Game 11: Oakland at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Michigan (8-2) vs. Oakland (6-5) images[1]
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Saturday, December 18th, 12:00 ET
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM
Opposition Blog: Grizzlies Gameplan / Preview Q&A
Tickets: Starting at $5

Don’t let their Summit League affiliation or 6-5 record fool you, Oakland is the best team that Michigan has hosted at Crisler Arena this season. The Golden Grizzlies not only tout an NBA-caliber post player in Keith Benson, they will travel to Crisler Arena with their confidence soaring after knocking off #7 Tennessee in Knoxville. Greg Kampe has established at quality program in the shadows of the Palace of Auburn Hills and it just seems to keep improving.

The Oakland attack starts in the middle with Keith “Kito” Benson and there isn’t much that Benson can’t do. The 6-foot-11 senior is efficient offensively, shooting 52% on twos and making frequent trips to the free throw line where he converts 71% of his freebies. He’s also a dominant rebounder on both backboards and blocks 10% of opponents’ two point field goal attempts. Benson dominated Michigan two seasons ago and, given his improvement since then, I wouldn’t bet against him posting monster numbers in Crisler Arena this Saturday. The trouble for teams that focus on Benson is that his frontcourt mate, 6-foot-9 Will Hudson, is an extremely productive player in his own right. Hudson averages 14 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting a remarkable 65% on twos and getting to the line almost as often as Benson.

Larry Wright, Keith Benson, and Reggie Hamilton (OU Athletics)

Their front court isn’t just good at the mid-major level, it’s good at any level. However, the Grizzlies aren’t quite as strong in the backcourt. 5-foot-11 UMKC transfer Reggie Hamilton and 6-foot-2 Saginaw native Larry Wright are the constants in the Oakland backcourt. Hamilton hands out four assists per game but makes his living shooting the basketball — 56% on twos and 39% on threes. Wright started the season 3 of 21 (14%) from three point range but has connected on 7 of 9 three pointers in the Grizzlies last two games versus Michigan State and Tennessee. Both guards have the propensity to turn the ball over a little too often but can be very effective when they are hitting shots.

The fifth spot in the Grizzly lineup has been a bit of a revolving door this season. After expected started Blake Cushingberry went down to injury in preseason, three different players have started in that spot. Those players are Drew Valentine (5pts, 4rebs), Ledrick Eckles (6-foot1 slashing defender), and Travis Bader (37% 3pt). 6-foot-7 junior Drew Maynard has also been thrown into the mix after a recent return from suspension. The final player that will play off the bench is 7-footer Ilija Milutinovic who provides depth in the post but isn’t nearly as talented as Benson or Hudson.

At the macro level, Oakland’s offense is much more proficient than their defense. On the backs of their terrific post play, the Golden Grizzlies shoot 53% on two point attempts and dominate the offensive glass where they grab 41% of their misses. Make twos and rebound the misses – it’s a relatively simple but extremely efficient game plan. If Oakland has truly found their three point stroke, 16 of 27 (60%) over the last two games, then they become significantly more challenging to stop. If they are missing threes, the task is a little bit more reasonable. Defensively, they aren’t quite as strong as one might expect with that size in the middle. The Grizzly defense is relatively pedestrian as they do a great job defending twos and blocking shots but don’t force many turnovers and allow opponents to shoot 37% from three.

Keith Benson (OU Grizzlies)

The key for Michigan is figuring out a way to slow down Oakland’s offense. Michigan’s defensive rebounding has been very good this season but Oakland’s front line provides a much stronger test than Michigan has faced thus far (except perhaps Syracuse). Of course defensive rebounding is moot if Michigan can’t figure out a way to prevent Keith Benson and company from making their shots the first time around. Stopping Benson is a task in itself. I suspect that Michigan will open up in straight man but eventually be forced to attempt to double him. While the Wolverines haven’t ran much of their 1-3-1 this year, they have experimented with several other zones including the 2-3 – don’t be surprised to see more zone than we have at any point this season as Michigan tries to throw different looks at Oakland.

Fouls will also play a crucial role in this game. It’s not only important for Jordan Morgan to stay out of foul trouble, it’s important to get Keith Benson into foul trouble of his own. Any fouls that Michigan can force Benson into will be crucial because Benson can’t score when he’s sitting on the bench. Oakland averages 24 FTAs per game while Michigan has only allowed more than 15 FTA in one game. With two players that earn a huge chunk of their offense at the free throw line (Benson & Hudson), it will be important for Michigan to avoid giving up freebies.

The final stat to watch is tempo. Oakland wants to run and then run some more, averaging 71 possessions per game. On the other hand, Michigan has been significantly more methodical this year as only two high major schools play at a slower tempo than the Wolverines’ 64 possessions per game: South Florida and Wisconsin. Michigan will want to slow this game down and force Oakland to play at their pace.

It’s tough to call this game anything but a toss up. You can give the advantage to Michigan, due to home court advantage, but this one will go down to the wire. Pomeroy projects Michigan to win, 70-65, and gives the Wolverines a 70% chance at victory. I’m going to cop out and avoid any game prediction but here are three more specific predictions:

  • Keith Benson gets his but Will Hudson is the guy that Michigan can’t seem to stop.
  • The winner of the Larry Wright/Darius Morris match-up wins the game.
  • Michigan runs the 1-3-1 or 2-3 zones for at least 10 possessions.
  • Go Blue

    I think we caught a break with the timing of this game. Oakland is a good team but they are not even comparable to Syracuse, I predict a easier than expected home win.

