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Kentucky vs. Oakland, NCAA Tournament: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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The Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

One of the best events in all of sports is upon us, March Madness, and the Kentucky Wildcats will look to make it to the second weekend for the first since 2019. That said, the first opponent in their way will be the 14-seeded Oakland Golden Grizzlies from Auburn Hills, Michigan, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over a decade.

Two years ago, the Wildcats and Big Blue Nation learned not to overlook anybody after losing to a 15-seeded Saint Peter’s team ranked 260th in offensive efficiency. The Golden Grizzlies are entering the game with confidence.

“For me, this was the best matchup I think we could get as we were trying to figure it all out,” head coach Greg Kampe, who has been at Oakland for 40 years, said on local radio station 97.1 The Ticket.

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Ryan Kay of Busting Brackets, who has covered Oakland this season, has been kind enough to offer a brief scouting report to learn more about the Golden Grizzlies ahead of Thursday’s matchup.

Let’s take a look.

Scouting Report

Their non-conference performances this season may not seem impressive in terms of wins and losses but Oakland was competitive against good teams in non-conference play. In their season opener on the road against Ohio State, Oakland led the Buckeyes 52-47 in the second half before falling to Ohio State by only five points.

In the Golden Grizzlies’ second game of the season, they went on the road to face off against Illinois and once again led a Big Ten team in the second half. Oakland was leading Illinois in the second half 45-42 before losing the game by a final score of 64-53.

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In their fourth game of the season in the Cayman Islands Classic against eventual Missouri Vallery conference tournament Drake, Oakland was leading early in the second half once again 48-45 before falling to the Bulldogs by eight.

The point that is being made is that Oakland a mid-major program was gaining confidence early in the season but was unable to close out games and get early season wins against quality opponents away from their home court at the O’Rena.

After winning their last two games in the Cayman Islands Classic, their confidence continued to grow and their game at Xavier in which they held on to their second-half lead to get a signature win against a team from the Big East.

After that, yes Oakland lost a string of games but once they found their rotations that worked best and were fully healthy, they went on a run winning nine of their next ten games. Then after a road loss at Northern Kentucky, they won eight of their last nine games heading into the NCAA tournament.

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Why Oakland is a potential Cinderella team is their ability to catch teams off guard with their 1-3-1 zone defense, their ability to make threes, and a motivated, experienced head coach who has led his team to 17 wins since New Year’s Eve.

The 1-3-1 defense the Golden Grizzlies deploy is not very unique but not a defense a ton of teams have faced and endured this season. Oakland’s defense doesn’t shut opposing teams’ offenses down but it keeps their key players primarily out of foul trouble, allows them to use more of their energy on offense, and has kept teams from scoring more than 76 points in 19 games this season.

Oakland can make three-pointers as they made 24 threes in the Horizon League tournament. Jack Gohlke is the Golden Grizzlies’ main three-point specialist shooting 37% from beyond the arc but Blake Lampman is shooting 36.9% and DQ Cole at 35.2%. Even Horizon League player of the year Trey Townsend shoots it at 34.6% from three-point land. Many Golden Grizzlies can shoot from beyond the arc but they are not dependent on their three-point shooting like how some other teams are.

Finally, Oakland’s long-tenure coach has defeated Power Five teams in the past. As already mentioned, in their win against Oklahoma State, Kampe and his Golden Grizzlies also have wins since 2010 against Clemson, Georgia, Washington, Houston, and Tennessee (twice). Kampe has figured out how to utilize the transfer portal as well as developing players as freshmen to seniors like Townsend, Lampman, and Chris Conway.

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Players to Watch

F Trey Townsend 6-6, 228 lbs

  • 16.9 PPG (7th in Horizon)
  • 7.8 RPG (4th in Horizon)
  • 3.1 APG
  • Horizon League Player of the Year

G Blake Lampman 6-3, 184 lbs

  • 13.2 PPG
  • 3.0 APG
  • Horizon League Second Team Selection

G Jack Gohlke 6-3, 215 lbs

  • 12.2 PPG
  • 37% 3P
  • 121 3PM (2nd in NCAA)
  • 327 of 335 shots have been three-point attempts

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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