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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, January 25, 2012

Grizzlies’ postseason push begins now

After dropping four straight conference games to round out 2011 and begin the new year, Oakland has since gone 3-1, losing only a hotly contested shootout at Oral Roberts last weekend. In this span, the Grizzlies are outshooting their opponents, something expected but unheard of earlier in the season.
“If we can to keep shooting the ball the way we have been, we’ll be a typical Oakland team down the stretch this last month of the season,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said on WXOU Tuesday afternoon.
The Grizzlies have been shooting 53 percent over their last four games, while holding opponents to just 47 percent.
By this weekend, Oakland will have played Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and North Dakota State, the league’s top three teams, twice. The Grizzlies stand in a three-way tie for fourth place at 5-5 with Western Illinois and Southern Utah. Kampe has conceded, although they’re not mathematically eliminated yet, the Grizzlies won’t be three-peating in the regular season.
“If we’re going to make a run in March, we need to start in February,” Kampe reiterated. “The one thing we have going for us in that tournament is that we’ve won it.
“We’re not going to win the second prize, but we can win the biggest prize.”
The competitive nature of the league this season will be on full display in early March at the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. The conference had an RPI as high as 11 earlier this season and peaked at No. 12 in the Sagarin Ratings Dec.19. The conference is also home to five of the nation’s top 14 scorers, all of which Kampe asserted on his program would be professional players somewhere, if not in the NBA.
Longtime conference rival Oral Roberts is still without a conference loss, leaving open the possibility of going undefeated more than halfway through the season. The second- and third-place Dakotas are no pushovers, either.
“You’re going to have to win three really good games to win that thing,” Kampe said. “The league is just that good.”
Kampe also noted the rest of the league’s apparent lack of depth, pointing out that Oakland’s bench outscored Oral Roberts’, 30-12. The Grizzlies’ reserves have been formidable since Kampe sent Laval Lucas-Perry back to the bench, only to follow with Travis Bader.
“Nobody is really deep in our league,” Kampe said. “If a team gets an injury in February, that can change the whole axis of the league. An injury to a starter, not even a star player can change this whole thing.”
While time lets that scenario breath, Kampe and the Grizzlies can do themselves a favor beating South Dakota State in the O’rena Thursday.


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