Syracuse (5-5) takes on Oakland (5-6) on Wednesday at 8 PM in the Carrier Dome. The game will be televised on ESPNU. This is the start of a three-game stretch of mid-major opponents wraping up non-conference play. Syracuse can’t afford to drop any of them. First up: Oakland.
Player to Watch: Xavier Hill-Mais
Hill-Mais has post moves from the 90’s, and he’s built like a truck. At 6′ 7″ 261 pounds, he’s heavier than former Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson. Hill-Mais was a Horizon League 1st team selection last season. He’s averaging 15.2 points per-game to go along with 7.8 rebounds. The Oakland offense will run through the big guy. Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe are going to be out-muscled, so Syracuse better bring help.
Head Coach: Greg Kampe
A good one. Kampe trails just Coach K and Jim Boeheim with 36 seasons under his belt at Oakland. His Golden Grizzlies have won ten or more league games in 12 of the last 13 seasons. He’s known for coaching great point guards (Kay Felder, Kendrick Nunn), but this season he’s had to adapt to a more post-heavy offense. Kampe was inducted into the Michigan Sport Hall of Fame with Jalen Rose, Jim Leyland and Dennis Rodman in 2017.
Oakland is going to pound the rock inside with Hill-Mais, Daniel Oladapo and Brad Brechting. They will play slow on offense. The three-point line is an area of struggle. Only 6th-man Blake Lampman is a real threat from beyond the arc at 39%. The Golden Grizzlies are good defensively at 64.1 points allowed per game. They are usually serviceable on the glass as well. The bottom line: the bigs are strong, the guards are sub-par.
Good or No?
No, not really. This Oakland team was supposed to be legit before mid-March, when their starting guards both announced intentions to transfer. Their point guard Braden Norris left for Loyola after a Horizon league All-Freshman Season. And leading scorer Jaevin Cumberland went to Cincinnati to join his cousin, Jarron. Cumberland 37 minutes and 17.2 points per-game. Oakland is left with gaping holes at the guard positions. 12 of 15 players on the roster are underclassman. It’s a lost season for Greg Kampe.
If you’re unfamiliar with the program, you may think Oakland is making the trip from the Bay Area on the West Coast. Not quite. Oakland University is in Rochester, Michigan. They play in Auburn Hills.