Oakland, Mich. 76, IUPUI 64

The Oakland Grizzlies don’t have much name recognition heading
into the NCAA tournament.

What they do have is a lot of confidence.

Moments after Oakland, Mich., finished a dominating run through
the Summit League tournament with a 76-64 victory over IUPUI in
Tuesday night’s championship game, coach Greg Kampe called the
Grizzlies the greatest team in league history – and ripe for
ruining NCAA brackets across the land.

“We have a goal board in our locker room, and on that goal
board is to make the Sweet 16,” Kampe said. “So we’re not just
happy to be there. A couple years ago, we were really happy to be
there. We’re happy to be there, but not just happy.”

The Grizzlies (26-8) earned their second NCAA berth with their
school-record 11th consecutive win. Their only other NCAA
appearance was in 2005.

Derick Nelson, who broke his nose early in the Summit tournament
opener against UMKC on Saturday, scored a career-high 36 points and
was named the tournament MVP. Nelson provided a spark after
top-seeded Oakland missed its first eight shots against the No. 2
Jaguars.

“I’m all right,” said Nelson, who wore no protection over his
nose. “Nothing’s going to stop me from playing this game. It
didn’t matter. I wouldn’t dare miss this tournament.”

Oakland, which set a school record for wins, has won 20 of its
last 21 against Summit opponents. Kampe pointed out that his team
had double-digit leads in 19 of those games, and in only two of
them did Oakland trail in the last five minutes.

The Grizzlies’ 17 regular-season Summit wins were the most by
any team in the league’s 28-year history, which goes back to the
days it was known as the Association of Mid-Continent
Universities.

“I told the team before the game that people will argue with me
on this, but we’ll be the greatest team in the history of this
league if you win tonight,” Kampe said. “If you don’t, we’re
not.”

Oakland didn’t reflect that greatness early. The Grizzlies fell
behind 6-1 and didn’t score their first field goal until Nelson
turned a steal into a layup five minutes into the game. A few
minutes later he started a run in which he scored 11 straight
points.

“Me and J.J. (Johnathon Jones) talked about it from the
beginning of the year, that this was our last chance to get to the
NCAA tournament,” Nelson said. “I didn’t want to be thinking I
could have done something more to help us out. Tonight, I had a big
game.”

Larry Wright added 16 points, and Summit player of the year
Keith Benson had 17 rebounds for the second straight night to go
with his eight points.

“This is one of the most competitive teams I’ve ever been on,”
Wright said. “We don’t want to lose at anything, not even video
games.”

Alex Young led IUPUI with 19 points, while Robert Glenn added 18
and Leroy Nobles 14.

Nelson’s 3-pointer with 6:33 left in the first half gave Oakland
the lead, and his fastbreak layup early in the second half pushed
the advantage to double digits.

Nelson finished 15 of 23, including 3 for 8 on 3-pointers, and
he eclipsed his previous career high of 31 points against Michigan
in 2007.

IUPUI (24-10), the only Summit team to beat Oakland this season,
now must wait to learn its postseason fate. The Jaguars are hoping
for a NIT bid, but coach Ron Hunter is skeptical.

“These guys overachieved, and yeah, I want to lobby for our
team,” Hunter said. “I understand how this business works. If our
name was anything different than what it is, with our record. …
For mid-majors, it’s real frustrating. I see teams with a worse
RPI. Mediocrity, you’re rewarded for it. That’s the politics of
college basketball. We deserve it, but it’s sexier to take the
seventh place team in the Big 10 or the ninth place team in the Big
East. It’s not fair at all.”

Meanwhile, Oakland awaits its NCAA tournament assignment. Kampe
hopes to get a No. 13 seed.

“We won’t be scared of any team or any player,” he said.