Monday, November 16, 2009

Oakland Pre-Game Analysis

Opening Thoughts: With IPFW done and vanquished, who’s next? None other than the Grizzlies of Oakland University. Oakland is the preseason favorite to win the Summit League, the same conference that IPFW was picked to finish 7th in. They lost their first game of the season, 77-81 to Eastern Michigan on their home court, but they shot uncharacteristically poor from the 3-point line and the free throw line. They also gave up a below average 1.05 PPP on defense. Despite that, the Badgers are in for a tough opponent with the Grizzlies, preparing them well for their trip to the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui. If we have a Winthrop small-school takes us to OT type game this season, this will be it.

Oakland Probable Rotation:
*G – 5’11” SR Johnathon Jones (13.3 PPG, 8.1 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG)
*G – 6’2” JR Larry Wright (9.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 40% 3FG at St. John’s in 07-08)
*F – 6’5” SR Derick Nelson (17.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG in 07-08, Med RS in 08-09)
*F – 6’9” JR Will Hudson (7.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 68.2% FG)
*C – 6’11” JR Keith Benson (14.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 62.2% FG)
G – 6’3” SO Blake Cushingberry (6.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG)
G/F – 6’6” SO Drew Maynard (7.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
C – 7’0” SO Illja Milutinovic (1.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 54.2% FG)
F – 6’4” FR Drew Valentine (15.5 PPG, 11.9 RPG as HS junior)

Last season they played at a pace of 66 possessions per game, very close to last season’s Indiana and Purdue teams. The Grizzlies play a mix of man-to-man and zone defense and don’t force many turnovers or steals, but they do block a lot of shots. Grizzly fans aren’t very sure how their defense is going to play, but from what I was told, it sounds like they may start out in man-to-man and likely switch to zone if Keaton, Jon, Jared, Tim, Ryan, and Rob are killing them in the paint.

They are returning 68.3% of their minutes, 74.1% of their rebounding, and 66.1% of their scoring from last season. This is a bit flawed though, as All-Conference player Derick Nelson played 17 minutes last season before taking a medical redshirt for a broken foot. He averaged 17 and 7 the season before.

Key Players: Johnathon Jones – Jones, like Trevon, is the senior leader on his team. Last season, he led the country in assists per game. He also was effective shooting the ball as well, with an offensive rating of 106.8. He is also a proficient free throw shooter at 77% and shares Bohannon’s ability to not foul. He had 23 points, 9 assists, and 3 steals in their first game on 9-14 shooting (2-3 from the arc, 3-3 from the line).

Keith Benson – Benson was a force on both ends of the court. He was the 14th most efficient scorer in the nation with a rating of 126.3! How he accomplished this amazing feat was shooting a ridiculous 62.2 eFG%, attempting a set of free throws for every 3 shots from the field (68th in nation), and never turning the ball over (27th in the nation). Combine Jason Bohannon’s inability to turn it over, Tim Jarmusz’s shooting percentages, and Tyler Hansbrough’s ability to get to the free throw, and the result is this 6’11” post threat from Oakland. Did I also mention he rebounded defensively as well as Krabbenhoft did and blocked shots more often than Minnesota’s Damien Johnson, Ralph Sampson, or Colton Iverson? Ugh. Keaton, Jon, and Jared have their work cut out for themselves. Luckily, he can get in foul trouble easily, as he averaged 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes, and according to Grizzly fans, he can get pushed around in the post pretty easily. In their first game, he had 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 blocks on 5-10 from the field and 5-8 from the line.

Will Hudson – Another extremely efficient offensive player with a rating of 120.1. Hudson has an even better eFG% than Benson, 68.2. He was not an aggressive offensive player though, shooting as often as Joe Krabbenhoft did. Apparently he is a weak link defensively. In their first game, he had 2 points and 8 boards in 20 minutes (4 fouls).

Derick Nelson – The season before his medical redshirt, Nelson had an offensive rating of 104.1. He is technically the team’s leading returning scorer and got to the free throw line about as often as Benson. He’s their best defender. In their first game, he had 20 and 12 (8 off rebs), but shot 9-20, 1-2 from 3, and a horrendous 1-9 from the line.

What Oakland is really good at:

1. Shooting in general. Last season the Grizzlies were 18th in the nation at eFG% at 54.2. They were 16th at shooting 2’s, 62nd at shooting 3’s, and 137th at shooting the freebies. They shot 51% from 2, 18% from 3, and 45% from the line in their first game… an eFG% of 44.2%.

2. Blocking shots. Last season, OU was 30th at blocking shots, sending one into the rafters once every 8 possessions on defense. They blocked 10 shots in 77 possessions, right in line with last season.

3. Not sending their opponents to the line. Last season they were 19th at not commit bonus or shooting fouls. Opponents shot 2 free throw for every 7 shot attempts they had. Not so in their first game, but that’s likely due to playing from behind much of the game.

4. Not turning over the ball. They turned it over 19% of their possessions, good for 88th. The Badgers were at 16% and 4th. They lost 2 of their better ball-handlers and their worst, and add Larry Wright, who turned it over less than 10% of the time during his sophomore year at St. John’s. In their first game, they turned it over 7 times, for an outstanding 9.1%.

5. Offensive rebounding. They grabbed 35.4% of all rebounds on their offensive end, good for 82nd. For comparison, that’s about half-way between Minnesota and Marquette’s numbers for last season. In their first game, they grabbed 17, or 36%.

What Oakland is really bad at:

1. Rebounding defensively. They are a poor 258th at rebounding on D, or grab 63.3% of their opponent’s misses. UW grabbed 73.7%, or 4th, last season. They grabbed 77% in their first game.

2. Forcing turnovers. Oakland generally forced less than turnovers than they had themselves, making them 284th, at 18.5% of possessions. UW was at 19.3% last season. They forced 9 in their first game, or 11.7%.

3. Defending threes. They allowed their opponent’s to shoot 37.3% from 3 last season, good for 315th. In their first game, their opponents hit 6-15, for 40%.

Relative efficiency:
As you can probably tell from what they are good and bad at, Oakland is great on offense and below average on defense.

When Oakland has the ball: They scored a great 1.13 PPP last season and 1.00 in their first game, while UW gave up 0.73 in the first game, 0.68 PPP in the exhibition games, and 0.95 last season.

When UW has the ball: They gave up a bad 1.06 last season and 1.05 in their first game, while UW scored 1.19 against IPFW, 1.15 in the exhibition games and 1.14 last season.

Pace: Oakland played at 66 possessions per game last season and 77 in their first game compared to UW’s 63 against IPFW, 74 in the exhibition games and 60 last season.

My expectations:

1. Badgers shut down their offensive rebounding. Wisconsin is too tall, athletic, and fundamentally sound compared to Oakland to give up more than 28% of the rebounding opportunities on that end of the floor.

2. Badgers smother the Grizzlies in the paint defensively. Jones, Wright, and Cushingberry will knock down some triples, but Benson, Hudson, and Nelson are held in check, scoring less than 30 points combined.

3. They continue to pound the ball inside to Leuer, Nankivil, Evans, Jarmusz, and Berggren. Oakland’s interior defense can block a lot of shots against smaller teams but gets pushed around easily…Wisconsin is bigger in height and strength. I figure Oakland will desperately switch to a 1-3-1 if this happens.

My prediction: Badgers roll, 77-58 in a 68 possession game. Bold, but I think our bigs hold Benson, Hudson, and Nelson in check.

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