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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, August 31, 2012

Oakland coach Greg Kampe apologizes to fans for 'tough,' 'stupid' schedule

Despite orchestrating another competitive non-conference schedule, Oakland coach Greg Kampe was apologizing to fans for a lack of home games.
The Golden Grizzlies played an unprecedented 17 games at the O'rena last season (three of which came from the CollegeInsider.com Tournament) and another at The Palace.
The other side of having consistently-competitive schedules is playing away from home. Oakland again has to spend the opening weeks of the season on the road following its opener Nov. 9 vs. Albion.
"Fans have to understand. It's circular," Kampe said, promising brighter schedules in the future.
This schedule is nothing to make excuses for.
 In addition to the previous dates noted in yesterday's post, Oakland will also play at Boise State Nov. 13 and then head to Pitt, which it last faced in the 2010 NCAA tournament, Nov. 17. Add to that a date at MAC champion Ohio Dec. 8 and a visit from former conference mate and defending Horizon League regular-season champion Valparaiso Dec. 17.
There are five NCAA tournament teams from a year ago on Oakland's schedule counting Summit League champion South Dakota State.
Fans should understand when Kampe calls the schedule "stupid," he's probably referring to a three-week stretch beginning Nov. 11 where Oakland plays seven road games before returning home Dec. 6 to host former fan favorite Drew Maynard and Rochester College.
In that span, Oakland travels to Louisiana, Idaho, Pittsburgh, Houston, East Lansing, Knoxville, Tenn. and Kalamazoo.
"Fans have to understand where we are in the pecking order," Kampe said.
Kampe also mentioned he is working on a deal to keep the Spartans on the schedule long term, hinting at games at The Palace. Oakland nearly beat then-No. 7 MSU at The Palace in 2010, just days before upsetting new No. 7 Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.
And don't forget the parity created in the Summit League last season.
The Grizzlies will have a tough test back to back at Western Illinois and IUPUI, a place they didn't even win in consecutive 17-1 conference seasons, after visiting West Virginia and Eastern Michigan. The nationally-televised game against the Mountaineers should get Oakland amped up, but the Grizzlies still have three more games on that swing, two of which are ever-important conference games.
In recent years, Kampe has lamented the early arrival of the conference season, typically the first weekend in December. This season, however, Oakland doesn't begin Summit League play until Dec. 27, the aforementioned game at Western Illinois, the conference runner-up of a year ago. 
Also, Oakland's early January trip to the Dakotas is muddied by a Jan. 5 non-conference date with Alabama.
And if it seems Kampe included the kitchen sink in this schedule, he did. His own hometown Defiance (Ohio) College visits for the second of two exhibitions Nov. 6.
Kampe doesn't need to defend this schedule unless the non-conference road games take the Golden Grizzlies out of sync prior to conference play.
A very young team lost its footing last season after a 6-2 start that included wins at Houston and at home over Tennessee.
After splitting with Michigan and Rochester College, on the heels of a disappointing two-point loss at home to those same eventual Sweet 16 Bobcats, Oakland lost six of seven games. The one win came during a superhuman effort from Reggie Hamilton in a two-point win at Valparaiso. Four of those losses came in conference play, one of which by the largest margin Oakland has ever lost to a conference opponent (27 points at North Dakota State).
The early slippage cost Oakland, as the Golden Grizzlies worked feverishly and were left to rely on other teams as well as their performance to secure a top seed at the conference tournament.
It's easy to think the Golden Grizzlies could lose focus again. They have five newcomers and only one senior who saw regular minutes, Drew Valentine. But this team does have four returning starters. It also has the experience of last season in its five juniors and four sophomores.
There's a lot of travel on this schedule -- even by Summit League standards. But what lies in between are good non-conference tests against other strong mid-majors including Ohio and Valparaiso. And if Oakland can keep its collective heads straight -- win or lose -- and take care of business in the conference portion of its latest behemoth schedule, there will be nothing to apologize for.
Watch Kampe's comments below in the latest edition of "Grizz Vision," hosted by Neal Ruhl, the voice of Oakland radio.

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