Oakland men’s basketball coach Greg Kampe has received overwhelming praise for establishing consistency in his program, finishing the last two seasons atop the Summit League and earning consecutive NCAA Tournament berths.
Unfortunately for Kampe, he has also been consistent in his inability to beat Michigan (6-2).
The Grizzlies have squared off with the Wolverines three times over the last four seasons, and they’ve lost each time. Last year, following a narrow loss to then-No. 8 Michigan State and a victory against then-No. 7 Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., Oakland came to Crisler Arena and took an 18-point loss on the chin against Michigan.
This Saturday afternoon, Kampe will get another crack at the Wolverines, when Michigan and Oakland will tip off under the bright lights of The Palace at Auburn Hills.
“Oakland’s a tremendous basketball program with a Hall of Fame-type coach as far as he’s been their only coach there forever,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Since last year’s matchup, though, there are new faces and new storylines. Both teams have had to deal with the loss of their most valuable players from last season, as Darius Morris decided to leave Michigan early and Oakland (6-3) has adjusted to life without star center Keith Benson — both were selected in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Former Grizzly forward Will Hudson also graduated. Led by center Corey Petros, this season’s starting Oakland frontcourt is entirely new.
Michigan’s frontcourt may look to target Oakland’s inexperience underneath. Expect redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan and sophomore forward Jon Horford to get a lot of looks.
A Detroit native, Morgan will also look to impress on his home court of sorts.
“Yeah, it’s cool to go play in The Palace, I’ve never played there before,” Morgan said after last week’s win against Iowa State. “I’ve seen games there before, so it’ll be a new experience.”
Another relatively new addition to Oakland’s roster is former Michigan guard Laval Lucas-Perry, who was dismissed from the Wolverines prior to the 2010-11 season for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Lucas-Perry transferred before last season’s matchup, but this is the first year he’s eligible to play for the Grizzles.
Though Lucas-Perry hasn’t been shooting the ball particularly well so far this season. His ability to get into the lane off the dribble allows him to draw fouls and get to the line often. He’s also an above-average rebounder whom Michigan’s guards will have to box out.
The Wolverines’ main concern on defense will be containing fifth-year senior Reggie Hamilton, easily the Grizzlies’ most prolific scorer with 20.1 points per game. Last season, the 5-foot-11 point guard lit up the Wolverines for 23 points.
Granted, some of Hamilton’s production in last season’s contest was because guards sagged off of him to help defend against Benson and Hudson in the post. The numbers don’t lie — Hamilton launched a whopping 14 shots from behind the arc in that game and made all six of his team’s 3-point field goals.
This year, Michigan’s focus will be on Hamilton. Freshman point guard Trey Burke will likely guard him for most of the game, a tremendous opportunity for the young stud to show Beilein that he could be a premier on-ball defender.
But don’t be surprised if Beilein goes to the bench frequently to call on senior guard Stu Douglass to give Burke some rest. The co-captain has been in a shooting slump all season, knocking down just 28 percent of his 3-pointers so far, but he’s still considered Michigan’s top perimeter defender.
In Beilein’s world, a good defense leads to a good offense.