Oakland University: The O’Rena experience

Posted: January 28, 2011 by Jared Field in College
Tags: ,

The gameday experience at Oakland University is fantastic.

If you haven’t been to a game at Oakland University, you need to come correct. I was treated to an evening in the Courtside Club at Oakland University last night for the game versus Oral Roberts and, I must say, it was one of my better basketball experiences in recent years.

The O’Rena is truly a great venue. The fans are really behind this program and for good reason. It’s exciting basketball in a really fun environment. The O’Rena experience puts a lot of MAC programs to shame. Kudos to the athletic department at Oakland. I think a lot of smaller conference programs act the part; Oakland certainly doesn’t.

So, anyway, Oakland survived a scare and senior forward Will Hudson is way better than I thought. The kid was all over the floor last night, showing off his athleticism and toughness. What’s more amazing is that Hudson’s production (21 points, nine rebounds and four blocks) came against ORU’s frontline which is formidable, to say the very least.

Keith Benson was Keith Benson. I think he would be a steal if he dropped anywhere below 15 in the NBA draft. He’s big, highly-skilled and athletic enough to be a difference maker. I mean, at the end of the day, he’s better than Greg Monroe.

And finally, kudos to Oakland Coach Greg Kampe on his post-game press conference. The way he answers questions is like something out of a reporter’s dream — honest and direct:

“Our culture won the game tonight … we built a little bit of a monster … and that helped us because I really think they deserved to beat us.”

— By Jared Field | Great Lakes Hoops

  1. Haha. I love Benson as much as anyone as an OU alum, but this statement:

    “I mean, at the end of the day, he’s better than Greg Monroe.”

    Shows that you clearly don’t watch the NBA. Monroe is probably going to make the All-Rookie First Team.

    • Jared Field says:

      More potential in my opinion. I think he could be an impact guy in the NBA someday. I think Monroe will probably be a journeyman, role player type.

      Monroe is better than I thought, but I thought he was a stiff early on.

      But, in fairness, I’m an Oakland homer now after trying those homemade nachos in the hospitality room.

    • Ty says:

      To add to that statement, Benson is so skinny. He would have to be a face up 4 in the NBA. In addition, you have to look at the competition he plays. Even against top competition he has 3 to 4 inch height advantage. But he is an NBA player. Would I say that he is better than Monroe? No.

      • Jared Field says:

        I think 230 pounds (just a guess) is too skinny. Agreed. That being said, the competition factor won’t matter when they really evaluate him for the league. I mean, the guy gets double-teamed every game … pretty much every halfcourt possession. That might not happen in a better conference.

        As Patrick knows, I’m always going error on the side of athleticism. And he’s more athletic.

      • Ty says:

        More like 220 lbs and the guy does not have a strong base.

      • Yes, I know you always take the athlete. It’s your downfall. If you were given a blank check to assemble a team, you’d have a team full of 6-5 wings who can’t dribble, pass, shoot, rebound or play with their back to the basket. But man would their dunks look nice. It’s too bad they’d lose every game by 25 points.

      • Jared Field says:

        Giving preferential treatment to athletes has worked at Mott, to offer a local example. Not sure I’ve ever seen them lose by 25.

        I know you love Monroe because he’s a Piston, and that’s OK. But let’s slow down the talk about him being something special. He’s had like four double doubles all season. I’m not hopping on the bandwagon just yet. But when I do, I will send my membership dues to:

        Patrick Hayes
        C/O The Greg Monroe Fan Club
        The Palace of Auburn Hills
        5 Championship Drive
        Auburn Hills, MI 48326

        Also, I find it ironic that the league you love (much more than I do) is full of players just like you describe.

  2. Corey says:

    Great piece! Always glad to read stuff on OU here, and happy to see it is positive. The OU-ORU game is a must attend for anyone in the area, and hopefully more folks see that after reading this.

    And enjoy those nachos when you get a chance! The rest of us have to pay $3.00 for ’em.

  3. ryan says:

    The O’Rena lots of times has a better overall atmosphere than the library called Crisler.

    About Monroe: He has the skill set and IQ to be a top 5 center in the league in a couple years. While Benson has a lot of potential as well, he’s no where the level of Monroe. Bet a lot of money Benson will see some time in the d-league before he’s up playing minutes with the big club.

