Don't let their 2-7 record fool you. This Oakland Grizzlies team can play ball. Their record is something that needs to be addressed immediately in this preview. Oakland just isn't another team in a long list of cupcakes, the Grizzlies are actually capable. Their 2-7 record is more a result of who they have played than how they have played. You have to admire Oakland in that sense. They have now gone on the road to play at North Carolina, at UCLA, at California and at Gonzaga. Lump in neutral court games in South Carolina against quality opponents in St Francis and Louisiana Lafayette and you can see how this Oakland team has struggled. They've only played 3 games in their home state of Michigan and even one of those was on the road. It's been brutal for Greg Kampe's squad.
Now they have to try and come into Assembly Hall and knock off the Hoosiers before going to Detroit to play Michigan State on a neutral court on Saturday. I almost feel bad for them. For everyone that wants a tougher non-conference schedule, look at Oakland and cry. These guys just haven't really stood a chance. Fortunately, they're almost through it. However hard their schedule has been, Indiana needs to make sure it gets darker before these guys get to see the light.
Touting the 84th best offense in efficiency in the nation, Oakland has actually offered more of a threat to score than Indiana has so far this season. Much of that threat comes from the 6-5 senior Travis Bader. Bader comes into the game scoring 21 points per game against some of the toughest competition in the nation. I found his basic raw averages to be pretty impressive until I stumbled upon this page. If you take a look at Bader's line you'll see that he takes 68.5% (!) of his shots from three point land. He averages 11 shots from behind the arc a game and is doing well enough to his at a 40% clip.
So there's Indiana's biggest threat. If Bader gets hot from deep he could win this game on his own. I would imagine that Sheehey will be tasked with making sure that doesn't happen. Bader rarely drives to the rim, so just stay tight on him and don't let him get a clean shot and we should be good. Of course that appears to be easier said than done.
Others we have to look out for is Bader's battery mate in Duke Mondy. These two play 33+ minutes a game (when not suspended) and combine for over 50% of possession used. So it really does come down to stopping these two and limit everyone else. Mondy is much more balanced than Bader however. The 6-4 senior splits his shots between a third at the rim, a third jumpers and third three pointers. Unfortunately for Oakland despite that balance he isn't near the shooter that Bader is. He does however share the ball very well and crashes the boards on defense.
To round out the line-up with Bader and Mondy you have 5-9 freshman Khalil Felder, 6-8 Tommie McCune and 6-10 Corey Petros. Beyond those 5 only the 6-2 Mitch Baenziger, a wing sharp shooter and 6-6 Dante Williams receive any other sort of consistent minutes. Which obviously means that Indiana's depth and propensity to get to the foul line could put Oakland in a personnel hole late in the game.
On defense Oakland runs, as Tom Crean called it, an amoeba zone. In his press conference yesterday he talked of how the Grizzlies zone "starts out as a 1-1-3 and goes from there" so I would expect a small adjustment period for our young Hoosiers as they actually get to see it run by the actual team for the first time. I don't expect it to take them too long however. Despite the defensive wrinkle the Grizzlies are still only the 260th best defense in the nation so far. Lump in their struggling defense with a very poor rebounding team and Indiana's recipe for an easy victory is getting Vonleh involved early to get their bigs in foul trouble and limiting their abilities to rebound.
Indiana needs to look to get Troy Williams more involved tonight as he's been playing very poorly of late. Williams has quietly posted sub-100 offensive ratings in his last 4 games and now has 5 on the season. He's got to settle down and take the game as it comes to him or his starting spot and minutes are going to be in jeopardy. Look for Crean and company to jump start him and get him to share the ball more after he draws a defender. Teams know what he's capable of athletically so they're going to over help on drives. He needs to be prepared to dish it at that point.
In the end, the Hoosiers are looking at another double digit victory and one that hopefully breaks the 20 point barrier once again. Pomeroy has them as 15 point favorites but again the Hoosiers shouldn't settle with that. I really want to see them get some sort of consistent offense for a full 40 minutes. That is going to be IU's achilles heel this year if they don't do something soon. The 98th most efficient offense in the nation is just not going to cut it come conference season.