Preview: Oakland

Submitted by Tim on December 17th, 2010 at 4:16 PM

The Essentialsoakland.jpeg

WHAT Michigan v. Oakland
WHERE Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN Noon EST
December 18th, 2010
THE LINE N/A
TELEVISION ESPN3.com only

The Story

Michigan has quietly put together a solid start to the 2010-11 season, with a small handful of games against top competition amongst blowouts over the weaker sections of Division 1. Oakland, on the other hand, has been tested in nearly every game this year, losing to top-20 competition in West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan State before finally getting a showcase win against Tennessee on Tuesday. All of those were on the road except the Michigan State game, played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, a "neutral site" that skewed pro-Spartans.

The Golden Grizzlies are tested, and not a team Michigan can bully around in Crisler Arena tomorrow. They have to be concerned about the inverse. Oakland has an excellent duo in 6-11 center Keith Benson, a likely NBA Draft pick this spring, and diminutive junior guard Reggie Hamilton. PF Will Hudson has good size at 6-9 and leads the team in eFG% without attempting a single 3-pointer. With a number of capable role players to round out the roster (though erstwhile Wolverine Laval Lucas-Perry is ineligible to compete until next season), this is a solid squad.

Michigan, meanwhile, has had a nasty habit playing to the level of their competition--which has been mostly down. Their last time out was an uninspiring performance against North Carolina Central which featured abysmal shooting and indecisive offense, especially against zone. A young team like the 2010-11 Wolverines could use an early confidence booster, but Oakland may not provide it. With a win over the Golden Grizzlies, Michigan has a good chance to play themselves into the NIT during the Big Ten season.

Tempo-Free Breakdown

With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.

Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks
Category Michigan Rank Oakland Rank Advantage
Mich eFG% v. OU Def eFG% 138 133 -
Mich Def eFG% v. OU eFG% 25 69 M
Mich TO% v. OU Def TO% 74 279 MMM
Mich Def TO% v. OU TO% 166 175 -
Mich OReb% v. OU DReb% 169 184 M
Mich DReb% v. OU OReb% 28 12 O
Mich FTR v. OU Opp FTR 319 151 OO
Mich Opp FTR v. OU FTR 10 150 MM
Mich AdjO v. OU AdjD 100 137 M
Mich AdjD v. OU AdjO 33 28 -

Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.

Oakland's tempo-free numbers aren't that impressive, but considering the schedule they've been doing it against, they're performing well. Michigan has a big advantage in holding onto the ball, while the Grizzlies have an advantage in not sending Michigan to the line.

The size of Oakland may give Michigan troubles, as the interior defense has been OK at best for most of the year. Drawing charges early against Utah got Jason Washburn and David Foster into foul trouble early, negating Michigan's height disadvantage. If they can get Oakland's talented big man into trouble early, they should be able to succeed on both ends of the court with Benson on the bench. Michigan's depth among big men has improved with the emergence of Jon Horford, so they can afford giving up a couple fouls trying to draw charges.

Making good decisions offensively will be another key for the Wolverines. Though they haven't been turning the ball over much, shot selection has been questionable lately. Players were passing on open shots against NC Central, and then forcing well-defended shots later in the shot clock. Taking what's available will make the offense run much more smoothly.

Predictions

Oakland isn't going to come into Crisler Arena scared of the atmosphere. They've played in tougher venues several times this year (and against better teams, too). However, they may be out of gas early in the game, and have a letdown from finally getting that big-name win (or even a look-ahead to Ohio State on Thursday). At the first TV timeout, I think Michigan will have a small lead.

However, by halftime, I think the Grizzlies will have settled into a groove, so Michigan will have to get the confidence rolling early, knock down some shots, and hopefully get out on the break a little bit. The game should be within a couple possessions either way at the half.

The Wolverines have a tough task to handle against the best post player they've seen so far, and this will probably be the first time we see a Wolverine foul out this season. That means more evenly-distributed minutes than we've seen lately among the big men, an a lot more Colton Christian.

At the end of the day, I think Michigan's players and coaches will have good focus in preparation for this game, as they understand its importance. This could be the difference between the NIT or no postseason. That motivation, and the biggest crowd we've seen at Crisler this year (tickets available here) will help the Wolverines pull out the win, by a 69-62 score.

Elsewhere

Golden Grizzlies Gameplan previews the game, and UMHoops talks with Corey about the game. There's also the usual preview from UMHoops.