    Benson will get pushed around a lot until he strengthens his core. Hell, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford pushed him around during the ou-um matchup just weeks ago.

  4. Coach RG says:

    Nice article, Benson will be better than Monroe

    • That’s insane. There’s zero evidence to support that. Monroe is likely an All-Rookie First Teamer and since mid-November, he’s been averaging 11 points, 9 rebounds and shooting over 60 percent.

      I like Benson, but Monroe has been a top five rookie this season. No way Benson duplicates that.

      And on top of that, Monroe is two years younger than Benson, holding his own against NBA competition while Benson is posting up 6-5 centers from South Dakota State and the other weird teams in the Summit.

    • Jared Field says:

      Why do you think he will be better?

  5. Mike says:

    Benson has played well against top notch competition over the last few seasons (out of conference), & his stats don’t lie. This season he’s averaging 17 & 10 rebounds including 28 & 10 @ Tennessee, 22 & 15 @ WVU, 16 & 14 @ Purdue, 17 & 12 vs MSU…u get the picture.

    As far as U of M pushing him around, Kito was actually injured then, against Valpo and a few others (check out his stats to verify that), thus the lack of activity and aggressiveness. He looked dead out there. If you’ve watched him in any game compared to that one u could tell.

    Alot of ppl hate on Benson bc they haven’t seen him play, they’ll see in March & in the NBA.

    • Again, the whole point of this isn’t to say that Benson isn’t good. He very clearly is. No one is “hating” on him. And trust me, I’ve seen him play more than most. I’m and alum and go to a lot of Oakland games each year.

      But overall, you have to know that the majority of his games are in the Summit League, and the Summit League is not a good league. You know that right?

      • Rimwrecker says:

        The whole reason that Benson has gotten the attention he has gotten is that he has transcended the Summit League. He played against top competition at the Amare Stoudemire camp and at the San Diego LeBron James camp. That is what landed him as a 1st round draft pick in 2009. Then, he held his own against #1 Kansas and MSU, etc. So, the Summit League argument belongs in 1970.

  6. Rimwrecker says:

    You mention that Greg Monroe is 2 years younger than Benson, but where did he play for two years? Georgetown. And what did he accomplish there, nothing. Is Oakland Georgetown? What did he accomplish coming from being Mr. Basketball in his state, twice, and being developed by John Thompson, Jr. and John Thompson III. Benson is the first legitimate big man Oakland basketball has ever had. So, you have to mark Monroe’s development by the league he played in — the Big East and who was developing him. He had many more tools to work with in his whole life than Benson had. Benson should be evaluated as this point in his career by what he did with what he had to work with. So should Monroe. They didn’t start off with equal tools for their development. If Benson gets the mentoring of a Tim Duncan, like Jabbar got at Milwaukee with The Big O, we could be looking at national championships to come! Contrary to popular opinion, great athletes are DEVELOPED, not BORN!

    • Monroe accomplished “nothing” at Georgetown? He averaged 16 points and 10 boards a game last season and shot 53 percent! In the Big East! I mean, Benson averages 17 and 10 in the Summit.

      Come on now. This is silly. Both guys are/were good college players. But Monroe is holding his own vs. NBA competition right now on a nightly basis. To say that a center at a mid-major, even if he is a very skilled center, is better than him or going to be better than him is way too premature.

      • Rimwrecker says:

        You omitted the early exit of Georgetown in the tournament. He was a disappointment in the tournament. I saw the game in which he exited. Did you? I am saying that for all of the credentials he brought to the Big East and the “development” he had access to at Georgetown, he didn’t dazzle at the college level. That is where the comparison should be. What did he achieve compared to the tools he was provided with. Benson has overachieved based upon where he started from compared to Monroe. That is where the discussion should be located. If Benson has “made bricks with no straw” at this point, he should be given the benefit of the doubt that he will continue to develop himself at the next level. You are comparing apples and oranges.

      • To be clear, I’m not the one who made the comparison. I’m the one who argued that the original post, which says, “I mean, at the end of the day, he’s better than Greg Monroe,” was ridiculous. I didn’t make any comparison, I just pointed out that I think that was a flawed statement.

