Mentioned this yesterday but if you want to see a mid-major team that schedules like every week is championship week, look no further than the Oakland (Mich.) Grizzlies.
Last year, Oakland played at Oregon, at Syracuse, at Iowa and at Kansas State. In consecutive games. The Grizzlies went on to play Michigan and Michigan State last season.
Oakland (6-6) returns to the Carrier Dome again tonight. While most of Syracuse’s non-conference opponents point to the Orange as the season’s big game, the Grizzlies’ game against the 5th-ranked Orange is just another date on their schedule. This season, the Grizzlies have already faced Wisconsin, No. 1 ranked Kansas, No. 12 Michigan State, Memphis and Oregon.
They're battle-tested, if nothing else. And they probably stopped getting intimidated by large stadiums and raucous crowds a while ago. That's the bad news. The good news? It's not like they actually win any of those games. In fact they usually get blown out. So...that's good.
Syracuse takes on the Grizz tonight at 7pm as part of a Dome doubleheader with the women's team. SU is looking for their first 12-0 start since the 1999-00 campaign. The Orange lead the all-time series 1-0, an 86-66 win last year in the Dome.
The Orange will need a little good luck on their side, especially if Arinze Onuaku sits out to nurse that quad injury. He remains a gametime decision for the Orange. AO's absence would leave a big hole in the center of the court. SU has Rick Jackson, DaShonte Riley and others to fill in, but it's just not the same without the senior big-man.
The Grizz do feature some decent players, none more-so than Keith Benson. The 6-11, 225-pound center leads Oakland with 17.7 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 3.8 BPG. Like I said, NOT the best time to lose Arinze. Still, Jackson should be able to match Benson if it comes down to the two of them. He's averaging 16.6 points and 9.0 rebounds in Syracuse’s last three games.