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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Oakland

Xavier's season will tip off (somewhat belatedly) with a visit from the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Oakland Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball is (soon to be) back, baby! Xavier will begin the season over Thanksgiving weekend by hosting its own MTE, and the first game on the docket will be the Muskies versus the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Our long national nightmare isn't over, but at least we'll have basketball to watch as a momentary diversion on the way.

Oakland was not good last year. Under Greg Kampe - who has been there since the 1984 season! - they staggered to a 14-19 mark that included 8-10 in Horizon League play. The season's high-water mark came on November 10th - a date that doesn't exist for the purposes of this year's college basketball - when they won on a neutral site against Southern Illinois. That was one of two Q3 wins they had; everything else was either Q4 or a loss. It wasn't a banner year for the Grizz.

As you might expect of a guy who has been doing this as long as I've been alive, Greg Kampe has tried a bit of everything. His best teams have played fast and relied on explosive offensive production, but he ground the tempo to a halt over the last couple of seasons. Of late, they've rebounded pretty poorly, especially on the defensive end, and gotten to the line well.

Key departures

Oakland relied heavily on big man Xavier Hill-Mais, who led the team in usage rate and ORtg, was a good rebounder on both ends, and posted a 16.9/8.1/1.9 game line. Center Brad Brechting was second on the team in RPG at 6.3 per game and posted a solid 9.1 PPG; he will also be moving on.

Guard Tray Maddox, Jr. did not exhaust his eligibility, but he is on the way out, having transferred to Call State Fullerton in the offseason. He averaged 9.1 PPG and, at 34.5% (39-113), he was the team's best three-point shooter.

Key returnees

The other two of Oakland's five players to average at least nine points per game were sophomores, and they'll return to form the core of this year's squad. Guard Rashad Williams - late of Cleveland State - came eligible at the semester break and immediately set to work getting buckets. He averaged 19.5 PPG, albeit on a shooting line of .343/.323/.855. Don't be bashful, young man.

Forward Daniel Oladapo is a 6'7" offensive rebounding machine. He posted an OReb% of 10.4% on his way to 9.2/6.3/1.3 per game. More than 20% of his field goal attempts came on stickbacks; he did a lot of making his own offense last year.

The closest thing to a returning PG the Golden Grizzlies have is rising senior Kevin Kangu, whose 3.5 APG were mitigated by a 27% TO rate and a 36.7% EFG%. Also back is guard Blake Lampman, who averaged 5.1 PPG and hit just under a third of his 146 three-point attempts.

Incoming players

The big name here is Jalen Moore, a 5'11" third-team JuCo All-American out of Olney Central College in Illinois. He averaged 19 points and 8 assists per game and hit 37% from deep. Big man Yusuf Jihad is a 6'8" redshirt freshman who sat last year but will be looking to slide into some immediate frontcourt minutes this season. The remainder of the roster is filled out by two-star guys who will be making their collegiate debuts in this game, so it's hard to say what might happen with any of them.

Outlook

Over the past two off seasons, Oakland has lost a dozen players to transfer. There's not a program in the nation who can restock from that level of transfer attrition, and the strain is showing on the Golden Grizzlies' roster. Xavier needs an opener that will build confidence, get the team off to a winning start, and allow the players to get used to playing with one another in game action. Oakland should fill that role.