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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.

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.

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