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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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grizzlies already in ‘must-win’ conference games after blowout

Prior to Wednesday's 27-point loss to North Dakota State, Oakland coach Greg Kampe pointed out the league race could actually be settled by the second week in January, something unlikely in almost any conference. That’s because all the top-tier programs play each other in the next week. Oakland lost to the Bison, faces South Dakota State Friday and then comes home to Oral Roberts and IUPUI next week. 
It's also worth mentioning the Golden Grizzlies have lost just one conference game each of the past two seasons, yet find themselves at 2-1 in late December.
“The league is good,” Kampe said. “There’s a reason it’s a 13 RPI. We’ve been as high as 24 and we’re usually between 18-25. It’s going to be a heck of a year. I’m hoping there isn’t going to be another 17-1 team this year. It’s possible you could be 14-4 and win this league. … This is going to be as competitive of a three-, four- or five-team race we’ve seen since 2000.”
That aforementioned conference race was won by Oakland. But the Bison threw their names into the fray, dominating Oakland in historic fashion. Previously, South Dakota State was to be the third team in an Oral Roberts-Oakland battle (like most seasons.) However, the Jackrabbits, with a historic win of their own over Washington, combined with Oakland’s struggles, have likely moved into the second, or even first spot in the minds of Summit followers. The Grizzlies could even be No. 5 in the minds of some behind the Golden Eagles, Jackrabbits, IUPUI and even North Dakota State.
North Dakota State became just the second Summit League team to beat Oakland in regular-season play in the past three seasons, handing the Grizzlies their fourth-worst conference loss in program history. The only other team to do beat Oakland, albeit on the road each time, is IUPUI. The Grizzlies host the Jaguars Jan. 7 after a brief respite vs. Western Illinois Jan. 5.
“If we have a disastrous trip at the Dakotas and come home with a hangover against Oral Roberts … this is a big week,” Kampe said.  
The long-tenured Oakland coach uttered that statement Tuesday prior to leaving for the Dakotas. It took on added importance in light of Wednesday’s disaster.
The possibility of an 0-3 run from the Dakotas and back with the Oral Roberts game became an all-too-real scenario for Oakland with an upset in Fargo, N.D. This predicament adds even more importance to its showdown with Nate Wolters and the Jackrabbits Friday.


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