        Frankly, I don’t care what Monroe did in college. 16 and 10 and Georgetown is good. I get he was inconsistent. I watched him a lot. He had great games and he disappeared. I think he would’ve been more consistent had he stayed another year, but hey, he was a lottery pick and he’s having a good year, so obviously wasn’t the wrong decision for him.

        Like I said, I think (and hope) Benson will be a good NBA player. But there are reasons he’s still tabbed as a second round pick by most scouting services. His strength is a question and there are concerns about whether he can hold up night in, night out vs. NBA caliber bigs. Remember, Benson is still only about 230. Monroe was listed at 250 in college.

  7. Rimwrecker says:

    Furthermore, Morgan and Horford didn’t push Benson around. U-M swarmed him with 5 players. Whoever made that comment must have missed the game. If they are to be commended, why didn’t Bellein play Benson straight up like Purdue did where he got 16 points and 14 rebounds on JaJuan Johnson. Please don’t mention the Michigan game. If Morgan and Horford are to be commended, then they should have played Benson on their talent instead of their whole team being assigned to Benson — along with the Big Ten referees. Why didn’t Michigan honor their commitment and play Oakland last year at the Palace? They had a 4 year agreement. Why did they only agree to play Oakland in their own gym? They agreed to play Oakland when they thought Benson was gone to the NBA. Give me a break.

    Also, to the person who said that he is only posting up 6’5″ players, have you forgotten what he did to Cole Aldrich who played for #1 Kansas and ended up being a lottery pick? Did you see what he did to MSU in their gym last year? He held his own in some of the biggest away venues in the country. And, he didn’t have a Big East team playing alongside him. Come on now!

    • Listen, I’m an Oakland grad. I’ve watched Benson a ton during his career. I’m fully aware that he’s very good, and I’m fully aware that the NBA has really been sleeping on his talent based on where mock drafts have him going. I think he’s a legit top 20 talent in this year’s draft, and maybe even higher because overall, this will be a fairly weak draft.

      But I don’t like hype and I don’t like the mysterious “upside” arguments that people make. I responded to Jared’s comment in the post about Monroe because the fact is Monroe is having a very good rookie season. To say that Benson, who has never played a NBA game yet and, let’s face it, has played a lot of weak competition in the Summit League, is going to be a better pro is ridiculous to me at this point.

      Let him get in the league, continue to get stronger and we’ll see.

    • Just to reiterate:

      I mean none of this as disrespect to Keith. I think he’s a fantastic player. I think NBA scouting services are missing on him. I think his work ethic is second to none. He’s had a phenomenal college career, and it’s been even more impressive considering he did it at a small school and built himself into the player he is with no hype or fanfare that many guys get the benefit of out of high school.

      I think (and have written) that Benson is the best college player in Michigan. It’s been incredibly fun to watch him turn into the player he is at Oakland.

      I’m just opposed to comparisons for young players. Like I said, Monroe is having a great rookie season and I just don’t think in the post, saying that Benson could be better than him, is a fair thing to do to Keith at this stage. That was really what I was taking issue with.

      For all I know, Benson might be 10 times the player Monroe is next year. But I don’t think it’s fair to project that right now, especially considering Monroe has been pretty good as a rookie. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Jared Field says:

        This boils down to an opinion. Obviously I’ve seen both bigs up close and, in my opinion, I think Benson, when all is said and done, will have a better NBA career than Monroe.

        Some people are uncomfortable with projections, and that’s fine. I see Benson’s athletic ability (on both ends of the floor) and I think he could be an impact player in the league down the road. And yes, I do see upside. Every GM in the NBA looks for upside. I think Benson’s ceiling is higher than Monroe’s. I think if fans of the Pistons would put aside their lunch boxes and hard hats for a second, they’d realize that I’m not insulting their guy. I’m writing about Keith Benson for God’s sake, not Derrick Nix.

        Monroe is a solid NBA rookie and will probably be a starter for a long time. He’s better than I thought.

  8. Rimwrecker says:

    My point is that the whole debate is conjecture. You can’t compare Monroe’s NBA season to Benson who hasn’t played in the NBA. But, you can evaluate Monroe’s college career. He was Mr. Basketball twice in high school which suggests that he got support in his development that Benson didn’t receive,. He played 2 years at Georgetown, the premier destination for the development of Big Men in the past 2 decades, and achieved nothing. He exited in the 1st round of the tournament, a disappointment. Everyone has to play their schedule. He didn’t play his very well. Benson played his own schedule very well and a touch non-conference schedule, as well.

