There is certainly a buzz around Southeast Michigan for Saturday.
The Golden Grizzlies will get an opportunity on a national stage to show what they can do against the number two-ranked team in the country, Michigan State, at Little Caesars Arena at 2:30 p.m. It is part of a downtown doubleheader which also features Detroit Mercy ("That school down the road" as Neal Ruhl would say) and Michigan in the opener. It is a college basketball showcase that is much needed around here and kudos go out to the coaches who are making this happen.
With LCA now up and running in Detroit, this should not be the only time it hosts a round robin type local college hoops event. In my opinion, we need more of this, and with more schools. Oakland is playing a home and home with Eastern Michigan this season, and game one last week was extremely entertaining between the two schools, resulting in an EMU victory. Why a home and home with Eastern? For one thing, Michigan and Michigan State will not play EMU and neither will Detroit Mercy, forcing the Eagles to face the Golden Grizzlies twice.
It is 2017, the days of the "shocking upset" by a mid-major school are in the past. We need more in-state matchups and series. Period. If Oakland knocks off MSU on Saturday, will the college basketball train just fall completely off the tracks? If Detroit Mercy were to upset Michigan, will Ann Arbor relinquish its recruits to Calihan Hall?
The answer is no.
Let's play more of these types of games. There are some very good programs in the area and a once-a-year showcase for four and a half hours on a December Saturday is not enough.
Greg Kampe has not once used it as an excuse, but injuries continue to hurt his team. Kendrick Nunn (ankle) has not been 100 percent since the New Orleans game and it has affected the club on both ends of the floor. A full week off and Nunn sitting out last Saturday's victory over Chicago State should help him.
Brad Brechting continues to rehab from a broken foot and has been sidelined all season, and now James Beck will be lost for 6-8 weeks with multiple stress fractures in his right leg. The Freshman forward is very good and had brought an athleticism and length that complimented Jalen Hayes quite well. It is too bad the two young men only got to play together for three games.
In addition, junior guard Jaevin Cumberland has been bothered by a sore ankle going back to last year and has been shut down for the season. JC has been a nice role player off the bench the last two seasons and as Coach Kampe said yesterday it is "next man up." I expect to see more of freshman Stan Scott now and that kid definitely has ability.
One thing to watch on Saturday is how Oakland handles the shot-blocking prowess of Michigan State. The Spartans are second in the country in blocks with 83 and three times already this season, the Golden Grizzlies have seen this kind of length at the rim: Syracuse, Texas Southern, and Eastern Michigan. It will be imperative that Oakland knocks down its perimeter shots early to hopefully open up the lane a little bit against the Spartans.