ORU opens play in Southland Conference
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 03, 2013
1/03/13 at 5:56 AM
Oral Roberts crafted such an impressive body of work during the 2011-12 basketball season that the Golden Eagles were oh-so-close to securing an at-large invitation to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
ORU will get no at-large consideration in 2013. The Golden Eagles will take a 5-7 record into their inaugural tour of the Southland Conference (it begins with a Thursday game at Southeastern Louisiana), and the only thing that matters the rest of the regular season is winning enough league games to secure a first-round bye in the conference's postseason tournament.
The top two seeds will get byes into the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament. Then the mission becomes this simple: Win two March games in Katy, Texas, and you're in the NCAA Tournament.
Here are five things learned about ORU's new league during the nonconference segment of the season:
1. Stephen F. Austin is the team to beat.
Picked second behind Oral Roberts in preseason, Stephen F. Austin is 10-1 with road victories over two teams (Oklahoma, Tulsa) that beat ORU at the Mabee Center.
The Lumberjacks lead the nation in scoring defense, and they're apparently able to guard opponents without fouling, ranking 16th nationally in fewest fouls per game. They also rank high in field goal percentage defense (26th), rebound margin (30th), assists (23rd), steals (8th) and turnover margin (11th).
Taylor Smith, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, impacts games on both ends of the court. He ranks sixth nationally in field goal percentage and 23rd in blocks. Senior guard Hal Bateman is ninth nationally in assists.
2. Lamar, which represented the Southland Conference in the NCAA Tournament last season, isn't scared to play a brutal schedule.
Pat Knight's team is 2-10, but the Cardinals have played nine road games and two neutral-site games. Among their opponents were Kansas State, Charlotte, Virginia, Alabama, Purdue and Baylor.
Circumstances dictated many Southland teams spending the bulk of their nonconference schedules on the road. Nicholls State played one home game. ORU, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Southeastern Louisiana played three home games each.
Lamar didn't play its home opener until beating LIU-Brooklyn on Dec. 29.
3. Big Nasty's team will launch bombs.
Former Arkansas All-American Corliss Williamson is the head coach at Central Arkansas, and his Bears aren't shy about hoisting shots.
Central Arkansas ranks 25th nationally in 3-pointers per game.
Robert Crawford, a 6-foot-5 senior guard who played at Victory Christian High School and Connors State, is sixth nationally in 3-point percentage and 10th in 3-pointers made. He scored 39 points in a victory over Southeast Missouri State. Teammate Jarvis Garner, also a Connors State transfer, had a 38-point game against Central Baptist.
4. Northwestern State can put the ball in the hole.
Teams that face Northwestern State will be challenged to outscore the Demons, who rank fourth nationally in scoring (83.4 ppg).
Some big point totals came against lightweight competition, but Northwestern State dropped 95 points on LSU - and gave up 102.
The Demons score by committee. No individual averages more than 13.7 points.
5. ORU's initiation seems manageable.
The Golden Eagles begin league play with a road swing through Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State, whose collective record is 3-17.
Southeastern Louisiana has accuracy issues (the Lions rank 336th out of 345 Division I teams in field goal percentage). Nicholls State opponents do not (the Colonels are 340th in field goal percentage defense).
ORU at Southeastern Louisiana
7:15 p.m. Thursday
University Center, Hammond, La.
Radio: KYAL fm97.1
SE Louisiana (2-8, 0-0 Southland)
ORU (5-7, 0-0 Southland)
*assists per game
Original Print Headline: Golden Eagles open Southland play
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389