebounding prowess became a tale to describe Texas freshman Tristan Thompson's freakish ability on the boards.
"I guess it's another compliment that I'm aggressive on the glass," Thompson said. "I like the story, but yeah, you've got to be aggressive on the glass to give your team opportunities to get second-chance points."
Thompson is the Longhorns' leading rebounder, averaging 7.8 per game.
The story even made a to-do in the Houston media. The Final Four will be in city best known for Hakeem Olajuwon and NASA Mission Control April 2-4.
The follow-up question for Kampe, which occured prior to the Texas press conference more than an hour later, inquired as to what Kampe's dog's name was. It's "G." The name came from his middle son, Branch. We also learned that his dog is a soft-haired Wheaten Terrier. Kampe concluded the interview by asking when was the last time an NCAA press conference devolved into such questions.
"Holy cow. I'm not sure that's good," he said laughing.
Yep, he certainly had them eating out of his hands, much like a dog.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

UPDATED: Blame Canada?

TULSA, Okla. - The Texas Longhorns roster reads like the table of contents in a world almanac. Thirteen players and just four are from Texas. Turkey and Cameroon are represented, as is our neighbor to the north.
Standout freshman Tristan Thompson and guard Cory Joseph, both Canadian, got some love in the Toronto Star Wednesday.
According to the story, the Texas band strums "Oh Canada" when the players approach the free-throw line.
The Star also points out the Longhorns have been mining Canucks for the past decade.
The Grizzlies have a similar connection to the Lansing area, which produced current players like Drew Valentine (Sexton) and Travis Bader (Okemos), as well as former players Derick Nelson (Everett) and Johnathon Jones (Okemos).

“We'll recruit anywhere we can find a player," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "They've found a pipeline to Canada like we've found a pipeline to Lansing. Once you get in and you do well and the coaches know you, they start pushing people your way. That's what we've done in Lansing. It's been pretty successful for us. If we can find another spot to do that, we will.

“The Lansing area has been a big, big part of our growth and where we're at today.”

GRIZZ TALK: Roping in Longhorns

Oakland University coach Greg Kampe, forward Will Hudson and guard Larry Wright talk about their upcoming trip to the NCAA tournament against Texas.

Click on an individual name below to see a full-length interview.

Coach Greg Kampe talks more about the matchup with Texas and reveals why he doesn't wear suits on the sidelines.

Senior guard Larry Wright

Senior forward Will Hudson

Candid Kampe chat

Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe took time to do a live chat with fans Tuesday afternoon. Here are some of the highlights:

Q: Coach, what scares you the most about Texas?

Kampe: “Their offensive rebounding ability. Once they shoot the ball it's more like a pass at the basket and you see 50 arms above the rim trying to dunk it.”

Q: Do you think you got the short end of the stick with having to play Texas? (many thought they should have been a 2 or 3 seed).

Kampe: “Honestly, yes.”

Q: What's Coach K's thoughts on the Summit in general, and would OU ever consider moving to a more competitive league?

Kampe: “I think that the league has gotten better with the addition of the Dakota teams, and the loss of Centenary and Southern Utah. I think RPI-wise, we'll be much better as a conference next year and we'll go from having 3 really good teams every year, to 6 or 7 that are always competitive. Would we leave? We would do anything to improve the reputation of OU.”

On next year’s schedule:

Kampe: “We will try to play every big boy that will play us. It is important to keep U-M and MSU on the schedule. I'm not sure I can do that but I'll be trying. Next year's schedule is still a work in progress, but we have Tennessee at home and U-M at The Palace, and we are at Arkansas and at Houston. The rest is still up in the air.”

Q: (Who do you see in the NCAA Championship game?)

Kampe:“I think Ohio State will play Kansas for the national title, I just don't see anyone beating those two teams.”

Q: You recently discussed the idea of trying to get money for an O'Rena renovation. Would that mainly involve practice facilities and offices, or would additional seating be added? And could we do something to make the entrance to the O'Rena more impressive?

Kampe: “There's been conversations about all of that stuff, and the administration wants to take a serious look at what it would take to accomplish everything that we want to do. It's going to take time but I believe that this will become a priority at OU.”

