Charlotte, N.C. - Charlotte Coliseum
Friday, 3 p.m., CBS
"To play against some of the No. 1 players in the nation, it'll be great to put your talent up against them and see where you stand. ... We've got North Carolina and I really want to go after them because you want to match your talents with them. They're the No. 1 and there's a reason they're No. 1. They're very athletic and they've got All-Americans sitting on the bench." -- Cortney Scott
"If we win the national championship, we'll finally get to 19-18." -- Greg Kampe
"We want Tar Heels! We want Tar Heels!" -- Oakland student section
Playing-In: Rawle Marshall scored 29 points as Oakland pulled away from Alabama A&M in the second half of the NCAA Tournament play-in game for a 79-69 final. The Grizzlies shot 51 percent from the field, including 47 percent on three-pointers, and outrebounded A&M, 43-29. Cortney Scott added 21 points and 8 rebounds, leading the lowpost dominance, which included a 42-18 advantage in points in the paint.
Season Recap: It has all the makings of a perfect college hoops Cinderella story. The Oakland program joined the Division I ranks in 1998 and coach Greg Kampe, who has been with the Grizzlies for 21 years, pondered leaving because he wasn't sure he wanted to coach at the higher level. Since then they've been a .500 club, but last season's 8th place finish (when they were picked as the preseason favorite) put some pressure on the need for better results in 2004-05, and OU certainly didn't deliver early on. A brutal non-conference schedule produced an 0-7 start and the team didn't get its first Div. I win until Dec. 30. In February, guard Kris Krzyminski, the team's third-leading scorer, quit the team. They were 7-18 overall entering the final days of February -- but for whatever reason, at that point, something clicked. Maybe it was rallying together after Kryzminski's exit or perhaps it was just playing with a 'nothing to lose mentality.' Kampe admitted team chemistry was a major factor -- "The problem was our guys just didn't like each other" -- but regardless the team suddenly came together in late February. They rattled off two wins to close the regular season and entered the conference tournament with the 7th seed. In the first round, they edged out 2nd-seeded UMKC. In the semifinals, they snuck by Chicago State. And in the title game, against heavily favored Oral Roberts, they did the unthinkable. And who hit the game-winning three with 1.3 seconds left to give them the NCAA Tournament berth? Pierre Dukes, who considered leaving the team in the offseason and didn't expect to be anything more than a practice player this year.
Marshall Law: Senior Rawle Marshall is the star, a multi-dimensional player who can score in a variety of ways on offense, but is also a serious threat on defense. The wiry 6-7, 190-pound senior leads the Grizzlies in points (20.0), rebounds (7.8), steals (1.8) and blocks (1.3). He's had three 30-plus scoring outings, and has had a team-high total in 20 of the 31 games. Marshall transferred from Ball State in 2001 and since has earned three all-conference selections.
Great Scott: Cortney Scott is the bruiser. At a nimble 6-6, 260 pounds, he patrols the paint for the Grizzlies, posting 18.0 points and 7.3 boards. Scott transferred to OU after a season at Iowa and since then has been a sure thing -- never missing a game and leading the team in rebounding in '02-'03 and '03-'04. As evidenced by his stats, he's more than just a banger, as he can score around the hoop and passes surprisingly well -- but his weakness is at the free-throw line. He shot 47 percent from the charity stripe last season and is up to 56 percent this season.
Supporting Cast: Marshall and Scott are the names to know, as no one else on the team averages double-digits or led the team in scoring against Div. I opponents this season and only twice did another player lead the team in rebounding. Reserve freshman guard Brandon Cassise is the only other player averaging more than five points, in fact. He's the team leader with 57 three-pointers (35%) this season for a squad that shoots only 34 percent overall from beyond the arc. The starting backcourt consists of DeMarcus Ishmeal and Pierre Dukes. Neither is much of a scorer (they combine for 8.8 points per game), but they are relied upon for consistent floor leadership, and their combined 2.2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio speaks to their effectiveness at that. Freshman forward Patrick McCloskey (4.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) starts and completes the undersized frontcourt, of which he's the tallest at 6-7. Freshman wing David Carson is the final member of the seven-man rotation, as he provides some points (4.0) off the bench.
Background Location: Rochester, Mich. Enrollment: 16,576 Conference: Mid-Continent Nickname: Golden Grizzlies Colors: Gold and Black Head Coach: Greg Kampe Record at OU: 350-254
Probable Starting Lineup: DeMarcus Ishmeal (5-9, 170, G, Sr.) – 4.3 ppg, 3.1 apg Pierre Dukes (6-1, 180, G, Jr.) – 4.5 ppg, 2.1 apg Rawle Marshall (6-7, 190, F, Sr.) – 20.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg Patrick McCloskey (6-7, 230, F, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg Cortney Scott (6-6, 260, F, Sr.) – 18.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg Key Reserves: Brandon Cassise (6-3, 185, G, Fr.) – 8.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg David Carson (6-7, 170, F, Fr.) – 4.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg
Marshall ... Scott
Ishmeal ... McCloskey
Kampe ... Dukes