Breaking Down the Oakland Golden Grizzlies

So with the news about Pitt headed to Milwaukee, just how much of a threat are the Oakland Golden Grizzlies? Let's break it down.

To start, Pitt played them three years ago and didn't completely overwhelm them. I think I was actually at that game at the Pete.

Oakland may not have any real quality wins this year (their best one was probably beating IUPUI at home), but they were 17-1 in conference. The Summit may not be the Big East, but they did have three 20-win teams this year. I guess that's prone to happen when six out of the ten teams have losing records, though.

One thing that scares me a little is the fact that Oakland was 7-1 on the road in conference this year and a reasonable 3-6 on the road in non-conference, considering who they played: Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oregon, Michigan State, and Memphis. They didn't win any of those games, but I think they did themselves a favor scheduling games against some of the best of the best. They won't be intimidated by Pitt and have a good 10-7 record overall on the road this year.

It seems like the scheduling gauntlet they went through was for a purpose:
Getting trounced at Kansas, Wisconsin, Memphis, Michigan State, Oregon and Syracuse could pay off today.
When the Golden Grizzlies reached the NCAA tournament in 2005, their RPI was 192, which made them one of the lowest-rated teams in the field and put them in the opening round/play-in game in Dayton. They won it to earn a spot against No. 1 North Carolina as a No. 16 seed -- where no underdog has ever won.
This year, because of their non-conference schedule, the Golden Grizzlies seem slotted for the No. 14 or No. 13 seed, with an RPI of 52 (according to collegerpi.com), the highest Summit RPI in the past 16 years. A 53 RPI in 2008 got fellow Summit member Oral Roberts a 13th seed.
Apparently, though, Oakland wasn't all that happy with the seeding decision:
"I’m absolutely ecstatic that we’re playing in Milwaukee and all our kids can get there, we’ll have five or six bus loads of students go there," OU coach Greg Kampe said. "I’m really disappointed in the seed though. I don’t understand how you can have a 51 RPI and be a 14 seed when teams that are 90 and 100 in the RPI get 13 and 12 spots. I guess that’s just a matter of us being new to (the tournament) and maybe there’s not a respect level for us. Maybe we need to do something about it and get a win first before that respect will come."
Pitt should definitely expect a quasi road game as they're not only the higher seed, but Oakland is a good 3+ hours closer to Milwaukee than Pittsburgh is. I really hope Pitt finds a way for some student buses to get there as well.

For Oakland, it all starts with 6'11" center Keith Benson. He's currently projected as a second-round 2011 draft pick on my favorite NBA Draft site, NBADraft.net, and going into the season, they had him as a first-round pick. They rate him as a pretty good center.

Pitt has gotten killed by star guards in the past and I'm glad this team doesn't appear to have one. With McGhee's defense improving, I think Pitt will be able to contain him. Normally, I might suggest they try to get him in foul trouble, but as he's only fouled out once all season, not sure how great of a strategy that might be.

Benson, who's the #15 rebounder in the country, has helped them become one of the best rebounding teams in the country (30th overall) and they win the rebounding battle by about +5 per game.

Looking at the Pitt side of things, while Jermaine Dixon isn't on my enemy list with this quote, just the fact that he can mention not being able to ignore seeing Syracuse in their bracket is slightly annoying to me:
"You can't ignore it, but we're thinking about Oakland only and that's something we've got to get past," Pitt senior Jermaine Dixon said Sunday, not long after the Panthers gathered around a large-screen TV to watch the NCAA tournament selections.
I reaalllllly don't want to hear even the slightest mention of Syracuse or Kansas State. Not after the way Pitt played against Notre Dame in the Big East tournament.

All in all, if Pitt plays hungry (and that's a sizeable 'if' considering they way they've played of late), they should not have trouble winning this game.

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