Q: You have had opportunities to move on and up from Oakland. Why do you stay?

Kampe: “I feel extremely lucky to have the job I have. How would I recruit players to come to what I believe is the best school in Michigan if I am looking to leave?”

Guess who won't be 'suiting up' in Tulsa?

The CBS network has been the longtime home the NCAA tournament, and more recently hit sitcom “How I met your mother,” starring former child actor Neil Patrick Harris as a well-dressed lawyer known for his catch phrase “suit up.”

One person who won't be “suiting up” for the NCAA tournament this week on CBS is Oakland coach Greg Kampe. But it's not because he's a slouch or poor dresser, as some may believe. He doesn't want his attire to detract from attention paid to his team.

“I don't want the writers writing about (what I wear),” Kampe said. “I don't want that taken away from our team. … I'll probably go back to the sweater-vest and instead of a Nike turtle neck, I'll probably wear a dress shirt. I might even wear a tie.”

Kampe donned a sweater-vest during last year's tournament game against Pittsburgh and earlier this season against Michigan State.

Kampe, in his 27th year coaching Oakland, will take a pass on the finer threads, but there's real logic behind his outfits. And it has everything to do with the team.

“I get e-mails from people saying 'You're a bum. You don't wear a tie.' After we almost beat Michigan State, I got a letter from an MSU fan that said 'You're a bum!' because I didn't have a suit and tie on.

“A few years ago, the daughter of a friend of mine wanted to use me in her science project at her high school. They put a heart monitor on me during the game. They recorded the game and they synched up my heart rate with what I was doing. … When the results came back, it showed my average heart beat was 146. That is full exercise. It peaked at 165. I had an episode with a referee. I wasn't really happy with him, so I had a few words for him.

“Back in the day, I used to wear suits and suspenders, but I've gotten fat. You're uncomfortable anyway when you're as big as I am, so I decided to go away from the coat and tie. I would think the team and the players would want the best from me. My best is to be comfortable and not have people thinking I'm a bum.”

Also, if Kampe is not wearing a suit coat, then there's one less item to hurl on the court or in the stands, as was the case once when he earned a technical foul in Cincinnati.

Making the crowd OK for OU

When Oakland played Pittsburgh in Milwaukee for the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, every Oakland seat was accounted for. Although there is a contingent of students taking a bus to Tulsa, Okla., the odds of an Oakland sellout aren't as likely due to the lengthy distance. There remains a way for the Golden Grizzlies to claim the audience, however.

“There's going to be Arizona and Memphis people there,” Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe said. “If we can get out and get a lead, all those people from Arizona and Memphis are going to start cheering for the Grizzlies.”

The Wildcats and Tigers battle in the 5-12 matchup immediately following Oakland's tip. The strategy plays off fans' collective disdain for the Longhorns.

“Nobody down there likes Texas. Plus, they would all think it's easier to beat us than it is to beat Texas.”

It'll be interesting to hear what the crowd sounds like Friday at the BOK Center.

Future matchups with Texas?

At a team breakfast Monday, Oakland coach Greg Kampe regaled visitors with a story about how he tried to get Texas on the Golden Grizzlies' schedule three seasons ago after the Longhorns played Michigan State and Oakland beat Oregon in a doubleheader at The Palace. Reportedly, Texas coach Rick Barnes was less than enthused about such a matchup.

“We're always trying to get teams like Texas (on the non-conference schedule),” Kampe said. “We're always looking for a team that's willing to come play us. And if not, they're willing to pay us to go play there. I'd love to get them on the schedule again.”

“That's a true story, they didn't want to play us. We'll keep trying.”

No. 13 seed Oakland takes on No. 4 Texas Friday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in the first meeting between the two programs. The Longhorns area 9.5 point favorite by oddsmakers. Rejection hasn't fazed the determined schedule-maker who helmed the Golden Grizzlies through six top-25 games this season and a trip to West Virginia.

“We're going to keep trying to get the big boys to come,” he said.

Texas A&M and Missouri have visited thus far and Tennessee is on the docket next season. The Missouri game still holds the O'rena record for attendance: 4,055.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NCAA tournament chat

I didn't get in too much this afternoon, but here is a copy of Monday's JRC-wide NCAA tourney chat.

