THE GOLDEN EAGLES SOAR INTO THE SWEET 16
If we’re being honest: the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts University weren’t even supposed to be “invited” to the proverbial dance that is the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
After all, they were far from a favorite to even win their own conference tournament in the Summit League (San Diego State was the top seed and one of the 20 best teams in the nation), which likely would’ve been the only way they would’ve gotten a dance invitation in the first place. They were near the bottom of the country in both points allowed per game, and in rebounds per game overall.
But, of course: there’s a reason they call it “March Madness.”
And amidst said madness, the Golden Eagles went from a #15 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament to one of the teams still standing entering the second weekend of the tournament, earning a spot among the teams in “Sweet 16.”
ENTERING CINDERELLA TERRITORY
On the opening day of the tournament, in one of the tournament’s very first game, Oral Roberts defeated Ohio State – the latter of whom was ranked among the top 8 teams in the nation, according to the AP/Coaches Poll – in a thrilling overtime win. In the Round of 32, it looked like the clock might strike twelve for the Golden Eagles, but instead, they erased an 11-point deficit on the way to defeating the University of Florida Gators.
What the Golden Eagles might lack in size and defensive prowess, they more than make up for with one of the most dangerous components in the game of basketball: clutch shooting. Year after year, “Giant Killers” are born when they’re able to take (and make) shots from the outside, which exactly fits the modus operandi of Oral Roberts. They led the nation with 11.3 3-pointers made per game, and finished as the best free-throw shooting team in the country, registering a 82.4 percent mark from the line as a team.
And while the Golden Eagles aren’t loaded with a bunch of blue chip future NBA guys, they are far from devoid of basketball talent. Sophomore guard Max Abmas led the nation in scoring with 24.2 points per game, and had seven different games in which he scored at least 30 points; that included a 42-point game against South Dakota State in February, the highest point total by any player in college basketball this year.
Abmas has had a tag-team scoring partner in in junior Kevin Obanor, who actually led the Golden Eagles in scoring in both of their tournament games to date; he had 30 against the Buckeyes, and followed that up with 28 against the Gators.
Abmas and Obanor now represent two of the best players in the nation among the teams remaining in the tournament. Their ability to stroke it from afar could very well pose problems for the University of Arkansas, who will have the unenviable task of trying to dispatch the Golden Eagles.
Led by NBA prospect Moses Moody, the Razorbacks survived the valiant efforts of Texas Tech University in the Round of 32, and will now find themselves playing against one of the most feared opponents in any sporting event: the team playing with house money, and dancing with nothing to lose.