Last night (Dec. 14th) the Tennessee Volunteers were toppled by the Oakland(Michigan) Golden Grizzlies.  Vol fans have every right to be upset with their teams’ performance against the Golden Grizzlies Tuesday night.  But, is this loss really a surprise to college basketball fans?

I’m going to admit that I hadn’t heard much about Oakland before this game other than they only loss to Michigan St. by 1 point only a few days ago.  As a Purdue fan I also knew that Oakland gave my Boilermakers a tough game.  Other than that I was just as clueless to who the Golden Grizzlies are.  Oakland was down at halftime against the Vols 50-39.  Is it surprising that they came back to win the game 89-82?  I don’t think it is.

Oakland is led my 5th year senior Keith Benson, 18.8ppg (had 26 points and 10 rebounds against Tennessee).  Having a 5th year senior as your leader always makes a coach feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Benson has plenty of game experience and confidence to lead his team when it’s crunch time.  Oakland was last years Summit League champs and they look to repeat their success and to earn another birth into the big dance in March.

Coach Greg Kempe has intentionally put his team through a tough schedule and their record shows for it (6-5).  They’ve already played 4 ranked teams; Purdue, Illinois, Michigan St., and Tennessee.  They also have currently ranked #2 Ohio State on their schedule.  Coach Kempe after the game was not surprised by his team’s victory over the Volunteers.  “We’re not scared of anybody, We weren’t intimidated by the No. 7 team in the country because we had just played Michigan State, and we should have won that game. We had just played Illinois, and we could have won that game. I think those are big and can help us”-Kempe.

Oakland is currently 21st overall in the nation in scoring, putting up 80.5 points per game.  They are also bringing in 40.7 rebounds a game, 26th in the nation.  Their success on the boards has led to many second chance opportunities to score.  Mix these two keys to success with their solid team defense and you have yourself a winning program.  Oakland held the Vols to shoot just under 35% in the second half, including a 5 minute drought where Tennessee didn’t score one point.

Oakland’s track record thus far is very impressive.  They are now 1-3 vs ranked opponents, are the returning Summit League Champs, are led by a 5th year senior, and are ranked in the top 30 in scoring and rebounds per game.  I wasn’t as shocked as some  may have been to watch the Volunteers fall to Oakland.  The Oakland Golden Grizzlies are definitely a team to keep an eye on come March.