    So let’s be clear. The discussion is ridiculous, not Benson, the competition he has played and the way he played them.

  9. ryan says:

    Oh boy, where to start…

    You have to be waering golden tinted shades for not realizing that JON HORFORD and JORDAN MORGAN pushed Benson out of the paint and made him look like Joe average out there. Ok, Benson was a little hobbled. How convenient. He got pushed around…on the boards.. by a skinny true freshman and a redshirt freshman (granted Morgan is ripped and is a very big boy). I was at the game! Sure, the michigan defense swarmed benson when he got the ball… heck lots of times they didn’t even let him receive the ball. When Oakland missed their shots Benson was nowhere to be found. Usually he was being pushed away from the basket from, you guessed it, Morgan or Horford. Benson is usually fairly aggressive but Mich had a solid gameplan against him and they do have the athletes to carry it out nd thye did. For the most part the summit league might have maybe one player with the athleticism and/or strength of a guy like Hardaway/Morgan. Michigan, despite being really not that overall athletic, managed to, like I said, make Benson looked pretty average and he never got into a rhythm.
    Sure, Benson ate up MSU like he always does. MSU doesn’t have one good big man and they don’t play good team defense (hence why they’re terrible right now). Dray Dray doesn’t count, he’s like 6’6.

    And also, Jajuan Johnson at this stage is much better all around than Benson. There’s no comparison; JJ ate him up earlier this year.

    Benson did play well against Cole Aldrich, very well. How’s Cole doing in the NBA right now? Nuff said.

    All that being said… Benson will probably have a very nice NBA career, and absolutely if he reaches his potential he should be a full time starter eventually.
    But to not acknowledge that Greg Monroe has skills is foolish and it shows you know little about his game. However Benson very well could be better..and much better than Monroe…but to say that now is just a little homerish/reactionary/’premature’… especially considering, like Hayes has mentioned, Benson plays against the summit league 18+ times a year (6’5 centers is a little exaggerated, but it’s a good point.. most of these summit big men are about 6’7 and will never sniff a pro bball league in their life). Hell, Will the Thrill is about maybe 6’9 and not very athletic, and he tears them up almost nightly!

    Sorry for the rant but I make some of the facts known.
    Ignorance is bliss.. and I can’t stand it.

    • Rimwrecker says:

      My point is that Michigan used the Big Ten refs which was a requirement for Bellein to give Oakland a game only in their gym in spite of the signed agreement. They used 5 players against Benson. So you can write as long as you want to write, that does not make Morgan and Horford good players against Benson. They are not on the radar. They are not listed on anyone’s mock drafts. Michigan used dirty tricks to win the game, period. They did not play Benson straight up on talent. So, at the end of the day, you can not equate dirty tricks in terms of canceling, scheduling and swarming to build a case that Morgan and Horford are great players who pushed Benson around in the paint.

      • Ryan says:

        dirty tricks? what are you talking about?

        Morgan and Horford clearly pushed Benson around… that was obvious. You must not have watched closely or at all.
        And I’m not saying Morgan and Horford are even good players yet… I’m making the point that Benson got pushed around by young, inexperienced players. And if you want to say that Benson wasn’t played straight up, ok then, that’s even worse for Kito because it means Novak, Douglass, Hardaway and Smotrycz etc muscled Kito around the whole game by swarming. Ouch. You are helping me make my point.

        Swarming the opponents best player is a great strategy, and it worked against OU. There’s nothing dirty about what Michigan did. They are one of the most finesse teams in the Big Ten. Benson got pushed around by a finesse team (minus Novak, he’s tough)… just accept it. Everybody has bad games, UofM was his really bad game.

        BTW I wish UofM and OU could play again. First game was not indicative of OU’s true talent level. I say OU would win 3 maybe 4 out of 10 games played at Crisler v. Mich with the way the teams currently are.

  10. ryan says:

    One more thing… I’ve seen Benson play *in person about 15 times during the last 4 years, most of them being when he was a redshort frosh and sophomore. His sky is the limit… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are major weakness to his game.

