Game: #1 Oakland v #8 Southern Utah
Date: Saturday, March 5
Time: 6 p.m. Central Standard Time
TV: Midco Sports Net
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1. Oakland University 22-9 (17-1)
Last 10: 9-1
Top Scorer: Keith Benson, 17.7 Points/Game
Top Floor Shooter: Will Hudson, 64.1% Fieldgoal
Top Sharp Shooter: Travis Bader, 45.4% Three-Point
Team Fieldgoal Percent: 48.8% (1st Summit, 6th National)
Team Possesions/Game: 74.5 (1st Summit, 14th National)
Team Turnovers/Game: 14.4 (8th Summit, 256th National)
Player To Watch: Keith Benson
"Kito" has the ability to change every single possession in every single game. He is an imposing offensive presence than can go up and over anyone in the League, not to mention his long arms that give him a major advantage on the glass. This potential NBA lottery pick leads the league in rebounding (10.2/game), blocks (3.8/game), and is fourth in scoring (17.7/game). While he struggled in Oakland's losses - usually due to foul trouble - his impressive performances against teams like Tennessee, Oral Roberts, and in the first match up against IUPUI proved he really is one of the best big men in the nation. Keeping an eye on how he performs should give any viewer a real sense of the outcome of the game.
Most Underrated Player: Travis Bader
While Bader has been getting some more recognition as the season has gone on, his immediate success as a redshirt freshman has given the Golden Grizzlies something they haven't had since graduating Erik Kengas in 2009: A serious threat from beyond the arc. The 6-4 guard has hit a superhoop in all but three games this season. He is 84-185 (45.4%), shooting better from beyond the three-point line than in front of it (41.4%). IUPUI found out just how good this kid is the hard way, as Bader planted himself in the near corner and absolutely shelled the Jaguars zone defense, shooting 5-8 from long range in an 85-71 victory. His sharpshooting has been instrumental in major victories, going 6-10 against South Dakota State most recently (going 5-9 the first time), and 5-9 at UMKC.
8. Southern Utah 11-18 (7-11)
Last 10: 5-5
Top Scorer: Ryan Brimley, 9.7 Points/Game
Top Floor Shooter: Matt Massey, 55.0% Fieldgoal
Top Sharp Shooter: Jordan Weirick, 48.8% Three-Point
Team Fieldgoal Percent: 46.8% (5th Summit, 36th National)
Team Possessions/Game: 69.7 (5th Summit, 102nd National)
Team Turnovers/Game: 15.7 (9th Summit, 312nd National)
Player To Watch: Ray Jones, Jr
The only T-Birds player to play more than 30 minutes per game (31.6/game), Jones Jr is the spark to the Thunderbird's offense. Though they've struggled throughout the year, flashing bits of brilliance offensively though assists (3.9/game, 4th in the Summit League) in addition to his quick hands on defense (1.3 steals/game). For a team that struggled with getting into any kind of groove, Ray did as much as he could to keep them afloat.
Most Underrated Player: Jackson Stevenett
According to Carter Williams over at Southern Utah's University Journal, Jackson Stevenett is the most totally and completely underrated player on the T-Bird roster. "His stats aren't overpowering but he's the real deal for the team." Jackson has had 11 10-plus efficiency performances, ten of which have come against Summit League opponents.
Oakland Wins If: They can run the ball. Oakland is clearly the faster, more athletic of the two teams. The more possessions Oakland can have to score, the faster they'll pull away from the T-Birds.
Southern Utah Wins If: They force contested shots. In Cedar City, Oakland shot under 40% as a team and still won, something they haven't had to do all season. That kind of "nothing to lose" mid set could absolutely lead to an upset.
Oakland 84-67 Southern Utah