There has perhaps been no bigger surprise in this NCAA Tournament than the success of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, who have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen as a 16-seed. And they haven’t exactly gotten there the cheap way, with victories over Ohio State and Florida.
In the way of a return to the Elite Eight for ORU (we’ll talk about that in a second) are the Arkansas Razorbacks, who got past a pretty tough obstacle in the last round of play, with their coach actually in the position of having to defend himself (we’ll talk about that in a second as well).
Oral Roberts and Arkansas will clash at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at 7:25 PM ET on TBS.
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NCAA Tournament – Sweet Sixteen @ Indianapolis
ORAL ROBERTS GOLDEN EAGLES vs. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS, 7:25 PM ET (TBS)
March Madness Betting Odds: Arkansas -11.5 / Total 158
Success in basketball isn’t anything new to Oral Roberts. Back in 1974, they scored upset victories over Syracuse and Louisville to reach the Elite Eight before falling 93-90 to Kansas.
And so they arrive here again, coming off an 81-78 win over Florida in which they once again got huge numbers out of the dynamic duo of Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor.
Abmas had 26 points and seven assists, while Obanor had 28 points and eleven rebounds. Midway through the second half, the Golden Eagles were down by eleven points, so they had to face a little adversity. The two combined for 59 of the 75 points against Ohio State, while the rest of the team made just six of 25 from the field.
The “b” may be silent in Abmas’ name, but Max certainly isn’t. In fact, he led the nation in scoring this season (24.2 ppg). And despite the lack of balance on the scoresheet, there is a team effort going on here.
ORU takes care of the ball (15th best in Offensive Turnover Percentage), makes threes (38.4%) and makes a lot of its free throws – their accuracy rate of 82.4% at the charity stripe is best in the country.
All this is good, because they have to make some shots here.
Arkansas ground out a win over Texas Tech in the Round of 32, with 20 points from Justin Smith keying the 68-66 victory. They also got 15 points and six rebounds from fab frosh Moses Moody. But they made only four of 17 triples.
Well, that is better than what they did against ORU when these teams met back in December. Oral Roberts led by ten points at the half but the Hogs came on with a big effort the rest of the way in an 87-76 victory. Arkansas was just 4-of-24 from long-range, but they pulled down 24 offensive rebounds, many of which produced second chance points.
This has been a strange week for Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman, as a “pundit” out there who people listen to called the Texas Tech game a “coaching mismatch” in reference to Chris Beard.
Musselman has had 20 wins or more in all six of his seasons as a college head coach. And he went through a three-year period at Nevada where he won 86 games. So understandably he was a little pissed over the remarks.
If his team loses here, his team will not necessarily have underachieved. ORU is a dangerous foe, to say the least, and they can shoot more than well enough to make this one a scare, and one can imagine that at worst, the back door is wide open to them. Take the points.
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