Busting Brackets

Oakland is going to the NCAA Tournament after defeating Milwaukee

The Golden Grizzlies and head coach Greg Kampe are going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
Mar 12, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA;  Oakland Golden Grizzlies guard Jack Gohlke (3) celebrates
Mar 12, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Oakland Golden Grizzlies guard Jack Gohlke (3) celebrates / Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

It is a remarkable story of how Oakland made its way into the NCAA Tournament.

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Oakland was not suppose to be dancing its way into the NCAA Tournament this season as they were picked No. 6 in the Horizon League preseason poll prior to the start of this season. They no longer had their star point guard in Jalen Moore who led them with nearly averaging 20 points per game with 5.6 assists and 2.3 steals from last season as well as their third leading scorer and second leading rebounder in Keaton Hervey. However, Kampe and the Golden Grizzlies made some smart moves and kept key players for this season.

The first major off-season thing Oakland did was convince Trey Townsend to stay with the Golden Grizzlies and not transfer. To be fair, there was no indication that Townsend was going to transfer, however in this day and age with top mid-major players transferring to power five conference teams, he decided to stay at Oakland and it was beneficial for both him and Oakland. There must have been at minimum a temptation after seeing former Golden Grizzlies Micah Parrish transfer to San Diego State and see him help his team make the finals of the NCAA Tournament but he stayed and was named the Horizon League Player of the Year as well as the Horizon League Tournament MVP.

The key moves this offseason bringing in transfers to help build legitimate depth were key to Oakland making the NCAA Tournament this season. The biggest move was getting graduate transfer Jack Gohlke to come to Oakland as he was named sixth man of the year in the Horizon League. His outside shooting beyond the three-point arch helped Oakland tremendously as his ability to make three-point shots in the conference tournament helped propel the Golden Grizzlies into the NCAA Tournament. DQ Cole another transfer who played a Henry Ford Community College, stepped up big time in the Horizon League tournament with Isaiah Jones and Rocket Watts not being available for the majority of the conference tournament. His ability to run the point, helped Oakland's half court offense flourish in the Horizon League semifinals and final games. Then two other transfers, Tuburu Naivalurua from Sydney, Australia, and Tone Hunter from Long Beach State provided valuable minutes through out the conference tournament.

The depth of the team helped them overcome injuries to key players from the middle of the season all the way up to the conference finals. Oakland's second-leading scorer senior and former walk-on Blake Lampman, missed eight games this season due to an injury but the Golden Grizzlies. In season's past, that would have prevented Oakland from capturing the regular season conference title but because of the Golden Grizzlies depth, they were able to win enough games in his absence to still be named conference champions. Even during the conference tournament with Jones not playing at all in the conference tournament and Watts who played only three minutes in their semifinal win and did not play at all against Milwaukee, shows how the depth of this years team allowed them to over come key players being out and still win their conference tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Finally, they had senior leadership and players who have been with the program for multiple years. Sometimes in the age of Name, Imagine, and Likeness, it seems like mid-major teams can't stop key players from transferring and are unable to see the players they helped develop their skills on the hardwood court stay with the program. However, Townsend has played four seasons with Oakland and Lampman five with the Golden Grizzlies. Chris Conway the fourth leading scorer this season has been with Oakland for four seasons and has really flourished this year. Not many mid-major teams have what the Golden Grizzlies have which is three of their top four scorers have played at their school for four seasons and led them to not only a regular season conference title but also a conference tournament championship as well.

dark. Next. Teams who need to win games in Championship Week. Teams who need to win games in Championship Week

Coach Kampe and his players deserve a ton of credit and praise for what they have accomplished this season but it is not done yet. They will have the opportunity to pull off an upset or two in the NCAA Tournament later this month.