New gear for Oakland going into tourney

The new black and gold Nikes you'll see on the feet of Oakland's players Friday in the NCAA tournament are not an illusion: the company sent the team new shoes specifically for the Big Dance. The Grizzlies broke in the shoes at Friday's practice. You can see the shoes in the video below. In my opinion, they're going to look a lot nicer than the old shoes, which work more with home white uniforms than the road black the Grizzlies are going to wear in the tournament, even if they advance.

UPDATE: Nike sponsors 55 of the teams in the 68-team NCAA tournament field.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Praise comes from ESPN

ESPN college basketball guru Dick Vitale had some high praise for Oakland and center Keith Benson in a Thursday conference call.
“(Oakland coach Greg) Kampe does a phenomenal job and Benson is a big-time player,” Vitale said. “They can play with people. They’ve lost to Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan beat them as well, but they went out and played. They played quality teams, so they’re not going to be intimidated. “These types of clubs, they can sneak up and some Goliath is going to get them early. “They can flat-out play."
Call co-commentator Jay Bilas had this to say about the Golden Grizzlies:
“They are really an efficient offensive team. Benson is a potential pro. For teams at the mid-major level to be able to advance beyond an upset here and there, you’ve got to be able to score and defend in the post. People tend to forget one of the biggest reasons George Mason advanced so far in 2006, people say ‘guard play, guard play,’ yeah, but they had Will Thomas and Jai Lewis. They could score and defend in the post with anybody. With Benson, Oakland can do that. They’re just not as good defensively as they are offensively. They’re a much better offensive team than defensive."
More encouragement for Oakland heading into their third NCAA tournament, where they know they have to win a game.

Take it back to the Summit tourney

Terry Vandrovec of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls wrote a Summit League Tournament wrapup notebook. One item of note was league commissioner Tom Double's reaction to the poor broadcast by ESPNU commentators during the women's final between Oakland and South Dakota State.
As viewers may remember, the announcers several times referred to South Dakota State as the "other" SDSU: San Diego State. As in the Aztecs, not the Jackrabbits. They also seemed to think Oakland was a school located in Rochester, Minn.
"It is totally unacceptable," Douple said. "I'm very, very disappointed. I expressed those concerns to the producer afterward and I'm going to do some more follow-up. In my opinion, I don't think they did the right homework for that game."
Douple told the paper he fielded phone calls and comments during the game about the errors.
It's safe to say we won't have to suffer through that kind of embarrassing telecast next year.
Watch the game, if you can stomach it, here.

NCAA bid every year is a great expectation to have

Oakland coach Greg Kampe fielded the calls and TV interview Wednesday shortly after arriving back on campus sometime in the early morning/late-night hours. But the demand wasn't there like it has been last year and in 2005. And that's fine with him.

“That’s what you want. That’s the goal … when we made the transition (to Division I) and now, 12 years later, people have the expectation that you’re in or it’s not a good year, then you feel like you’ve arrived. That’s a great expectation to have," he said.

As a No. 14 seed in last year's Big Dance, the Grizzlies held with No. 3 Pittsburgh for the first 10 minutes of the game before an injury sent Derick Nelson to the sidelines. Kampe and his team didn't like how they responded to the loss of their star player.

"An opportunity was wasted," Kampe said. "These guys feel like they get another opportunity, let’s not waste it. … There’s a really strong belief among this team that we can win. Last year, it was ‘We’re going to win, we’re going to do this and that.’ I haven’t heard any of that this year. Just quietness and that they can’t wait to play."

After initial disappointment following the selection show, Kampe is confident the Grizzlies have made enough of a name for themselves through their tough schedule, RPI and last year's appearance, to get a higher seed. They have the same RPI, 52, as they did to end last season.

"The difference this year is that we have a top-25 win we didn’t have last year," Kampe said. "The committee knows more about Oakland and who it plays."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

NCAA tourney media barrage

Oakland coach Greg Kampe Wednesday made the media circles that typically accompany an NCAA tourney berth. Here's his interview with WXYZ sports anchor Tom Leyden.

