If you're like me, you were relieved to learn that Oakland University is in Michigan and not "gun to the side of your White Sox cap" Oakland, CA; Oak-town as it were. This decreases the chances of J'Covan Brown getting in a fight by a factor of 10.
I was also somewhat relieved after pouring over Oakland's schedule. They were impressive in league play against schools like IUPUI, had a close loss vs. Michigan State at Auburn Hills, and shocked Tennessee on their home floor. Other than that, they've performed about as well as you'd expect out of a team that is disinterested in guarding but boasts an NBA talent like Benson inside. If Texas can limit OU's ability to run offense through Benson, play credible transition defense, and simply enjoy the fruits of the Grizzlies' matador defense, then the Horns will win comfortably. Allow Benson to catch it where he wants it when he wants it, lack good floor balance to stop the break, while turning the ball over, then Texas is in a nail biter.
Key 1. Guarding Keith Benson. He's a 6'11" 230 pound likely first round NBA draft pick. Looks like he's got tremendous touch around the basket and consistent range to the foul line and has hit some threes on the year. He can have all the 3's he wants if I'm Texas. Benson is purportedly really athletic but watching his film I think that impression comes from his shot blocking prowess which I'd argue looks like more of a combination of length and great timing.
Offensively he didn't have the jumping jack explosion I thought I'd see, but he is really good at carving out space, has good footwork, and touch with either hand. But he's not nearly the athlete that Tristan Thompson is and I think Wangmene's combination of strength and size means he can be effective on Benson. I'd play Alexis big minutes on Benson and have Tristan come over the top to help.
Key 2. Attack Benson. I think it's important to drive the ball right to Benson's chest as much as possible if he's not playing Thompson, and then feeding Thompson as much as possible when Benson draws that assignment. Oakland is going to let us catch it where we want it and they're going to let us drive the ball, so Hamilton, Brown, and Thompson can get it to the rim if we don't settle for jumpers.
If this game is called tightly it's an advantage for Oakland if and only if we don't go right after Benson. If the officials let us play, it's a big advantage for Texas because we're bigger faster and stronger at virtually every position. Either way, it's going to be important to attack the rim as much as possible this game.
Key 3. Transition Defense. Shot selection is the important component to good transition defense followed by floor balance and both elements are tied in with Key 2. We can't settle for jumpers in this game because not only does it help protect Benson from foul trouble, but it more than likely will fuel Oakland's transition game.
The Horns advantage inside comes at the four and three spots so we have to get the ball up on the glass from inside the paint and make the Grizzlies team rebound. When they're all going to the defensive glass they can't get out in their break. Win-win for Texas.
Now when we do drive the ball, especially with a guard, the second guard has to rotate back and be deeper than anyone else on the floor. But if we're forcing the Grizzlies to send 4 to the glass to compete because we're not settling for jumpers, floor balance shouldn't be much of a problem.
Key 4. Embrace tempo. I'm not suggesting we try to force transition against OU, but I think it would be dangerous to artificially slow the game down in an effort to make them uncomfortable. That's what prohibitive underdogs do when trying to matchup to a better opponent. We have a better team with better skills and better athletes. If Oakland wants to run and they're giving us favorable numbers in transition, then punish them at the rim. If we get a secondary break 3-ball in rhythm with a rebounder, then take it. This thought floating around out there suggesting we walk the ball up the floor and get into a half court game tells me some folks haven't watched our half court offense lately. Sure, if we don't have numbers, then pull it out and run your stuff, but to suggest we eschew a 3 on 2 break opportunity for a half court possession is silly.
I actually feel confident about this game, but I'm damn near depressed about having to face Arizona in the next round. That's a good basketball team. They're well coached, they have a superstar in Derrick Williams, and they'll guard us. They're better than Kansas State and by far the best 5 seed in the tournament. Meanwhile Florida, a team that was dominated in its last game, has losses to UCF, Jacksonville, and South Carolina gets to play Santa Barbara and probably UCLA to get to the round of 16. I don't have the words for how asinine that is. Oh well.