Comments

markusr2007

December 17th, 2010 at 6:16 PM ^

One signature win over an over-rated Tennessee does not give me dread(s). It's college basketball.  They got to be "Chaminade!" for a weekend. The rest of Oakland's wins are somewhat suspect.

That all said, they've definitely held theirs own with some good basketball teams (Illini, Spartans) and since those early season shellackings against very good WVU and Purdue teams, Oakland appears to have gotten better and better each game.

Great test for Michigan, but I also think the Wolverines are not going to be caught off-guard like Tennessee was.  Michigan is also slightly better than advertised thus far - not to mention getting better too.

zlionsfan

December 18th, 2010 at 2:06 PM ^

Chaminade is a DII school that makes news about once every 10-15 years for upsetting teams at home.

Oakland lost by 11 at Illinois, by 1 in Detroit to Michigan State, by 15 at Purdue, and beat Tennessee at Tennesee by 7. (Yes, the Volunteers are slumping, but they also have wins vs. Villanova and at Pittsburgh.) There will be a few Big Ten schools that will struggle to match Oakland's performance against those teams.

Besides, it's not like Michigan's resume is significantly better yet: at Clemson, home vs. Harvard, and then the usual collection of no-name schools that most power conference teams will play.

Sure, it's a team Michigan should beat, but it's not a guaranteed win by any means.

umuncfan11

December 17th, 2010 at 10:02 PM ^

I think Michigan's players and coaches will have good focus in preparation for this game, as they understand its importance. This could be the difference between the NIT or no postseason.

 

I'm not crazy about that quote. There is NO way the team is thinking "hey this game could be the difference in us playing in the NIT or not."  In their minds, and really even in our minds, we should not be conceding anything at this point.  It is way too early in the season to not have the NCAA tournament as a goal.  I am an extreme realist and quite frankly, an NIT berth would be a great season for this young team.  However, if Michigan heads into the Big Ten schedule 10-2 I would hope the team is feeling confident and believes they can win on any given night.  If they win the games they are supposed to and pull off a few upsets they could contend for the tournament even in a very difficult Big Ten.  It is just way too early in the season to say one game is make or break between making the NIT or no postseason.  That just doesn't make much sense.

Blue boy johnson

December 17th, 2010 at 11:36 PM ^

Oakland may very well be the 2nd best team we have played this season. Since I haven't seen Oakland play this season,I don't quite know what to make of this game.

I am concerned about M's ability to perform against good defensive teams. We really struggled offensively in the losses to Syracuse and UTEP. When we face teams with the athleticism to implement  an effective defensive game plan against Darius Morris and his right handed drives, our offensive tends to ground to a halt.

M certainly has been playing well enough on the defensive end, so I think they will certainly be in this game all the way. Many times the team with the best player ends up winning close games, and Oakland will have the best player on the court, referees willing. So I guess I have to go with Oakland in a close one.

Michigan4Life

December 18th, 2010 at 2:45 AM ^

Oakland got blown out by WVU and Purdue.  They lost to Wright State.  Squeaked by Austin Peay.  Illini game is hard to draw conclusion because they played with women's ball for the first 7 minutes of the game (when it was discovered, Illini dominated after that).  Oakland is 6-5 and has one impressive win which is Tennessee.

Oakland is a solid team but is overrated because of their recent win against Tennessee and a close game against MSU who is struggling(relatively to the recent MSU teams).  They don't scream NCAA tournament team to me yet.


Tenn win will help Michigan because they will focus on beating Oakland and take them seriously.   Michigan wins by 10.

zlionsfan

December 18th, 2010 at 2:15 PM ^

They ran through the Summit League last year (17-1 in conference play plus the tournament title), and that was with a team arguably less impressive than this one. Barring a conference tournament collapse, they will be in the NCAA tournament this season.

I think I understand what you're saying - they may not appear to be strong enough to get an at-large berth if it's necessary, and people may be projecting them better because of their recent success - but I don't think that makes them overrated. Michigan State is still a top-25 team and was playing Oakland at a pro-Spartans site with Kalin Lucas back, and yet they never led by more than 10 and also nearly blew a six-point lead with roughly a minute to play (ESPN's PBP is all screwed up so I can't be sure that's exactly how it went down - I did follow it online when I saw how close it was).