The Oakland Golden Grizzlies have traditionally played among the most difficult non-conference schedules in college basketball. This season, they could realistically enter Horizon League play with 9-10 wins, as they are playing a very manageable schedule with more home games. Oakland has held serve thus far, with a 4-0 record after defeating two middle-of-the-road Mid-American Conference teams in Bowling Green and Western Michigan. The Golden Grizzlies then scored over 100 points in two straight games against NAIA opponent Goshen College, and a perpetually struggling Chicago State team.
Their first really tough test comes in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout, as they play the 3-1 Nevada Wolf Pack. Their head coach is Eric Musselman, a former NBA head coach with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings. He led to Wolfpack to 24 wins in his first season last year, which culminated with a College Basketball Invitational championship. The Golden Grizzlies will have their hands full with 6’8” sophomore Cameron Oliver, who averaged over 9 rebounds per game last season and shot over 50% from the field. At about 240 lbs., Elijah Foster is another strong frontcourt player who will be difficult to match up with. Jalen Hayes and Xavier Hill-Mais will likely take turns trying to contain Oliver and Foster. But the player responsible for most of the Wolf Pack’s scoring is guard Marcus Marshall. He is making the most of his only season with the Wolf Pack after starring for three seasons at Missouri State. He is averaging over 18 points and 5 assists per game in the Wolf Pack’s first four games. Keep in mind that Nevada has played a much tougher schedule thus far than Oakland. They lost to a very experienced St. Mary’s team, whom many think will be better than Gonzaga this season. Nevada already has beaten two NCAA tournament teams from last season, Oregon State and Iona, both by double digits.
Oakland is playing good basketball, especially Martez Walker who has clearly become the team’s biggest offensive threat. Stevie Clark is fitting in well as a capable ball handler and ball distributor, and Sherron Dorsey-Walker continues to be a leader on both ends of the floor. But Nevada will just have too much size and athleticism for Oakland to handle. It is too bad that these two teams have to play in the first round because they are two of the best teams in the eight team field. It is likely that the loser of this game will still leave Anchorage with two wins, as the rest of the field is not very strong.