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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: OralRoberts

It looks like a chicken to me.

Welcome back for another rousing go-round of Know Your Non-conference Opponent. Today's subject is the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. Like Orel Hersheiser or any Morehead State athletic team, ORU has the ability to draw giggles from the males 18-35 demographic just via mention of their name. That demographic once included Scott Sutton, who now settles for the distinction of being the Golden Eagles' head coach (that was a brilliant segue; take notes, journalism majors). Sutton took over the post in 1999 after serving as an assistant coach at ORU, and has compiled a respectable 204-138 record in his tenure. He is also the son of coaching legend Eddie Sutton and brother of coaching non-legend Sean Sutton. His other brother, Steve, is a banker in Tulsa.

Oral Roberts will be visiting the Cintas Center this year, probably in an effort to enhance their recruiting footprint in southwestern Ohio. Even though they went down in the first round of the less than illustrious CIT last year, there are some signs that point to the Golden Eagles being something other than an early-season patsy for X. KenPom placed them at a not-too-hateful 130th in the country last season, and that was with the nation's 302nd most experienced squad. Of the top seven offensive players on the team in terms of possessions used, five were sophomores or freshman and all seven of those players are coming back for 2011-2012. In fact, of the 7,050 minutes played by the Golden Eagles last year, 6,892 of them are coming back this season. Considering the fact that there are 200 minutes to be divided in a single game, it's safe to say the ORU didn't lose much this summer.

They did some losing last season though; their total of 16 defeats was the most the program had suffered since the 00-01 season. This was thanks in no small part to their defense, which was pretty close to horrible. They were between 240th and 300th in the nation in effective FG% allowed, forcing turnovers, two-point percentage allowed, three-point percentage allowed, and blocking opponents two-point shots. This, coupled with allowing their opponents to rebound almost a third of their missed shots, led to ORU's mediocre record. It was also completely out of character for a (Scott) Sutton-coached team; he had kept the team in the top 104 in KenPom's adjusted D for the previous four years and placed them in the top 50 twice. I'd be surprised not to see the team re-focus on defending the basket this coming season.

Speaking of the basket, Oral Roberts was all over it at the other end of the court. The team was 40th in the nation in effective field goal percentage and 50th in offensive rebound percentage. They were also firmly in the top 75 in two-point and three-point percentage. They were good at shooting is my point.  They also did a good job keeping care of the ball, turning it over on just 19% of their possessions. Sharing was not a strong suit though; their assist rate (percentage of buckets assisted) was good for 94th in the nation.

He can dunk.

Leading the charge is preseason all mid-major forward Dominique Morrison, a 6'6" rising senior. He went for 19.5-5.0-2.1 last year on .514/.404/.780 shooting and was second on the team in assists. Second leading scorer on last year's team was Warren Niles, a 6'4" guard who is apparently a shameless volume shooter. He got his 14.3 per game on .390/.367/.814 shooting and led the team in shot attempts (428) and three-point attempts (207). Of more concern to ORU's opponents is (or at least should be) the interior duo of Damien Bell-Holter and Steven Roundtree. Roundtree is a 6'7" forward who, as a freshman last year, got 12.1 and 6.4 on .560/.143/.634 (ignore the three-point number, he was 1-7). Bell-Holter is 6'10" 245, is apparently the child of very progressive parents, and put up 13.3 and 7.8 on .511/.382/.728 shooting. Both big men grabbed almost three offensive boards per game, and they also combined to swat 64 shots (50 by Bell-Holter, 14 by Roundtree).

While that quartet of players certainly pulled their share of the load to the Golden Eagles, production drops off considerably after them. No other member of the team averaged 6 PPG or 3 RPG. Clearly, depth is an issue for Coach Sutton. In fact, only 24.6% of the team's minutes came off the pine last season, more than Xavier got but still only good for 302nd in the nation. They're also (outside of Bell-Holter) not that tall, with an effective height of 0.0, which is exactly average. They also didn't beat anyone good last year, getting thumped three times by Oakland and dropping games to Missouri State, Tulsa, Missouri, and Miami, FL. Their best win was probably a road victory over South Dakota State in January, and a first-round loss to Southern Methodist in the CIT isn't exactly a feather in the cap.

This season's Oral Roberts squad should be improving just by virtue of gaining experience while not being coach by Brian Gregory. Incoming guard Korey Billbury shot 46% from behind the arc in high school, and he's joined by 5'11" DJ Jackson, who was his conference's player of the year. Kris Obaseki, a 6'9" 180 (!) forward rounds out the recruiting class; Coach Sutton notes that he needs to add strength, which is a most likely a massive understatement regarding someone with a BMI under 19. What this all means to Xavier is that they will be hosting a team that has a puncher's chance of taking home a W if the Muskies let down. If Big Kenny et al can keep Bell-Holter in check, Dominique Morrison will prove a good early test for Xavier's young wings. If they can lock him down, look for Xavier to take home a comfortable victory. If not, this one could turn into a shootout. If you like offense and are looking to buy tickets to an early season Muskie game, allow me to suggest looking into this one.