SCOUTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES
Coming off a 19-16 season and possessing less name recognition than many Division I teams, Oral Roberts will be overlooked by many basketball fans this year. That would be a mistake, as the Golden Eagles return a veteran lineup, even counting the loss of Ken Holdman, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this week. Head coach Scott Sutton's squad will be a strong contender for postseason play again this year, and while his team, and the Summit League in general, don't get a lot of national notice, that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of talent and experience on the court in South Tulsa.. With a loaded roster of returning veterans, ORU is a big favorite to win the conference this year, garnering five spots on the pre-season all-league first and second teams.
In the backcourt, sixth-year senior Roderick Pearson (5.6 ppg, 2.7 apg in 2010-11)) will take Holdman's spot, but he clearly has enough experience to handle playmaking duties. He was one of the players who missed the majority of the season a year ago, but is now back and set to fill in, just as he was helped a year ago. Shooting guard Warren Niles (14.7 ppg) was an honorable mention all-league pick last year. and can also help with ball handling duties.
On the front line, strongly-built senior Dominique Morrison leads the way. Morrison (19.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is the league's pick ofr player of the year, and also is gathering some much-deserved national attention., He presents a great challenge for opponents, as he can range outside to hit threes while also scoring from in close. He shot 51.4% from the field a year ago. Morrison is expected to be joined in the starting lineup by sophomore Steven Roundtree, who hit the court running a year ago. Roundtree (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) was the leagues Newcomer of the Year and the Mid-Major freshman of the year. He does most of his work in the lane and around the basket, as evidenced by his 56% shooting mark from the field. The final expected starter is Damen Bell-Holter, another good scored who led the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game and gives the Golden Eagles some height and length on the interior.
Another of the players who missed most of last year, Michael Craion, will provide excellent depth. He is yet another league honoree, earning Newcomer of the Year honors in 2009-10. Craion will provide minutes in the front court for the Golden Eagles, who shouldn't suffer much of a drop-off in performance and productivity when he's on the court.
WVU 0-0. 0-0
Oral Roberts 0-0, 0-0
WVU - NR
ORU - NR
Past that, ORU will have to turn to freshmen and newcomers for most of their depth The Golden Eagles welcomed five freshmen to campus this fall, but unlike West Virginia, won't have to depend on them in the short term. With such a strong contingent of returnees to build upon, it's easy to see it making a run at the league title and an NCAA bid. The Golden Eagles shoot the ball well, hitting 47.4% of their shots a year ago, and will be a tough out for every school on their schedule.
West Virginia has a number of shortcomings to address following a reportedly less than stellar outing against Xavier in its closed scrimmage and a 77-47 loss to Northern Kentucky in its lone public exhibition. That's to be expected, as WVU is depending on freshmen to manage the point and provide rebouding and defense on the wings and in the post. While work on all of those aspects will continue throughout the season, has WVU had enough time to grab what would be a very solid opening win?
One of the keys for West Virginia will be to get into the ORU bench. While the Golden Eagles do have that great returning base, past it the visitors are even more inexperienced than the Mountaineers. Whether WVU has ten players with which to combat ORU in a battle of numbers is the question. Can post players Kevin Noreen and Pat Forsythe give WVU a few minutes in support of Deniz Kilicli that it needs? Will both Tommie McCune and Keaton Miles be able to offset Roundtree and Bell-Holter, or at least combat them on the boards?
One other thing to watch in the opener: can the Mountaineers get some easy baskets? WVU gave up far too many of those, especially in the halfcourt, against Northern Kentucky. West Virginia will still likely struggle to score at times this year, and can't afford to give away free points to its foes. West Virginia isn't going to be a lockdown defensive team right off the bat, but it can't give up back-cut layups and easy shots that are unchallenged.
WVU senior forward Kevin Jones stands just 12 offensive rebounds away from the career mark. Jones has 309 offensive boards, which puts him second to Chris Brooks' 320. Jones has amassed his total in just 106 games, while Brooks took 121 to set the mark. No one else on WVU's top ten list produced his final total in as few games as Jones has. Given his current pace, Jones would pass Brooks in the Morehead State game in Charleston on Nov. 22.
Jones is also poised to leap several spots on WVU's career scoring list. He currently stands at 29th overall with 1,165 points, but with just 19 more points would move into the Top 25. Currently Chris Moss, Seldon Jefferson, Marsalis Basey and Marcus Goree stand between Jones and the 25th spot.
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Every season since 2002-03, the Golden Eagles have knocked off at least one power conference team. head coach Scott Sutton's tenure ORU has defeated the likes of Arkansas, Kansas, Georgetown, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Seton Hall and USC. Scott Sutton is the son of long time Division I coach Eddie Sutton. The duo is the NCAA's most successful father-son coaching combination in Division I history, having accounted for 1,049 wins. Scott's brother, Sean, is an assistant on the Golden Eagle staff.
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ORU is located in Tulsa, Okla., but it might claim Kansas City as its second home this season. No fewer than five players (Morrison, Pearson, Michael Craion, Trey Cox and D.J. Jackson) hail from the midwestern center for hoops talent.
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"The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening briefly attended ORU, and subsequently, many of the characters on the show are modeled after former ORU students and staff members. In fact, if you look closely over Ned Flanders' fireplace, his college diploma reads "Oral Roberts University".