  • mgocanada

    Defence has been our strong suit so far this year (we held Syracuse to 53 on the road, and with Jackson, Melo, and Keita, I think it’s fair to say they outsized us significantly); that said, I hope we see more zone this game.

    Because it’s imperative to take Benson out of the game through foul trouble, I think we need to temporarily suspend the idea of perimeter-shooting big men and just bang in the post/drive the lane and get to the stripe as often as possible. On Saturday, I think we live or die by the two, not the three. Hopefully we’ll get some favourable calls and another great performance from Darius.

    UM 65 – OU 61

  • Polisci

    Michigan 73- 64. The final score is closer than the game really is.

    Where would OU finish in the Big Ten? Bottom third would be my guess. Am I afraid of the bottom third of the Big Ten? No.

  • Kenny

    Morgan and Horford are not going to be afraid of Benson, Michigan win by 15.

  • MikeSal

    I like the confidence but I don’t see this one being as easy. OU is a strong opponent that can give us problems. I agree with getting Benson in some early foul trouble. I think Horford against their second line 5 is a favorable matchup for us. If we shoot well then we should win easily..but with a young team who’s to say what team shows up. Darius has to play a spectacular game and I think he will have his opportunities against a suspect defensive team.

    I’m also loving the timing of this game..hoping for a flat first couple of mins for OU

    Predicition: UM 68 OU 60

  • gpsimms

    I’ll take Michigan, 1000-79, with Darius Morris posting the first ever triple-triple. 600 pts, 102 rebounds, 150 assists, 98 steals (arrrgh so close to the quadruple-triple).

    JMorgan will score 90, Stu 120, Novak 50, THJr 70, Metrics 75, Blake 3 (gets an and-1 on a two handed monster jam), Eso 2

    I predict Horford and Vogrich have a disappointing days, though.

    • JimC

      This is the best prediction in the history of predictions.

      • gpsimms

        Thanks. Forgot to mention that Blake will shatter the glass on his two-handed monster jam.

  • W3

    Just got my Tix. Cant wait. Benson will be tough to stop but Darius will again take control of this game…he loves when the other team has a bit of hype coming in….its his character.

    Michigan wins by 8-10 pts….we better shoot that rock though

  • I fancy our very good D against this team. Jordon Morgan and Horford are obviously key. Wish we could have an amazing crowd (and wish I could be in it), but I still think Oakland comes crashing to earth and we beat them pretty soundly. I look for big games from Hardaway and, as usual, Morris, with Novak doing all the little things that make him so fun to watch.

    Michigan 68, Oakland 60.

  • Champswest

    At this point, I would rate Oakland higher that bottom third of the Big Ten. I think today’s game will give us an indication of where UM will finish this year, bottom third or middle third of the league (or maybe higher?).

  • Tweeter

    I think it all comes down to tempo. If UM controls the tempo and forces Oakland to have play a lot of half court against our D and O, I think we win. If the game gets uptempo and UM cannot set their defense and shoots a lot of quick threes on O, I think Oakland wins.

    If I had to guess, I think Beilein has the team ready and we see the Utah/Syracuse intensity, rather than the NCCentral/Concordia intensity. I also see a big game out of THJr. Mich-69, Oakland-61

  • ZRL

    I think people are getting a liiiiitle too carried away by Oakland’s last two games. Yes, they beat Tenn and played MSU tough, but they have also gotten blown out by WVA and Purdue, lost to Wright State, and needed overtime to beat Austin Peay. Overall, there’s a reason why kenpom only gives Oakland a 30% chance of victory: we’ve been better so far.

    With all that said, I expect a close game, 72-67 Michigan. My not-so-obvious prediction is that McLimans actually plays the best D on Benson out of our 3 big men and is able to use his length effectively.

    • gpsimms

      totally agree. If we had played as many top tier teams as Oakland has at this point, we would probably have a big upset as well. also agree it’s not saying oakland is bad. They’re a pretty strong team, and a chance for a legit win, but they are by no means the favorite.

  • sven

    I hate early games! I HATE ESPN3! I REALLY HATE MY ISP!

  • Azad

    So we can ONLY watch this game on our computers?

    • JimC

      There is also the Crisler Arena option.

    • Mith

      It is also available on your TV through xBox LIVE.

      • maxwell’s demon

        What about PS3?

        • sven

          Nope. 360 only :(

          • sven

            Not that it matters anyway. If you can’t get ESPN 3 you can’t get ESPN 360 because you still need an affiliated ISP.

  • the_white_tiger

    Please let me be wrong:

    OU – 59
    Mich – 56

  • AG2

    Michigan 71
    Grizzlebees’ 66

  • San diego Blue

    Will there be a replay? Can someone explain how to download the torrents easily (do I need to upload content).

  • Pingback: Rush The Court » Blog Archive » Around The Blogosphere: December 18, 2010()