Was this year's blitz more subdued than last year because it was expected this time? Surely Kampe would enjoy those expectations, but are they realistic? Was it the five-year absence from the Dance that made last year so special?
Comment or see me on Twitter @PaulKampe to respond.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Live chat Summit finals vs. ORU

Oakland hasn't always been dominant

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The Oakland men found themselves in their third straight Summit League Tournament final Tuesday night against Oral Roberts. Going for their third conference postseason title and subsequent berth in the NCAA tournament, it's easy to forget the Golden Grizzlies, seeded No. 1 for the second consecutive season, haven't always found success in the conference tournament.
“The first three years we were eligible for this tournament, we got beat on the first night,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said, following the Golden Grizzlies' semifinal victory Monday. “It's hard to win (at the conference tournament). It's a whole different environment.”
That's hard to fathom when analyzing a team that's made five of the last seven conference tournament finals.
The Grizzlies won the tournament last year as the No. 1 seed and in 2005 as the No. 7 seed. They advanced to the finals of the 2009 tournament, only to lose on a last-second shot. They were 7-1 in conference postseason play heading into Tuesday's final at Sioux Falls Arena, where the tournament was held for the third straight year.
Oakland (24-9) won the Summit League regular-season title for the second straight year, repeating a 17-1 league record and leaving each opponent in its dust, with the exception of IUPUI. The Jaguars defeated the Grizzlies once each season, but they were eliminated by Tuesday's other title contender, No. 2 Oral Roberts. In a tournament where the top seed has made the finals each year since 1992, this is the second straight year the finals have come down to No. 1 vs. No. 2.
“Several years ago in Tulsa, Okla., we were a No. 1 seed and they were the seven seed and they beat us,” Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. “It's a one-game series. Anything can happen.”
Oakland swept the regular-season series from the Golden Eagles, winning by eight on the road and squeaking out a three-point win in Rochester. Oral Roberts had won 10 in a row entering Tuesday.
The Golden Grizzlies easily handled home state favorite South Dakota State in Monday's semifinal. Sioux Falls Arena was filled with nearly 6,000 blue and yellow clad Jackrabbits fans, not far from South Dakota State's home arena in Brookings, S.D. The Grizzlies' response: Go out and beat the “home” team by a stammering margin, 110-90. It was the second-highest point total in conference tournament history.
Oakland knew if it could neutralize the crowd, it would have a better shot at beating No. 5 seed South Dakota State. An early 25-9 advantage helped them follow through.
Scoring points has never really been a problem for Oakland, which boasts likely NBA center and two-time defending conference play of the year Keith Benson (Birmingham Detroit Country Day). He's joined by all-conference first-team pick Reggie Hamilton, who has become one of the team's many weapons cited by recently defeated coaches.
“They're just so talented offensively,” Sutton said. “You have to pick your poison.”
South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy looks to the Grizzlies as a team to emulate.
“Oakland is serious,” he said. “Their program is serious. The other programs, if you want to win championships in this league, you better be serious about it.”

Paul Kampe covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. E-mail him at and follow him on Twitter @PaulKampe.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SDSU semifinal chat

Join Oakland Press writer Paul Kampe courtside from the Summit League Tournament semifinals, as Oakland takes on home state team South Dakota State at 7 p.m.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Breaking down Hamilton's scoring

Reggie Hamilton scored 21 of his 23 points in a first half where he played 14 minutes. He's been scoring in a flurry all season, but this was at a clip of 1.5 points per minute. He's now reached double-figures in 15 of his last 16 games. Here's how he did it:
  • 2 FTs, 18:25
  • Layup, 15:26
  • Layup, 7:20
  • 2 FTs, 6:28
  • Layup, 6:02
  • 3-pointer, 5:15
  • Layup, 1:04
  • 3-pointer, 1:01
  • 3-pointer, 0:22
Hamilton was 7 of 9 from the floor and 4 of 5 from the FT-line. He's scored 20 or more points 13 times this year and he's done it all while being incredibly humble.
"I'm happy with the results. I am really pleased with the way we played. That is the greatest accomplishment is coming out with a win," Hamilton said.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe said nobody has bought into the team philosophy more than their second-leading scorer.
"We don't buy into numbers or stats," Kampe said. "If Oakland plays good, we win. If we don't, we lose.
"When we beat Tennessee, he wasn't on the floor in the final three minutes, but the first kid to jump into someone's arms at halfcourt was Reggie Hamilton. That is the type of kids we have and it is the reason we are successful."
Southern Utah coach Roger Reid on Hamilton: When you're playing somebody that is a great shooter and has great quickness, that's a double-edged sword."
Oh, and Hamilton only had two turnovers Saturday, not a bad way to start the tournament.

