The Dagger - NCAAB

Instead of selecting marquee non-conference road games simply by which team would pay the most guarantee money, Oakland coach Greg Kampe opted to utilize a different scheduling philosophy this season.

Kampe sought out opponents with talented big men in hopes of showing NBA scouts that Oakland's best player, center Keith Benson, is capable of holding his own against other future pros. Benson first piqued scouts' interest as a junior when he outplayed future lottery pick Cole Aldrich in a 20-point, six-rebound, four-block performance at Kansas.

"There were 13-14 pro scouts there and they said wow," Kampe told the Detroit Free Press. "So we wanted to give him the opportunity to compete against the guys he's going to be measured against in the draft.

"No pro scout is going to have to judge 'could he do this against (a talented big man)' because the guys he's going to get drafted against, we're going to have tape."

Benson certainly will not be lacking for chances to prove himself as a senior because the opponents Kampe chose feature some of the nation's top big men. Among the big men Benson will face in November and December are Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Illinois' Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and Meyers Leonard and Michigan State's array of talented frontcourt players.

It will be interesting to see how Benson fares against that caliber of talent after averaging 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks as a junior in leading Oakland to a 26-9 record and an NCAA tournament berth. DraftExpress currently projects Benson as a mid-second-round pick in 2011, touting his size, length and athleticism but cautioning that his lack of strength is a concern. 

Oakland enters the season as the preseason favorite to win its second straight Summit League crown, but the Grizzlies are fortunate to be in that position considering how close Benson was to turning pro last spring. Were it not for a thumb injury that required surgery over the summer, the 6-foot-11 center almost certainly would have taken his chances in the NBA draft.

"I think he was really disappointed at first because he was ready, but he's handled it well," Kampe told earlier this month. "He's come back excited."

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