2011 NCAA Tournament Preview West Region – First Round (13) Oakland vs. (4) Texas

Friday, March 18 - 12:15 PM ET

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On the strength of eight straight wins, and 18 victories in their last 19 games, the Oakland Grizzlies enter the tournament as the auto-bid winners from the Summit Conference. The Grizzlies played a very tough non-conference schedule, featuring five teams that were in the top-25 at the time and seven teams that are in this year’s NCAA tourney. While they went just 1-6 in those games – beating Tennessee on the road, losing by one to Michigan State on a neutral court, and losing the other five games by double-digit margins – the schedule was designed to prepare the “Grizz” for the tourney. This is the Grizzlies’ third March Madness appearance under coach Greg Kampe; they won a play-in game in 2005 before losing to top-seeded North Carolina, and fell to third seed Pittsburgh as the 14 seed last year.

Texas, on the other hand, lost three of its last five regular season games and fell short in the Big 12 Tournament’s title game. It’s not quite fair or accurate to say that the Horns are coming into the tournament struggling for the second straight season. What is fair to say is that there is uncertainty about how this team will respond to its latest postseason challenge. The Longhorns are coached by Rick Barnes, who is 19-18 in NCAA tournament games, a less-than-convincing record. The Horns’ most recent appearance was last year as an eight seed; they were knocked out in the first round by Wake Forest in an ugly and sloppy affair.

The Grizzlies have four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by big man Keith Benson, a low-post beast who is averaging 18 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Guard Reggie Hamilton averages 17.4 points per game and shoots 48.4 percent from the field. Guard Travis Bader averages 10.5 points per game and is the team's biggest three point threat: 75 percent of his shots come from long range, and he hits 46 percent of those shots.

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For Texas, the offense is carried by Jordan Hamilton (18.6 points per game). Three other players average in double figures in scoring, and J'Covan Brown averages just under 10 points per game after completing an up-and-down conference season. The Longhorns have limited opponents to just 29 percent shooting from long range, tied for fifth best in the nation. Texas is going to need to work on its free throw shooting in this Dance with destiny – the Horns hit just 64 percent for the season, and that won't get them very far in the tournament.

This 13-4 game will feature an interesting clash of styles and strengths. Texas has one of the stingiest defenses in terms of field goal percentage, while Oakland is second in the nation on offense, shooting at a 49.4 percent clip. At the other end of the court, Oakland doesn't do much on defense, while Texas is just average on offense. Both teams are in the top-15 in rebounding in the United States.

For Oakland to win, it's going to need the game to turn into a shootout. The Grizzlies struggle when forced into a half-court slugfest and plodding offensive sets. Given their lack of defense the offense is going to have to show up in a big way. The Grizzlies averaged just 63 points in their five double-digit losses to power conference teams, and will need to perform much better than that if they hope to have a shot. Otherwise, Texas could have a really easy first game and avoid the upset that’s fashionable among some bracket gurus this week.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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