Summit League (26-8, 17-1)
Big Wins: 12/13 Green Bay (76-52), 1/2 IUPUI (85-82), 3/9 vs IUPUI (76-64)
Bad Losses: 11/14 Eastern Michigan (77-81), 12/19 at Oregon (60-72), 1/28 at IUPUI (54-78)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2005, First Round loss to North Carolina
Coach: Greg Kampe (0-1 in 1 NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
Oakland is one of the best rebounding and shot blocking teams thanks to Keith Benson. The 6-11 junior averages an impressive 17.0 rebounds and 10.5 blocks on the season. Yet Benson is not just a big body who plays great on the defensive end of the floor. The Grizzlies offense flows through the Farmington Hills, Michigan product. Benson does have some range on his shot, but he does most of his scoring in the paint and is not afraid to back down anybody. Benson is even a good free-throw shooter so hacking him is not the best way to defend him.
Benson gets plenty of help on the glass from Derick Nelson and Will Hudson. Nelson was the team’s go-to-guy in 2007-2008 before missing last season with an injury. Coach Greg Kampe is happy to have him back. Nelson is a great athlete who can get to the basket with ease. He uses that same athleticism to grab 6.1 rebounds per contest. Nelson is also a surprisingly consistent shooter from long range and when his shot is falling, the Oakland offense is very tough to stop. Hudson is a more traditional big man. Most of his scoring comes from offensive rebounds, but he is a good rebounder and another big body to clog the paint.
Why They Can Disappoint:
What this team lacks is consistent three-point shooting. Nelson is one option, but many expected more out of St. John’s transfer Larry Wright. Wright is not a bad shooter by any means, but he can be streaky and has only connected on 33.8 percent of his long range attempts on the year. Freshman Ledrick Eackles has developed into a decent sixth man, but most of his scoring does not come from long range. Drew Maynard, who is recovering from an ankle injury, and Blake Cushingberry are not much better on most occasions. With such a great scorer in the paint, Oakland gets a lot of open looks from outside. If they do not capitalize on those opportunities their postseason will end quickly.
Who To Watch:
Johnathon Jones is not the outside shooting answer, but he is the point guard who makes this team tick. Jones has had a great career with the Grizzlies and his scoring output has gone down as Oakland’s talent level has gone up. That is because Jones will look for his teammates first and dishes out 6.4 assists per contest. However, Jones can certainly do plenty of scoring if he needs to and it has not been uncommon for him to put up 20 or more points in a game.
Johnathon Jones, Senior, Guard, 12.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.9 spg
Larry Wright, Junior, Guard, 11.1 ppg, 1.6 apg
Derick Nelson, Senior, Forward, 12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
Will Hudson, Junior, Forward, 6.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Keith Benson, Junior, Center, 17.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.4 bpg
Blake Cushingberry, Sophomore, Guard, 4.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Ledrick Eackles, Freshman, Guard, 5.7 ppg, 1.2 apg
Drew Maynard, Sophomore, Guard, 4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.0 (34th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.7 (253, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.2 (86, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.3 (273, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.9 (189, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.9 (212, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.1 (101, 6)
Rebound Margin: 4.7 (41, 2)
Assists Per Game: 13.5 (139, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.9 (185, 7)
Follow Joel Welser's Postseason Capsules & College Basketball Previews on Twitter @Joel_Welser and on his Facebook page. Joel will be back in June for his annual Top 144 Teams in 144 Days preview on CollegeHoops.net