Approximately, 26 Miles separates the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University. Not many rivals can say that they are that close in proximity to one another. Both teams play in the Horizon conference with Oakland joining the conference in 2013, and UDM being an original member of the conference.
Oakland and Detroit Mercy are two teams of the Horizon League that did not schedule easy non-conference competition in this shortened season. Oakland was able to play all of their seven non-conference games this season away from home as Detroit Mercy has had multiple games against Kentucky for example canceled and they only played three non-conference games this season.
Regardless, Oakland and UDM played some tough opponents on the road in non-conference play. The Golden Grizzlies traveled to play at Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Xavier and went to overtime with Michigan for example. While UDM played at Notre Dame and almost upset Michigan State. However, now that conference play is well on its way, these local rivals have already had some outstanding conference battles and great games against each other thus far.
The Horizon conference consists of 12 teams and in the Horizon the preseason poll, neither Oakland nor UDM were picked to finish in the top five of the conference. The Golden Grizzlies were picked to finish #6 and the Titans were predicted and picked ninth and it appeared that the pre-season poll had little to no optimism for UDM for this upcoming season.
However, pre-season polls are just that, pre-season polls, not valid scientific research used to predict the outcome of conference play. Both teams showed early on in conference play that they were both ready to compete even though their records may not entirely show it.
Oakland started Horizon League play with a heartbreaking road loss at UIC by losing by only two points after leading at the half by six. They ended up losing to the Flames again on the following day and began conference play winless at 0-2. Then they were on the road again next weekend but this time to play their main rivals in the self-proclaimed Metro Series.
In the first game between the rivals, Oakland would end up defeating Detroit Mercy by two points in overtime in a defensive battle in their first meeting between one another this season. The following day in a more high scoring back and forth game, the Golden Grizzlies ended up defeating the Titans for the weekend sweep to go 2-2 in conference play. The victory for Oakland was their ninth straight victory over Detroit Mercy as the last time the Titans defeated the Golden Grizzlies was on Jan. 13, 2017.
The following pair of games that the Golden Grizzlies participated in league play ended up being a split as Oakland for the first time this season played on their home court. The Golden Grizzlies end up losing their first game of the weekend to Wright State by a final score of 90-51. However, Oakland shocked many in the Horizon League when on the following day, they defeated the Raiders by ten giving them their first conference loss of the season.
It wasn’t an overly impressive start of the season for Oakland as they went 0-7 in non-conference play and 0-2 to start Horizon League play but them sweeping UDM on the road and beating Wright State by double digits to win three out of their last four games helped give Oakland the confidence moving forward that they needed.
Also, what really got people’s attention was when they defeated by double digits Wright State who was picked 1st in the Horizon preseason poll as well as having the preseason Horizon League men’s basketball player of the year player in Loudon Love.
The following weekend, Oakland on the road got swept by Green Bay and hoped to get a series sweep of their own when they hosted Youngstown State for a weekend series. In a hard-fought first half, Oakland went to their two-star players in Jalen Moore and Rashad Williams as the Golden Grizzlies defeated Youngstown State by a final score of 82-65.
The next day, Oakland got the much desired weekend sweep as they beat the Penguins after trailing at half time by seven points to go to 5-5 in conference play and in sixth place in the Horizon League. Now let’s take a look at Detroit Mercy’s season thus far.