Injury-ridden Oakland limps into rematch against UDM
Another week, another big blow to Oakland's already-depleted depth.
The Golden Grizzlies lost sophomore point guard Brailen Neely earlier this week to a torn meniscus in his left knee, the fourth Oakland player to be lost for the season to injury.
In its most recent game, Oakland dressed nine players, including seven on scholarship. That'll likely be the case again when it hosts rival Detroit Mercy at 9 p.m. Friday at the O'rena.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life, ever," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "This (bleep) is just unbelievable, what's going on."
Oakland (15-10, 7-5) was picked to repeat as Horizon League champion in the preseason poll, but it hasn't been able to get healthy.
To highlight that point, a single Oakland player, redshirt senior guard Martez Walker, hasn't missed a practice or a game.
Everybody else? It's like the walking wounded, including sophomore big man Isaiah Brock, who's out with an ankle injury, and freshman guard James Beck, who returned recently from a long bout of stress fractures, only to severely twist an ankle at practice recently, landing on a basketball following a dunk during warmups.
It's cost Oakland any realistic shot at winning the league.
And it's had another ripple effect, too. Redshirt senior Kendrick Nunn, the nation's leading scorer, and Walker both are in the top 15, nationally, in minutes played. Nunn is at 37:19, and Walker is at 37:07.
Kampe has expressed concern about the minutes piling up previously this season, but said Thursday he can't worry about that anymore.
"They're young kids, there are eight media timeouts (per game), the motivation of playing in the (NCAA) Tournament, the end of their careers, they'll be fine," Kampe said. "We're still gonna be judged by March."
Oakland is trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, but it'll almost certainly have to do it from a worse seed in the Horizon League tournament than it's had in recent years — not that the good seed has helped much, as the Golden Grizzlies have been upset early in the conference tournament the last two years.
If there's a plus, it's that Oakland's starting five hasn't been overly affected by the injury wave.
Nunn is gutting through ankle tendinitis, and Brock has missed some games here and there, but otherwise the starting five has been OK. It's the lack of depth beyond that that's really showed Oakland's warts, including two losses in its last three games.
"When we sub, we sub our 12th, 13th man," Kampe said. "It's not the same."
Still, it's a rosier outlook than Detroit Mercy (7-18, 3-9), which was picked to finish fourth in the Horizon League but has lost five of six, including a 92-86 setback at home against Oakland on Jan. 20.
DETROIT MERCY AT OAKLAND
Tip-off: 9 p.m. Friday, O'rena, Rochester
TV/radio: ESPN2/1130, 910
Records: Detroit Mercy 7-18, 3-9 Horizon League; Oakland 15-10, 7-5
Outlook: Oakland won the first meeting between the rivals, 92-86, on Jan. 20 at Calihan Hall. ... Oakland has won five of the last six meetings.