The first 24 hours of the NCAA tournament had it all. There was the ninth ever 15 over a two seed, an overtime game to start things off, and Pat Kelsey and his legion of shredded coaches making Xavier fans swoon. If you waited two years for basketball to make its return, this one was triumphant.
By far the biggest story of the day was THE Oral Roberts University knocking off the team with the most entitled fanbase in the tournament. Ohio State came in looking at the Final Four, a possible finals “rematch” with Alabama, or at the very least one of their historical rivals, Florida, in the second round. What they were looking past was Oral Roberts.
Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor came into this game as one of the nation’s highest scoring duos. Obanor is a rebounding monster as well, Abmas is score first point guard who has a turnover rate of 11%. Between the two of them they got hardly a sniff from teams like Ohio State. That Ohio State team is loaded with players like EJ Liddel and Duane Washington, players who come with stars in their ratings and the NBA in their future.
None of that mattered for 45 glorious minutes on Friday. Abmas poured in 29 on 5-10 from behind the arc. Obanor went for 30/11/0 and outworked anyone in the storied scarlet and grey. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over six times and forced OSU into a 20.5% turnover rate. As the panic set in late in the game, Duane Washington went into takeover mode for OSU and found that, despite his best efforts, he couldn’t.
Oral Roberts trailed by four with 2:30 to play and looked set to join all of those other low seeds that make a valiant effort and come up just short. Instead, they went on a 12-2 run that sealed the game in overtime. Chris Holtmann pulled levers, made switches, and called plays, but it didn’t matter. Paul Mills had a brilliant game plan and his players executed it. ORU wasn’t to be denied. As their reward, the path that the Buckeyes planned now sits in front of them.
If that had been the only game of the day, it would have been a great day. It wasn’t, though. Florida and Virginia Tech played a great one, Syracuse somehow obliterated SDSU, teams that hadn’t won games in the tournament for over four decades accounted for three of the 16 wins on the day. By the top Bob Huggins and his hair brought to you by oil won the final game, things almost felt normal. Basketball was finally back. ORU was the story of the day, but there are plenty more stories to be written.
SUCK ON THAT GREG ODEN!