Where have we seen this before?

Saturday's quarterfinal win over Southern Utah came in similar fashion to last weekend's win in Cedar City in that Reggie Hamilton spurred a late first-half run to pull away. It was also nearly and identical score, 82-66. The Thunderbirds had two more points at home, but Oakland swept the season series by the following margins: 16 points, 14 points and 16 points.
"(Last weekend), we were close or behind and we scored six points in the final 30 seconds of the half," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "I never felt comfortable. We played extremely well, we really did. We played great defense. ... I never thought we were in control.
"The key was Reggie Hamilton making big plays."
An 11-0 Southern Utah run after the Oakland lead swelled to 25, pulled the Thunderbirds within 14 points with 4:58 to play, but the y never got closer.
Oakland now has a six-game winning streak over Southern Utah.
The Grizzlies are now 6-1 all time at Sioux Falls Arena, which is hosting the conference tournament for the third season, but just 6-4 all-time in quarterfinals.

Oakland vs. SUU Live chat

Join Oakland Press beat writer Paul Kampe from the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., for the men's opener vs. Southern Utah at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Grizzlies could have been eligible for at-large bid to NCAAs

It's safe to assume no one from the Summit League has ever received an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. That would’ve changed this season if a couple Oakland games had gone differently. Most notably, a loss to Michigan State prior to the Tennessee victory. Poor free-throw shooting doomed that Oakland upset bid that day at The Palace. A win there could've made this weekend a bit different, but the Golden Grizzlies were saddled with a one-point loss to then-No. 7 Michigan State.

“We were one or two wins away,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said at Thursday's media day.“I don't see that happening, so it all comes down to those three days.”

Oakland's RPI is fairly similar at this point to its final position leading up to the NCAAs last year, 56 now to 51 then.

Hailing from a one-bid league adds immense pressure to a weekend tournament halfway across the country. A novice fan might think the Grizzlies' auto bid to the NIT by virtue of their regular-season conference title would lessen the strain.

“There's a ton of pressure on us,” Kampe said. “We don't want to go to the the NIT,” we want to go to the NCAA tournament. … “You want pressure and you want to go right at it and attack. … Nothing worth having is easy.”

Butler's Final Four run of a year ago gave hope to mid-majors' prospects in the Big Dance. Oakland is no different.

“We believe we can do anything. We have a chance to prove that this weekend,” Kampe said.

A performance like those we've seen from Oakland throughout the season should help set those wheels in motion.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

All eyes on Hamilton at media day

Despite sitting just two seats away from a potential future NBA player, transfer Reggie Hamilton was the center of attention during Thursday’s media session at Oakland University. The concentration of questions toward the junior point guard are well-deserved. Hamilton is averaging 18.5 points and 6.3 assists after sitting out an entire season due to NCAA transfer rules. For his early assimilation, Hamilton was named to the Summit League First Team, which was announced shortly after Thursday’s conference (media members were aware of the results prior to the session).
“I really don’t try to pay attention to that stuff,” Hamilton said. “I just try to stay focused and be humble.”

The reward means the rest of the league thinks as highly of the UMKC transfer as the Oakland community has all season. The heaping of praise doesn’t faze the gunslinger.
“What’s life without pressure,” he said. “I don’t plan on cracking. I embrace the pressure and taking on the challenge.”
Hamilton has never been past the first round of the conference tournament and now he leads a team favored to win the whole thing.
“My team knows that I’m motivated. Period. Just to help the ballclub win. I’m ready to go.”
Oakland plays Southern Utah at 7 p.m. Saturday. If the Grizzlies make the semifinals, fans will be able to watch the matchup, against the winner of the heralded IPFW-South Dakota State, Monday at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Detroit.

