March 16, 2011

Oakland Grizzlies coach tells OB he has 'a very good team'

I had a chance to catch up with the coach of Texas' first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament - Oakland (Mich.) University coach Greg Kampe.

He said he felt like he had a team that could make some noise in this year's NCAA. And then he learned he'd be facing defensive-minded Texas coach Rick Barnes.

"Your fans think you got a bad seed?" Kampe asked. "We have to play you. We think Texas is a number one seed. We think that way more than your fans think that.

"I was in shock. When they said, 'You're playing Texas,' I said, 'What?' I don't get it. I don't understand it. I think Texas has a heck of a team.

"We have a very good basketball team. It's a team I thought could do something this year in the NCAA Tournament. We've got a pro in the middle (fifth-year senior Keith Benson) who is 6-11. We've got a guard who is starting to look like one (6-4 G Travis Bader, who hits 45.6 percent from 3-point range - 92 of 201).

"We've got a junior guard (Reggie Hamilton, averaging 17.4 ppg) who can really shoot the ball, and we can score from every spot.

"That's why we score so many points. We don't press or anything. We just like to run it up there and shoot it. Unfortuantely it's all about the draw and who you get, and they didn't do us any favors."

The Grizzlies have beaten Tennessee and played Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State this season. So they won't be fazed by playing another big-name opponent.

In fact, Kampe said his big man - Keith Benson - seems to thrive in in games against "big-name opponents."

"When we play our A game, we can play with anybody," Kampe said. "And we've done it. We had Illinois by 11 in the second half and lost (74-63).

"We had a nine-point lead at Purdue and lost (82-67). We were able to hang on and beat Tennessee (89-82). We lost to Michigan State by one (77-76) and missed a bunch of free throws down the stretch.

"And then Ohio State just beat the hell out of us (92-63). They were unbelievable, and we did not play well.

"I think we can play with anyone, but as Ohio State proved, if we don't play well, they can run away from us."

Kampe said he plans on playing 9 guys against Texas and may have to adjust his typical game plan.

"At our level, our defensive approach is go out and pressure the basketball, because we've got the pro inside, and we leave him at the basket," said Kampe.

"He's a tremendous shot-blocker. So at our level, a lot of people get scared and don't want to go in there. So we get a lot of mid-range shots against us.

"Teams will fight the pressure, take a couple dribbles, and then they don't want to go any farther because they don't want to get their shot blocked and will pull up and shoot.

"With teams like Texas who are used to that, we have to make some adjustments, maybe not pressure the ball as much because those guys are really good at going by you.

"So we'll pull back a little bit on that. We don't want to get our big guy (Benson) in foul trouble.

One of the best one-on-one matchups of the first around will be Oakland C 6-11 Keith Benson taking on the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in the Big 12 from Texas - Tristan Thompson.

"He (Benson) plays his best games against size," Kampe said. "He had 28 against Pittsburgh in the tournament last year and the Garrick McGee kid for Pitt is pretty good.

"In our league, a lot of the guys are 2 or 3 inches smaller, so they are grabbing at him around the waist and pushing him and beating him up. So he's always doubled and tripled in our league. But he seems to play very well against the big-time teams.

"The night we beat Tennessee, he had 20 in the first half and finished with 26. He can dominate a game offensively because he can score any way you want.

"He can make hooks, make a 3, put it on the floor a little bit. He's a great defensive rebounder and a great shot blocker. His on-the-ball defense isn't great, but some of that is me because we have him hang out at the basket, which I don't know if we can do that against Tristan Thompson."

Oakland has the second-best FG percentage in all of Division I college basketball - 49.4 percent, just behind Kansas (51.4). And the Grizzlies are the second-highest scoring team in Division I, averaging 85.6 points per game.

"Shooting the 3 is our strength," Kampe said. "Shooting the basketball is what we do best. We are not afraid to go nine guys, and all nine can put the ball in the basket.

"When the stats started coming in on Texas, the first thing I saw was that Texas is giving up only 29 percent from 3. My heart kind of sank because that's what we do best, and here they can guard the 3 really well. Barnes is a hell of a coach and is a great defensive mind."

Kampe said he can not believe Texas is not seeded higher in the NCAA Tournament.

"This is just an honest assessment," Kampe said. "People say Texas didn't play well down the stretch. They got to the finals of the Big 12 Tournament.

"That's not easy. We wouldn't have gotten to the finals of the Big 12 Tournament. So please don't tell me they are not playing well. I'm not buying into this stuff about them not playing well down the stretch.

"I don't know how they got a No. 4 seed. When I watch the tape, I think they can win a national championship. Didn't they beat Kansas at Kansas and end a 69-game home winning streak? I'm not sure the Pistons could go into Kansas and win.

"I hope we play well and it's a great game. And I hope we win."

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