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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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bracketbusters game presents interesting scenario for Oakland coaches

Playing a mandated non-conference game late in the regular season with ostensibly nothing on the line can have its benefits. The Grizzlies travel to Illinois State Saturday with their final two regular-season conference games and the league’s postseason tournament looming March 3-6. A lot has to go their way for them to get the third seed to the tournament, and resting players who regularly play nearly 40 minutes a night (and a double-overtime game last week) could help Oakland get there.
Coach Greg Kampe is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We’ll play that game as it goes,” he said. “If we’re in it and we have a chance to win it, we’re going to go for it, but if we’re not, there are some guys who don’t get many minutes who will play if we’re not in contention to win.
“We’re going into it trying to win, but we’ll see what happens while we’re in it.”
The Grizzlies are a game behind third-place North Dakota State, which which holds a tiebreaker with the Grizzlies having twice beaten them this season, with three more regular-season games remaining. A .500 Southern Utah team is the best team it will face in that stretch. Feb. 23 brings UMKC (4-11) and South Dakota (2/25) on the road, where Oakland could get a running start Saturday.
A less-than-close game could also give the Grizzlies the advantage of playing alternative combinations and matchups, which could later benefit Oakland in the long run. It might not get to that point, though. By the numbers, Illinois State matches up evenly with Oakland, as the teams share similar RPIs and records.
Kampe has, on several occasions, made it very clear the conference race is team’s primary objective. Also, the Bracketbusters series helps teams which might need a boost toward an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament, something the Grizzlies aren’t likely to be considered for. The Summit League, which entered all of its teams in the Bracketbusters series (and pushed up a conference game; in Oakland’s case, its final time hosting Oral Roberts; to accommodate a late-February game), has just one automatic bid to the Big Dance, which goes to its conference tournament winner. So, theoretically, a third seed would help Oakland get to the tournament more than a win over the RedBirds.
That’s not to say an Oakland win Saturday can’t help the Golden Grizzlies, either, from a confidence standpoint, but it will interesting to see which route Kampe and Co. take.

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