Here at College Basketball Talk, we love a mid-major coach with the guts to schedule tough games. Oakland’s long-time guru Greg Kampe has made a habit of facing big-time opponents every season. Last year, the team lost roadies at Alabama, Arkansas and Arizona, but won at Houston and beat Tennessee in front of home fans in Rochester, Michigan. Kampe’s teams tend to have respectable results even when they lose those guarantee games, and part of the payoff is the return games he’s been able to weasel out of the big boys. The O’Rena (as the Oakland gym is known) hosted an impressive 17 home games last season, in part because of return trips from BCS schools.
This year, the Griz are on the steep end of the cycle, with a horrendous, soul-sucking trek through the upper echelons of DI basketball planned out. In November, they’ll travel to Michigan State and Tennessee, in December there’s a televised game at West Virginia bookended by in-state trips to Western and Eastern Michigan, respectively. They’ll also pay visits to Pitt, Boise State, Ohio and Alabama. It’s a ruthless, character-building schedule that Kampe recently referred to as “stupid,” while apologizing to fans who won’t see much of their beloved team at home this year. He also cautioned fans to be realistic.
“Fans have to understand where we are in the pecking order,” he told the Oakland Press.
The Summit League has traditionally been one of the more travel-heavy leagues in the nation, anyway, but Kampe knows what he’s doing. Yes, his kids will be tired. Yes, they’ll lose lots of games. But they’ll have a real RPI number to sustain them through the saggy numbers of the conference slog, and if they happen to beat a couple of the nation’s “haves”, the experience is incredible for players and fans alike.
Kampe is especially doing a great job of blanketing the state, which can’t hurt his recruiting efforts. Regular matchups with the Wolverines and Spartans are leavened with frequent swings through the MAC directionals in Michigan and surrounding states. The tough schedule might also make Oakland a little more attractive in this era of conference-killing realignment. Look what such practices did for the likes of Butler, Belmont and VCU, who made upward moves despite having little or no football clout.