Invited to the dance but not a part of the party

(Note: the following piece is the opinion of Kyle Bauer and not of Neal Ruhl or any other member of the website)

By Kyle Bauer

I guess I should’nt talk anymore about Oakland University. They are relevent to me and my co-host, but other than location are they relevent to you? No, especially because that is a simple matter of coincidence.

But I have found a reason to bring them up one last time to the public and that is because what every other team has done in this tournament. For the first time, there are going to be more double-digit seeds in the sweet 16. Even teams that failed to advance, such as Robert Morris, a 15 seed, almost bumped off a soft Villanova team in overtime. Parody has captured the imagination of the people and pundits as many have proclaimed this “the best opening weekend ever”.

It appeared that if it were going to be any tournament a school like Oakland would ascend, it would be this one. Instead they sealed their national annonimity for another year. I’m sure there’s a few people who figured OU couldn’t handle the travel of going all the way from California to Milwaukee. That’s what they deserve though.

OU apologists around town, and trust me, going to this school I am surrounded by them, need to decide what this team is. For the duration of the year, despite a blowout against Michigan St. and losing at home to Eastern Michigan, travel was to blame for how poor they played against the big programs. I concurred with that and understandably so, especially against Syracuse, Kansas and Oregon which were all a part of whirl-wind road trips that didn’t aid them in games they probably would have lost anyway.

Suppressed thoughts were, why is Oakland getting blown-out so soundly by these teams? In the past Oakland seemed to have Oregon’s number, beating them two years in a row, including in 2007, when the Ducks were ranked. Yet Oregon beat them by double-digits.  Another alarming loss was against Memphis. A small team that OU should have matched up well against, that missed the tournament in a rebuilding year. They were never in the game losing 77 to 46.

But I bought in because of Oakland’s impressive 20-1 in-conference record. Unfortunately I’m starting to wonder if the Summit league has any validity at all. If it should even be in the same class as say the Big Sky or Ohio Valley conference. For example, Murray St. was only a couple points away from going to the sweet 16. That is part of my point but I digress. Oakland’s Summit league performance was outstanding and generated excitement all the way around. Even though Oakland did exactly what they were supposed to do, going off pre-season expectations.

When Oakland went into the game against Pitt, it seemed as though the stage had been set for them to get on the train of mid-major upsets. Especially considering the Big East was at the end of three and almost four of them, that first day. The Grizzlies got off to a rousing start. Then Derek Nelson, who might be the most physically gifted Grizzly, went down and missed most of the first half. An amazing shot by Ledrick Eackles was reversed after the referees decided during the inbound that he charged. Those were factors in the game going in the opposite direction, they were not determining factors though.

Oakland came out working the ball inside and creating space for open shots. They forced turnovers and fouls on Pitt. After those occurences they lost their composure and began to rush shots and run out of position defensively. That is no excuse, you never saw Murray St., or Ohio lose their composure. Oakland was supposed to be better than both teams. I’m left thinking that both would have easily disposed of the Grizzlies off of heart alone.

Yet, I’m hearing more excuse making and suddenly “oh well this is only Oakland second appearance, you can’t expect them to beat a program like Pitt!” Well Wofford was making their first appearance and they almost knocked off Wisconsin. It was not an excuse for them and I’m sure their student body and local media would not apologize to the team for a decisive loss.

Oakland could have been a part of the party. They could have been one of the mid-major teams that have destroyed brackets everywhere. Instead they put up one of the worst performances of the tournament. They played like a 16 seed, which I sincerely believe Lehigh put up a tougher game than them.

Because of this, I do not see any true progress made in the program because this was a truly forgettable performance. OU didn’t even have to win, they just had to make it close. By not doing that, only a score was posted on Sportscenter, no highlights. The game-stories were buried in the back, even on a local scale. And the team whose Summit League Championship celebration wasnt carried live, who had to stay in the suburbs of Milwaukee instead of downtown, the school CBS gave no coverage to on selection Sunday, played like they deserved the obscurity.

For at least another year the Golden Grizzlies will come from California.



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