Few people thought that Detroit Mercy (3-1) would have a better Horizon League record than Oakland (2-2) going into their January 16th matchup at Calihan Hall. All four of the games they have squared off in, since Oakland joined the league, have featured large crowds and electric atmospheres. This may be the toughest game between the two teams to predict the outcome. Both teams are offensive juggernauts with Oakland leading the H-League in scoring at 85.6 ppg, while UDM is now tied for second at 84.6 ppg. UDM is last in scoring defense at 82.7 ppg, while Oakland is only a meager four points better. So what’s going to give in this fierce matchup? Everyone is now familiar with Oakland’s superstar point guard Kay Felder, and how prolific of a scorer and passer he is. But many would be surprised to know that UDM actually has a deeper and more talented backcourt overall. They are led by swingman Paris Bass, who can create a lot of opportunities off the dribble. He is so tough to defend because of his length and quickness to the basket. Chris Jenkins has really come into his own offensively, after an inconsistent season last year. He is comfortable pulling up for jump shots or taking it all the way to the hoop. Both Bass and Jenkins are technically listed as guard/forward, but their roles on the floor more closely resemble that of guards, as UDM almost always plays with a three guard lineup (sometimes four). Anton Wilson is having an excellent senior season at the two-guard, and he is more of a catch-and-shoot player, and quality defender. The Titans have a slew of capable guards to run the point, from talented freshman Josh McFolley, to steadfast veteran role players Matthew Grant and Jarrod Williams. Having such backcourt depth makes the Titans a difficult team to prepare for.
Sherron Dorsey-Walker is the best defender for Oakland, so expect him to guard Bass for part of the game. Max Hooper will be constantly trying to curl off of screens to get open for three-pointers, or waiting to get the ball during a defensive breakdown. Switching to the frontcourt, the narrow advantage goes to Oakland. Jalen Hayes has been playing really well and is a good post scorer and rebounder. The X-factor for the Golden Grizzlies will be whether Percy Gibson can establish himself as a force down low, as he has struggled recently. Expect Xavier Hill-Mais and Brad Brechting to see some extra minutes, as this will be a physical game with a lot of fouls. For the Titans, sophomore power forward Jaleel Hogan has proven to be a very efficient scorer and is continually improving defensively. Freshman Gerald Blackshear has played very well coming off of the bench. Not only is he a good rebounder and shot-blocking threat, he knows how to finish around the basket when needed. Part of the reason why UDM’s big men are shooting so well is because much of the opposition’s defense has to pay extra attention to guys like Bass, Jenkins, and McFolley. That help defense and double-teaming often leaves Hogan and Blackshear open for easy buckets. The Titans will have their hands full with Hayes and Gibson, especially if they are consistently able to establish position in the low-post.
Detroit Mercy has been trending upward as of late, while’s Oakland’s stock has fallen a bit. It is still very early in the H-League season, but a win in a rivalry game can do wonders for a team’s confidence. After Saturday, both teams will not see one another until Game 18 of the league slate. With Valparaiso having a tight grip on the league’s top spot, # 2 is up for grabs. It look like four teams (including UDM and Oakland) have a legitimate shot to finish second, and secure the coveted double-bye in the conference tournament. But for now, the Titans and Golden Grizzlies are only focused on Saturday. It is not just a chance for a win, but for bragging rights too. Oakland is 3-1 against UDM since joining the Horizon League in the 2013-14 season.