Oakland coach Greg Kampe and his Golden Grizzlies are skipping the postseason this year, despite a couple second-tier invitations, because of an injury-depleted roster.
So now, Kampe turns into a fan. And he spoke to The News on Sunday about his thoughts on the NCAA Tournament, and the chances of success for Michigan and Michigan State.
Question: What’s your initial reaction to the bracket?
Answer: I was shocked to see Kentucky and Arizona matched up (in the South Region), and I was shocked to see Michigan State, Kansas and Duke (all in the Midwest). And then to hear all the Michigan fans are (upset) that they didn’t get to Little Caesars? I think Tom Izzo would trade with John Beilein tomorrow. ‘You can have Little Caesars and I’ll trade you the draw.’
Q. How far do you see Michigan State going?
A. I think they get to Duke, and then what happens? That scares me for them. If they get by Duke, I like their chances against Kansas. We played Kansas, and Kansas is really, really, really gonna struggle to guard Nick Ward and Miles Bridges and (Jaren) Jackson. They’re a perimeter team. They don’t have a plethora of big guys.
Q. What do you make of Michigan State fans freaking about the team’s play down the stretch?
A. Nothing. I think Izzo’s right. They’re 29-4. It’s really sad that we’ve gotten to the point now of how you win. You just gotta win. You gotta win and go play the next one. They did that 29 times. It’s not up to them to decide how good the Big Ten is, how good the opponents are. The schedule comes out and they play it. They won the Big Ten (regular-season) championship, my gosh. Were they fortunate they only played Purdue once and didn’t go to Mackey Arena, they didn’t have to go to Ann Arbor? Yeah. But that’s what it was. You play what comes at you. Why would anybody be upset? Nobody really cares. They got to Little Caesars Arena. Nobody cares about the Big Ten tournament. Michigan fans care because they won it. The players care because they’re competitive.
But I watched Houston lost a heartbreaking game to Cincinnati today (in the AAC championship game), and 35, 45 minutes, and hour later, they showed Houston with smiles. ... They’re laughing and giggling and they’re in the NCAA Tournament, despite a devastating loss an hour ago. Who cares? If I’m Michigan State, Michigan State’s highlight film at the end of the year when they have their banquet won’t even mention the Big Ten tournament.
Q. All right, how about Michigan’s chances?
A. Michigan can go to the Final Four. I really believe they have a path to get to Xavier. But here’s the thing that I wonder about with Xavier. They’ve gotten to the Elite Eight so many times and have never been able to get to the Final Four. Gonzaga last year was the same narrative, and Gonzaga got a No. 1 seed, and because they got a No. 1 seed, they made their first Final Four. That scares me for Michigan a little bit, the history of that. Xavier is really good, they’ve got a lot of really good role players, they’re really well-coached, they’ve got depth. That game worries me, but I firmly believe that Michigan can get to the Elite Eight game, and then who knows what happens?
Q. Any teams stand out that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament?
A. I think Southern Cal, 23 wins, they got beat in the championship game of the Pac-12 tournament. And I’m disappointed for Nebraska. I know Tim Miles really well and they had a heck of a year. They won 13 Big Ten games. You win 13 Big Ten games, you should be in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t care about, what do they call it, the unbalanced schedule. I don’t care what people say about how good the league was. That’s the Big Ten. They went 13-5 in the Big Ten, they should be in.
Q. Who’s your Final Four?
A. I like Villanova, Michigan, Duke and Arizona.
Q. And your winner?
A. Villanova or Arizona. Do I have to pick one.
A. I’ll go with Villanova.