NCAAB: This March Madness Cinderella Story has Michigan Background

darren cooper
Darren Cooper
NCAA Basketball Sports News


  • Oakland University, which is not in California, but rather Michigan, qualified for the NCAA Tournament by winning the Horizon League conference tournament.
  • The Golden Grizzlies are coached by Greg Kampe, who is the longest tenured active Division 1 men’s basketball coach in the country.
  • It is the fourth time Oakland has made the NCAA Tournament, first time since 2011.

As far as March Madness Cinderella stories go, you won’t find a better one than Oakland University.

Expect plenty of people to be watching Sunday’s NCAA Tournament selection show and be like, “Oakland University, where’s that?” The truth is the school is Michigan made with a Rochester address, but with a main campus in Auburn Hills and an enrollment of just over 20,000.

This is a great time of year for sports betting in Michigan for college basketball fans. The Golden Nugget will have markets on all of the big conference tournament final games this weekend. Caesars already has markets in place on who will win the national championship (U. Conn is the current favorite) and somewhere down at the bottom will be Oakland.

Golden Grizzlies Gambling Profile 

Oakland went 13-19 last season, finishing fifth in the Horizon League. They weren’t expected to be here.

They’re won their last four games, and are 20-11 straight up. They are 19-12 against the spread and 18-12-1 over/unders. Four of their last five games have hit the over.

Oakland has been favored in each of their last eight games. They have been underdogs 11 times this season (they’ll be underdogs in their first-round game) and are 5-6 straight up as underdogs at Michigan sportsbooks. They have rarely been blown out. They were 24.5-point underdogs to Illinois and covered easily. They were 19.5-point underdogs to Ohio State and also covered. Their signature win came against Xavier when they were 15.5-point underdogs.

Who Are The Golden Grizzlies? 

Oakland is truly homegrown Michigan team. Oxford, Michigan native Trey Townsend is the team’s leading scorer at 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. He scored a career high 38 points in the Horizon League final against Milwaukee.

But the player everyone will be talking about for the Golden Grizzlies is guard DQ Cole. Yes, DQ. His real name is D’Quarion Cole. He is a junior from nearby Pontiac, Michigan who played at nearby Henry Ford Community College before coming to Oakland this season.

Oakland ranks 106th in the nation with 76.3 points per game, but gives up 73.1. What do they do really well? Shoot free throws. Oakland ranks 50th in the nation shooting 75.5 from the line.  

What Are their Cinderella Chances? 

Kampe will be a sentimental favorite going into the NCAA Tournament. He’s close with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo - Michigan State beat Oakland 79-62 this season. ESPN currently projects Oakland as a 14 seed. In the KenPom computer rankings Oakland is 138th in the nation, behind yes, 8-24 Michigan and 14-16 Tulane.

Oakland would love to avoid the First Four out in Dayton if possible and go right into the main draw. Oakland beat Alabama A&M in the First Four back in 2005, before losing to top seed North Carolina.

But part of the beauty of March Madness every year is the team that no one knows anything about showing up and knocking off some of the big boys. Oakland will have a shot.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.