Game day: Familiar confines

Robert Morris (1-7) vs. Oakland (3-3)
When: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.
Where: Charles L. Sewall Center, Moon Twp., PA
KenPom: RMU 265, Oakland 136
KenPom Line: Oakland -3
Link: NECfrontrow.com
Storyline: Robert Morris, off to their worst start in recent memory, finally returns back home after a long west coast road swing. In the way of win number two is a good Oakland team, led by long-time head coach Greg Kampe. RMU’s defense will be put to the test against one of the nation’s top offenses.

Getting to know the Golden Grizzlies: Did you know this Oakland is in Michigan, not California? I feel like that could be confusing for some people. Just wanted to clear that up.

OU (Oakland University, not Oklahoma University, just to clarify again) is off to a decent start. They’re 3-3, but with two wins against rather unimpressive opponents (Alcorn State and Abilene Christian). They last played Tuesday, losing to Georgia 86-82.

Scoring in the 80’s is not unfamiliar territory for the Golden Grizzlies. They’re one of the most efficient offenses in the country, averaging 109.8 points-per-100-possessions. That’s good for 37th in the country. It seems like Oakland is consistently one of the best three point shooting teams in the country. Recently graduated shooting guard Travis Bader is the NCAA’s all-time leader in three point makes and attempts. That’s the type of culture they have.

That three point shooting is still there. Junior point guard Khalil Felder, listed at just 5-foot-9, is leading the team in scoring at 23.5 points per game. he’s shooting 39 percent (14-61) from three this season. Felder is also averaging an incredible 9.8 assists per game this season. His assist rate is third in the country. Senior guard Max Hooper is shooting 44.9 percent from three this season.

Oakland is a veteran team. Center Percy Gibson, an Iowa State transfer, is having an unbelievable season as well. Gibson is your more traditional center; athletic as hell, but likes to play with his back to the basket and bang on the boards. He’s averaging 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on 56.6 percent shooting. His offensive and defensive rebounding percentages rank in the top 175 nationally.

Giving up 80 points per game is also pretty common for Oakland. In their three losses, they’ve given up 92.6 points per game. If you take out wins against Alcorn State and Abilene Christian, who are really bad, they’ve given up an average of 89.7 points per game. There are points to be had.

A lot of Oakland’s defensive struggles could probably be pointed at their tempo. OU wants to play really fast, giving teams more possessions to score. Their defensive numbers aren’t actually awful; teams have an effective field goal percentage of 48.2 percent (140th in the country) and they defend the three point line well (teams are shooting just 31.3 percent from three). If there’s one Achilles heel, it’s that outside of Gibson, their bigs don’t rebound too well.

Mixing it up?
One thing I suggested to spark RMU for this game is lots of small ball. I wouldn’t mind seeing some Stewart-McConnell-Still-Pryor-Minnie lineups on the floor. Minnie is similar in size to Gibson and his shot blocking makes him a real rim protector. I’m not sure he’s good enough to play on the wing in this game.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see lots of Billy Giles, who is playing really well. This just might be a game to experiment a little bit if he can play the wing. RMU’s defense leaves a lot to be desired. 1-7 is a good time to try some different things.

To the tin
Not to sound like a broken record, but RMU has to shoot more free throws. They took a resounding six free throw attempts against Youngstown State. Oakland is going to employ a zone defense, much like YSU. The Colonials have to be more aggressive this time around.

Back home
RMU has played just one home game this season. While that was a loss to Bucknell, playing at home must feel nice. It could also mess with an Oakland team that is going to rely on the three point shot. The Sewall Center has nothing behind the backboards, which messes with depth perception a little.

Prediction
Oakland 80, Robert Morris 65. Color me pessimistic about this one.

–Chris Cappella
@C_Cappella

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