Keith Benson a Beast, Oakland Grizzlies Scaring Big Ten

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If the Big Ten wants to expand to 13 teams, at least for college basketball, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies are a good candidate. The school located in Rochester, Mich.—near the Palace of Auburn Hills has given two of the three Big Ten teams they’ve played a scare.

Three days after leading the Illini for the first 25 minutes (before Illinois pulled away with a 18-0 run, in a game that drew national attention because the first part of the game was mistakenly played with a women’s basketball) the Grizz gave Michigan State all they could handle, losing by one in the final seconds.

They’ve also played Purdue this season, with trips to both Michigan and Ohio State remaining.

“I think they’ll be a NCAA team, not sure Coach Kampe is real smart playing the schedule, I asked him if he wanted to join the Big Ten because he;s playing everybody in the league. But in the long run it’s probably going to help him because he’s going to be prepared plus it’s giving Benson exposure I think they want,” Illini Coach Bruce Weber said.

The Benson Weber refers to is Keith Benson, the senior center ranked #5 at his position by Rivals.com. The Summit League preseason player of the year and Naismith Award candidate had a double double against Michigan State in a game played at the Detroit Pistons arena. Benson is a 6-11 230 pound NBA Draft prospect who prepped at Detroit Country Day school.

I asked Weber what he thought of Benson’s strengths and weaknesses as a player.

“At times he looks really good, he made a couple moves and it’s like wow and you see it on film the same thing, other times I don’t think he exerts himself probably as much as he should and they got to get him the ball too…but he’s got a chance, he’s a good player, he does some things real well,” Weber responded.

Led by Benson, Oakland was 26-9 last year and a NCAA tournament team. They should win the Summit League again this year and return to the big dance.

This season, Benson is currently 3rd in the nation in double doubles and fifth in rebounding. His stats (2-9 from the floor, 11 points, 7 rebounds )against Illinois were lackluster, but his Coach Greg Kampe praised his game

“I thought he really did a nice of job of passing when they doubled him. He’s really improved his passing. We just couldn’t make the shots. I mean 5-26 from the three, to win a game like this you can’t do that. He took what they gave him and that’s what I’ve been harping on him and preaching to him. You’re a great player, but when we play a team with this kind of size and they’re going to double, let ’em double and take you out. We’re good enough,” Kampe said.

“He played his role and did what he’s supposed to do, I was pleased with how Keith played tonight,” Kampe continued.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com

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