For the second straight year, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies are the Summit League tournament champions. That means that for the second straight year, Oakland is going to the NCAA tournament.
Oakland topped South Dakota State on Monday night in dominating fashion, winning by a score of 110-90. The Grizzlies were lights out from the field, shooting an outstanding 57.7 percent. From three-point land, Oakland shot 57.1 percent, and as the score suggests, they put on a show offensively.
On Tuesday night, Oakland's point total and field goal percentage dropped a bit, but the end result was the same -- a blowout victory. Oral Roberts put up a fight and managed to hang around for three-fourths of the game, even leading by a point with 11:55 to go. Oakland went on a 33-9 run over the next nine or so minutes, however, taking control of this game and never looking back. The end result was a 90-76 victory for the Grizzlies, who will return to the NCAA tournament next week for the third time in program history.
Last year, Oakland drew a 14 seed and lost to Pittsburgh in the first round of the Big Dance by 23 points. This year, with a 25-9 record, Oakland is predicted by ESPN's Joe Lunardi to be a 13 seed. In Lunardi's latest bracketology, the Grizzlies are slotted to play Kentucky in what is now considered the second round (the First Four is technically the opening round).
Oakland faced a tough non-conference schedule this season and pulled off an upset against Tennessee. While last year there was no upset against Pittsburgh in the NCAA tourney, the make-up of this year's squad definitely will make the Grizzlies a popular upset pick. Even as a 14 seed many had them advancing in 2010, and with the way they played during the regular season and conference tournament, an Oakland upset in the 2011 NCAA tournament would not be at all surprising.
Reggie Hamilton scored 23 points and Keith Benson added 19 points and five rebounds as top-seeded Oakland moved on to the second round of the Summit League tournament with a convincing 82-66 win over Southern Utah.
Jackson Stevenett poured in a game-high 24 points, Ray Jones Jr had 13 and Ramell Taylor had 12 for Southern Utah (11-19, 7-11 Summit), but no one else could muster more than six points for the Thunderbirds.
Oakland led by 12 at halftime and was never really threatened as the Grizzlies scored their second straight win over the Thunderbirds. Oakland beat Southern Utah a week ago on Feb. 26 by a nearly identical score, 82-68.
Oakland (23-9, 17-1) moves on to play to play the winner of Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne and South Dakota State, which tips off tomorrow at 6 p.m. on ESPN3. Oakland, which beat then No. 7 Tennessee on Dec. 14, will go for its seventh-straight win in the contest as they try to pad their NCAA tournament resume.
The Grizzlies have won 16 of their last 17 games, with the only loss coming on Feb. 5 to Indiana-Purdue. Oakland nearly beat then No. 8 Michigan State three days before the Tennessee upset, losing a 77-76 heartbreaker.
The 2011 Summit League tournament begins today out in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At the tournament, the Oakland Grizzlies will attempt to capture the conference's postseason title after winning the regular season crown. Unfortunately, one slip up will kill the Grizzlies' NCAA tournament hopes, but if Oakland takes home the tournament title, it will be going dancing in March for the second straight year and third time in its history.