Oakland cleans up at Summit awards

It was anticlimactic, but Oakland center Keith Benson repeated as Summit League Player of the Year as expected, while junior guard Reggie Hamilton was also named to the conference's first team. Senior Larry Wright won the sixth man award, while Benson is the defensive player of the year. Freshman guard Travis Bader was named to the league's newcomer team and Greg Kampe is the coach of the year.
According to the Summit League, Oakland's four accolades were the most won by a single team in league history. Benson is also the first player in conference history to earn player of the year and defensive player of the year honors in the same season.
The coaching award is Kampe's fourth after leading the Grizzlies to their second consecutive 17-1 season and reaching a 20-game win streak, the longest in conference history.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

GRIZZ TALK: Summit tourney edition

The Oakland men's team is the No. 1 seed for the second straight year heading into this weekend's Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. No. 1 seed Oakland takes on No. 8 Southern Utah for the second straight game.

Click on a name to see a full-length interview.

Coach Greg Kampe

Guard Reggie Hamilton

Center Keith Benson

Read why coach Greg Kampe doesn't like facing SUU two times in a row.

Why Kampe fears playing SUU back to back

Shortly after Oakland’s second win of the season over Souther Utah, coach Greg Kampe mentioned his fear of playing the Thunderbirds in two consecutive games. The deep-rooted fear makes sense when you think back to the last time this happened.
“The last time that happened was the worst loss of my coaching career,” said Kampe of a 2003 Mid-Continent Tournament loss to the Thunderbirds.

After blowing out Southern Utah, 92-77, on Senior Night March 1, Oakland was forced to play the Thunderbirds just eight days later in Kansas City (where the tournament was held before moving to Tulsa, Okla.), by virtue of a coin flip.
Oakland finished tied for second place with IUPUI, while former league front-runner Valparaiso won the league. All tiebreakers had been exhausted, leading to the “flip” of fate, which Kampe insists took place without his presence.
SUU whipped Oakland, 66-55, in the Mid-Con quarterfinals.
“That was the worst loss I’ve had as a coach because we went into the next season picked to win the conference. We finished seventh. After that, we had the worst 2-3 year period in Oakland basketball history since I’ve been the coach. It all started with those games.”
He said the program turned back in the right direction with its unexpected conference title in 2005.
After their first NCAA tournament appearance got them going back in the right direction, they’ve appeared in the conference championship game four of the past six seasons.
“This is a new year and a new day. I haven’t even talked to them about it, but in my mind, it’s still there,” Kampe said.
Oakland beat SUU by 16 points to open the conference season in December and 14 points in Saturday’s regular-season finale. We’ll see what the present has in store for the Grizzlies at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Bader talks to Neal Ruhl

Oakland guard Travis Bader did an interview with Oakland radio personality Neal Ruhl after Tuesday's practice where Bader talks about the importance of growing up with a father who's a basketball coach.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Grizzlies looking for more physical play from SUU

Saturday’s 14-point win over Southern Utah was never really in doubt after the half, and the game got chippy down the stretch, as the Thunderbirds tried to take Oakland out of its usual finesse style of play.
The physical play earned SUU 25 personal fouls and set up Oakland for 38 free-throw attempts.
Following the game, Thunderbirds coach Roger Reid told the SUU News:
"I didn't think we played that hard," he said. "If (Oakland head coach Greg Kampe) thought it was physical, I hope it will be a lot more physical because we're going to play a whole lot harder in the next game."
The Golden Grizzlies are ready for the challenge.
“We have to stay focused,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “We have to stay in the moment and win the day and not think about all the crap that happens around us. That’s just a tactic to get us (off our game). If you get caught up in that, the pushing and shoving and the elbows and all that, someone’s going to get a technical, someone’s going to get thrown out and that’s going to hurt us.
“We have to stay focused on what we do and play. If the other team wants to do that, I have to trust the officials will take care of the game. We shot 30-some free throws and they shot 15. The officials did a good job of understanding what was going on and officiated the game the way it should be.”
Game time is 7 p.m. Saturday. Join me for a live chat during the game and look for postgame video at