Oakland lands NIT berth, to open vs. Clemson

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Oakland coach Greg Kampe had been hearing all week about a probable 8 seed in the National Invitation Tournament.

It ended up getting a 7 — and, as a result, an opponent it spent no time scouting in Clemson.

“We’re in a real scramble,” Kampe said, not just talking about tracking down game film, but also travel plans, as Oakland will leave Monday for its 8 p.m. Tuesday game in South Carolina. “I never even looked at Clemson.”

Oakland (24-8) will play in the postseason for the eighth time in nine years, but it’s the first time in school history it will play in the NIT. It’s joined in the NIT by fellow Horizon League regular-season champion Valparaiso.

Both were bumped in their opening games of the Horizon League tournament, top-seeded Oakland’s a real killer on a buzzer-beating layup by Youngstown State.

Valpo, without star Alec Peters, lost as a No. 2 seed. Northern Kentucky won the title and the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

“We’re anxious to go. I think the players are glad that they get to play again,” Kampe said. “Obviously, it took a few days to get over the loss.

“But they’re young, and they bounce back quickly, and they’re ready to go.”

The top seed in Oakland’s bracket is Iowa. Indiana and Illinois also made it from the Big Ten.

Clemson was 17-15 overall, but just 6-12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They’re led by senior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who averages 17.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and nearly a block a game.

Oakland and Clemson have one common opponent, Georgia. Both played Georgia at home, and both beat the Bulldogs.

Clemson made round two of the ACC tournament, but lost a close game to eventual champion Duke, 79-72.

The NIT gets under way Tuesday (Oakland-Clemson is on ESPNU), and will crown its champion March 30 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“I think it’s a privilege to play in such a prestigious tournament like this,” Kampe said. “It’s exciting.