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November 12, 2013

Oakland University to take shot at another successful season

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Oakland University to take shot at another successful season
Oakland University men’s basketball head coach Greg Kampe is pictured at a press conference Nov. 5. Kampe has observed a “likeness” between this year’s team and successful Golden Grizzlies’ squads from the past.
Oakland University women’s basketball coach Jeff Tungate is pictured with players during a recent practice. Tungate, who is an Oakland graduate, is in his first year at the helm of the women’s program.
 

Over the last 10 years, Oakland University’s men’s basketball team has made it to the NCAA tournament three times and had multiple seasons of 20-plus wins.

With increased success can come increased expectations, and while Oakland did earn a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament the last two seasons after making the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011, the last couple of years may not have been exactly what Oakland fans have become accustomed to in recent seasons.

And although Oakland hadn’t played any regular-season games at press time, it isn’t too soon for head coach Greg Kampe to offer some ideas as to what may be different about this season, as opposed to the last couple at Oakland.

“The likeness between this team this year and the (NCAA) tournament teams is our defensive rebounding and our point guard play,” he said. “Excited about our point guard play, and we think we are a really good defensive rebounding team. That’s the common thread we didn’t have last year — those two things. Two years ago, we lost Will Hudson, who finished third in the nation in offensive rebounding — tremendous rebounder. We couldn’t fill that gap the last two years. We think we got it filled now with Tommie (McCune) and Ralph Hill.

“Got some guys that can really rebound the basketball. I think that’s the biggest difference.”

This will be Oakland’s inaugural season in the Horizon League, and the move seems to have already had an impact on the program. Aside from giving Oakland more recruiting options, joining the Horizon League may have also increased the Golden Grizzlies’ opportunity to receive national exposure.

While Oakland did play nationally televised games while in the Summit League, the nine nationally televised games Oakland is scheduled to play on ESPN networks this season are the most in program history.

“We went from the 20th best league in the country to probably the 10th best league in the country,” he said. “What also helps us is we’ve been on ESPN and we’ve won. We beat Tennessee two years in a row on ESPNU. We beat Oregon on ESPN. When we play Michigan State on Saturday, the 14th of December — every team in the country’s playing that day — and ESPN chose the Michigan State-Oakland game. ESPN picked us to play on national TV on December 14. The respect of that speaks volumes, and that’s the best way to describe how far our program’s come.”

The Horizon League plays what may be more of a defensive-minded brand of basketball than Oakland saw in the Summit League, which featured some high-scoring contests, but Kampe doesn’t seem prepared to change Oakland’s style of play.

“I think we had a lot to do with the Summit League turning into a shooter’s league,” he said. “There’s a different philosophy of winning in the Summit League than there is in the Horizon League. I’ve read, been told, had to listen to ­how our style of play will not be successful. We’ll find out. I have no plans on changing.”

Oakland is next scheduled to be in action at 9 p.m. Nov. 12 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In other Oakland basketball news:
Former OU men’s assistant coach Jeff Tungate is in his first year at the helm of the Golden Grizzlies’ women’s squad, and he expressed appreciation for the opportunity he has been given to lead the program.

“I’m excited to be the head coach of the program,” he said. “Our team’s been working hard. I’m very fortunate to be a head coach at my alma mater. Not many people get to be a coach at their alma mater. Looking forward to the season.”

Senior Victoria Lipscomb has given some thought as to the team’s goals.

“To have a successful season and really compete in the Horizon League,” she said. “We have a great team, and we had a great team last year, even though our record didn’t really reflect that (9-20). I know this year, coming into it, we have a lot of new changes. Our goal is really just to have a successful season.”

Oakland is scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at home against the University of Central Florida.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.