SCOUTING THE GOLDEN GRIZZLIES
Oakland brings an experienced starting lineup to the Coliseum, but is still looking for support off the bench as it fights to keep its spot atop the Summit League. Over the past four seasons, OU has averaged 23.5 wins and played in four consecutive postseason tournaments, but this year is off to a rough start, as it has just one win over an RPI-level foe. That victory was a good one, however, as it knocked off Valparaiso on its home court on Monday night.
Junior guard Travis Bader (6-5) is the latest in a line of outside sharpshooters that the Mountaineers will have to contain in order to get a win. He is making 39% of his threes (42-108) and takes more than two-thirds of his shots from that range. Add in his excellent free throw shooting, and his 19.6 points per game average isn't difficult to fathom. He's also rarely off the court, logging more than 38 minutes per game.
Backcourt mate Duke Monday (Jr., 6-4), a transfer from Providence, runs the offense, and sets up Bader well in the halfcourt. He's also a scoring threat, averaging 13.1 points per contest, and can score both inside and out. He also grabs four boards per game, but is susceptible on defense, having committed 40 fouls and suffering three disqualifications in Oakland's first ten games. Ryan Bass, who just recently entered the starting lineup, rounds out a three-guard set. He isn't a strong shooter, hovering around the 31% mark.
Center Corey Petros (Soph., 6-10) is the anchor of a productive starting front line. He tosses in 14.4 points and grabs almost seven rebounds per game, and plays well at close range. He makes more than 58% of his shots, with many of those coming from offensive rebounds. Drew Valentine rounds out the starting five with more support in the scoring column and on the glass, where he averages 8.4 and 6.0 respectively. He also helps greatly on the offensive boards, contributing to Oakland's offensive rebounding ratio. On the season, the Golden Grizzlies have collected 123 offensive rebounds out of a total of 351.
Four Oakland subs have started at least one game this year, but that quartet barely manages a bucket apiece. Forwards Dante Williams (Soph., 6-9), Raphael Carter (Jr., 6-9) and Lloyd Neely (Fr., 6-5) combine for 37 minutes per game, but combine for just 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in that time. They do provide the flexibility for Oakland to go with a conventional two-guard lineup, but shouldn't test defenders on the opposite end. Guard Matt Poces (soph., 6-4) figures to get most of the minutes in the backcourt, but he's not a scoring threat either.
All eyes will be focused on West Virginia's starting lineup and early rotation. Will Bob Huggins follow through on his strong post-Michigan comments and only play those who are putting in extra work on their games?
While Huggins didn't comment on the strategic or tactical implications of going with the smaller lineup against Michigan, he did note that it wasn't because of any match-up advantages it may have incurred. It was simply the fact that most of the players who had been showing him the desire he wants happened to be wings and guards. That lineup did, however, cause the Wolverines some problems, and if it could have hit a couple more shots in a key stretch when UM was struggling from the field, it could have made the game one that went right down to the wire.
WVU 4-5, 0-0
Oakland 4-7, 0-0
WVU - 101
Oakland - 206
The question is, could such a lineup help West Virgina in this game and in upcoming games? Certainly, it could make foes match the quickness and greater athleticism present when Juwan Staten, Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Keaton Miles are on the floor, but it could also put WVU at a rebounding and defensive disadvantage. Oakland has the size and ability on the front line to hurt West Virginia on the offensive boards, so the Mountaineers would have to counter with good blockouts and solid fundamentals to keep from losing that battle for the third straight game.
If Huggins chooses to allow those players he criticized on Saturday night back on the court on Wednesday, then West Virginia could be in position to take advantage of Oakland's unproductive bench, which totals just eight points per game. If the Mountaineers can force the Grizzlies to go deep into its subs, and make them play extended minutes, they should have a good chance at coming out on top.
Bob Huggins has had just two losing seasons in his 30 years as a head coach, and both of those came during his first seasons at two different stops (Walsh College and Akron). To avoid a third, West Virginia will have to go 3-1 in its remaining non-conference games and 10-8 in Big 12 play to avoid the possibility of a losing season.
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Oakland head coach Greg Kampe has 494 wins in his 29 seasons as a head coach. He is the fifth-longest tenured coach at a Division I school, trailing only Jim Boeheim, Dave Bike, Mike Krzyzewski and Don Maestri.
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West Virginia will have to win all four of its remaining non-conference games to avoid its worst record in such contests over the past 22 seasons. WVU was 7-5 in 2001-02.
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Like West Virginia, Oakland has traveled long and hard during the early part of the season. Following a home opening win over Albion, the Golden Grizzlies played seven consecutive road games before returning home to defeat Rochester. Starting with the trip to Morgantown, the Grizz are embarking on another four game road swing, and won't see their home court again until Jan. 3. In all, Oakland plays just four of its first 19 games at home.
A recent tweet from Oakland head coach Kampe sums this all up: "7 of next 8 on road, who made this schedule!!!!!!!!!!!!! "