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As many of you know, I have followed these "smaller conferences" - specifically the Summit League and Horizon League - pretty much all season long. Okay fine, that is almost all that I gambled on, too. And one particular conference that I bet a lot of games on was yes, the aforementioned Summit League. Oral Roberts is a team that I have followed closely for the entire year, and most of the college basketball world has bought fool’s gold. I don’t like this team at all, and I hope they lose by 50 to Arkansas, but I digress...
The late game heroics by Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament - and the Summit League Conference Tournament, as well 0 have been beyond lucky over the course of the Golden Eagles' last four wins. While 99% of you reading this probably don’t know (or care) about Summit League regular-season conference basketball, I will let you know that Oral Roberts was only the fourth best team for most of the year and by a comfortable margin behind the other top three teams. Even going back to just the Summit League semifinals, where Oral Roberts beat South Dakota State by two, ORU was up 43-34 at the half with a 72.7% chance to win. Despite that, ORU won on a last-second chance shot. In the next game, Oral Roberts beat North Dakota State by three. Again, ORU was up 45-20 at halftime after North Dakota State had had its worst half of the entire season. This time at the half, Oral Roberts had a 99.2% chance to win.
Yet with 34 seconds left in the game, ORU and North Dakota State were tied at 72 and North Dakota State had two more chances and potentially take the lead but didn’t. After that winning the Summit League conference title, Oral Roberts beat Ohio State in overtime. Oral Roberts was up 36-33 at half in that one as well, and at the beginning of overtime the Golden Eagles had a 53.1% chance to win. Sound familiar?
Finally, in the Round of 32 just last weekend, Oral Roberts beat Florida. This time, however, with 2:46 left in the game, Oral Roberts finally had its first "chance to win %" above 50%. Why does this all matter?
That is four games in a row it could've lost with a lot of luck going ORU's way. And the gas often runs out on this type of luck. In this NCAA Tournament Ohio State shot 21.7% from three while Florida shot 31.8% just from three, both of those shooting performances being some of lowest three-point marks for the year for each school. And these poor three-point performances were in large part a function of the new venues. In its two Summit League conference tournament games, Oral Roberts shot 53.8% from three and then 31%. The Golden Eagles also gave up 42.9% and 43.8% to their opponents. Luckily for ORU, Arkansas is only 174th in the nation from three. The Razorbacks are, however, top 100 from the field overall.
Oral Roberts doesn’t rebound well at all, ranking in the bottom 300's on both offense and defense for rebounding. Oral Roberts is #1 overall in the nation, however, at free throws, while Arkansas is 120th in the nation at sending opponents to the line. The Razorbacks themselves are a solid 78th in the nation at free throws, and for anyone who has listened/read info from me, I don’t generally don’t like to back bad free throw shooting teams. Oral Roberts, on the other hand, ranks 66th on offense, while Arkansas is 10th overall on defense. Arkansas ranks 37th on offense while Oral Roberts is 239th on defense. The latter is a much bigger difference than the former here. I believe that Oral Roberts won’t have many second chances and that they'll have to be very efficient to win this game and advance to the Elite 8. I have no interest in backing the Golden Eagles because they simply require too much luck to win outright. Both of these teams play very fast, and I expect a lot of points, especially as these teams should be used to the new venues.
While these teams did play already once this year (Arkansas won that game 87-76 at home), Arkansas shot 27.6% from three while Oral Roberts shot 16.7%, both marks well below their season averages. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I also believe Arkansas wins. But the -11/-11.5 sounds spot on to me. I do expect that the further we get into this game, the more that the Razorbacks athletes take over and pull away, thus ending the Golden Eagles' Cinderella Summit League run. The over/under at DraftKings currently sits at 158 with slight juice to the over (-113), and I do look for this game to go into the 160s.