    Monroe’s glaring weakness is that he is inconsistent and sometimes unaggressive. Lately he’s been solid as a rookie.. usually playing besides pathetic defensive “pf’s” like Wilcox and Villanueva.

    And Monroe is a true center, something Benson is not..at the pro level.

    • Rimwrecker says:

      Who are you? Are you the Gm of the Lakers? The fact that you have seen both of them play a million times doesn’t make your opinion carry any weight. Whether either one plays any particular position is not a factor in this discussion. The question wasn’t one of if Monroe plays true center and Benson does not at the pro level, who is the best player.

      I know that it is fun for you to express your opinion and have someone read and respond to it, but you should hold yourself to a higher standard as you write about the performances of people that affect their futures.

    • Rimwrecker says:

      I am responding to your need for elaboration on “dirty tricks”. If you want to congratulate Bellein for concealing the weaknesses of Morgan and Horford by his angling and maneuvering, then you are on solid territory. But, you cannot assign talent to them. Even though Benson has performed at times like a superstar in terms of what he had to work with, I am not going to allow you to assign superstar status to the 3 players it took to play him.

      U of D called and requested a game with Oakland. When they found out Benson was returning they canceled. Bellein got a taste of Benson at his coming out party on December 20, 2009 at the Palace when he score his career and game high with a double double. He canceled the agreed upon game for 2010. He re-scheduled when he thought Benson was going to the NBA. He didn’t cancel like U of D did, but he required that the game be played in their gym so that the Big Ten refs could suit up. Then, he swarmed Benson with 5 players every time he touched the ball. I’m sorry, I don’t know what world you live in, but Morgan and Horford are not going to stand in the record as “pushing Benson around”.

      So, every time you write it, I promise to respond.

      I respect Purdue, as I said above. Purdue and JaJuan Johnson dignified collegiate competition by playing Benson straight up on talent. JaJuan Johnson was a gentleman and Purdue had class. Michigan used “dirty tricks” to win that game. Dirty tricks do not make wonderful players out of Horford and Morgan.

      • Ryan says:

        Morgan and Horford are not wonderful players right now, which makes it even more impressive that they had their way with OU. I never said they were overly talented or that they were “superstars”, though they did look pretty good man handling OU’s big men by boxing them out and being physical with them. Benson is so long and fairly athletic, so it’s imperative to keep him out of the lane by bodying him up.

        “dirty tricks” should be replaced with ‘sound strategy’. Beilein and his staff knew what they had to do to have a good chance at winning the game, and they implemented their strategy to near perfection. That’s called good coaching and there was nothing dirty about any of it. Kampe is a heck of a coach but Beilein outcoached him heavily in that game.

        Me voicing my opinions about Benson and his surprisingly bad game against UofM will in no way affect anyone’s future. He’s still far and away the best pro prospect in the state right now. A little bump in the road is no big deal, but to not acknowledge it is a bit homerish, if you know what I mean.

        Also, if I were GM of the Lakers I would draft Kito if he was still on the board.. which is somewhat unlikely because it will be late first round pick… but nevertheless I think Kito is a hard worker and impressive player who has come a long way in a short time.

        Can’t wait to watch OU in the tourney aginst this March, hopefully.

  11. Rimwrecker says:

    My issue is who was he playing WITH in the Big East and who was he coached by in the Big East. Monroe had many more tools to be effective in college than Benson had and he, himself said that he wasn’t coming out because of his miserable performance in the tournament. That is the only effective comparison unless you have a crystal ball. I am not saying that Benson is perfect and Monroe is not. I am saying that the fact that he was the best player in Louisiana twice in a row and was recruited by Georgetown and was developed by then, there should be no comparison between what he accomplished in college and what Benson has accomplished. Benson started where he was, used what he had and became POY, Mid-Major Player of the Year, won his conference and did very well in the tournament. You can predict all you want about a future that cannot be proven because it hasn’t occurred yet. I am saying that Monroe did not win anything or achieve anything worth mentioning despite all of the support he had.

  12. […] NBA Draft, but in the lottery. After watching an Oakland game during Benson’s senior year, Jared Field of Great Lakes Hoops said, “I mean, at the end of the day, he’s better than Greg Monroe.” A reader of the great […]

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