Oct. 26, 2016
Oakland Golden Grizzlies Season Preview
Little fact about me: I went to a mid major school called Oakland University in my home state of Michigan. Got a four year bachelors degree in Communication with a minor in broadcasting. During my time going to classes and trying to find a good parking spot, I was a part of the sports team at the campus radio station, 88.3 FM WXOU The Grizz. We were the student call during all of the men's and women's basketball home games. It's safe to say that at Oakland, college basketball, both men's and women's, is a big deal.
Last season, my senior year at Oakland, we had a team that many considered were going to win the Horizon League tournament and go to the NCAA Tournament. With field general Kay Felder, three point freak Max Hooper, and defensive players like Nick Daniels, Martez Walker, and Jalen Hayes, this team was expected to go far in postseason play. Every home game had the campus buzzing, and even when the team traveled five minutes down the road to the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on then #1 Michigan State, the excitement was felt all over. Unfortunately, they lost in the conference semifinals to Wright State at Joe Louis Arena, and when they went to the inaugural "Vegas 8" tournament, they lost to Old Dominion by one point in the championship game.
Now, here we are once again. Team 50 is getting work in at the O'Rena. No Kay Felder, who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. No Max Hooper, who graduated and is now pursuing his dream of draining threes for an NBA team. But fans of the black and gold can still expect this team to do well in their fourth season in the Horizon League. Tabbed second in preseason voting behind Valparaiso, Oakland looks to gain that elusive title and punch their ticket to the big dance!
Greg Kampe, the longtime and popular head coach for the Golden Grizzlies, is entering his 32nd season with the team, the third longest tenure in the nation. He's a coach that cares about his players, and we've seen it when he yells at refs during bad calls. Heck, a meme was made out of a picture during a conference home game this past season of his face after a call didn't go his way:
With the majority of his players returning to the team, he's got the talent necessary to make a deep run. He shouldn't worry about a season without his best player: he's done well with losing Travis Bader, the nation's best three point shooter; with Keith Benson, his best blocker who went to the NBA after he graduated; and with Corey Petros, the team's best rebounder. Now, he faces the same adversity without Felder and Hooper, and one has to ask: will Oakland do well without two of it's best players from last season? I feel that they will be fine when the season gets rolling.
If you're a Golden Grizzlies fan, you have to think that Martez Walker, Jalen Hayes, and Nick Daniels are automatic starters for Kampe this upcoming season. Walker only played in 26 games last season, after sitting out a full year for transferring to Oakland. But when he played, the junior was stellar, scoring a total of 272 points and a 10.5 scoring average. He also averaged 3.6 rebounds and a .817 free throw percentage, making 89 of 109 shots. Hayes was second in scoring with 444 points in 34 games, with a 13.4 scoring average. The secondary role for the junior forward would be rebounder, especially for the defensive side of the ball, where he got 218 of his 292 rebounds last season. Daniels, a junior guard, was second in assists behind Kay Felder, and I'm sure that with Felder's absence, he will be the quick passer for his teammates. If there are any players that opposing teams need to look out for, it's these three guys here.
Looking at the schedule, Oakland has a chance to get a good start in non conference games. Key games include at home against Georgia on December 22nd; on the road at Michigan State two days earlier, and at home against Oral Roberts on December 10th and Western Michigan on November 14th. Conference wise, they get a Horizon League Tournament rematch against Wright State on December 29th at home. Their first conference away game, against Valparaiso, will define the early outcome of the Horizon League. Then you got the Metro Series rivalry with Detroit-Mercy, first at home on January 13th, then at historic Calihan Hall on February 10th. One trap team I want to bring up, and many of you might disagree with me: UIC. The Flames hasn't done well since the Golden Grizzlies entered the Horizon League, but the majority of their starters are returning, and if there's any dark horse team in the conference, you have to give it to the Flames.
As an alum, I always want my alma mater to do well this upcoming season. As a sports blogger, looking at what this team is early in the season, I feel the Horizon League got their preseason poll right. This team would be preseason conference favorites if Felder returned to the team, but because of that big loss, second place is a great spot to be projected at. So here are my key predictions for this season:
- Oakland will beat Georgia at the O'Rena in a close matchup (difference of 6 points or less);
- The Golden Grizzlies will win the Great Alaska Shootout;
-When conference play begins, Oakland will start their first 5 games with a record of 4-1 (the lone loss being a close one at Valparaiso);
-Oakland will go undefeated at home in conference play;
- Oakland will sweep the Detroit Titans and help Oakland win the Metro Series (again);
- And finally: Oakland will win the Horizon League tournament as a number 2 seed, lifting the trophy at Joe Louis Arena and going to the NCAA Tournament as a #13 seed!