So let’s take a look at Oral Roberts, Duke’s opening foe in the 2023 NCAA tournament.
The Golden Eagles compete in the Summit League and finished this season 30-4 and with a 17-game win streak.
ORU scheduled some tough non-conference opponents including Saint Mary’s (lost 78-70), Houston (lost 83-45) and Utah State (lost 95-85). They also lost to New Mexico in The Pit, 82-75.
Coach Paul Mills has a thin rotation with all the starters getting at least 25.4 mpg and two primary bench guys. Connor Vanover, with stops at Cal and Arkansas before landing with the Golden Eagles, is an unusual presence: he’s 7-5 and a solid three point shooter. He averages 12.9 ppg and 7.2 rebounds. He also weighs just 227 lbs which makes Dereck Lively a body builder by comparison.
We’ve followed him casually - he comes from a family where some brothers were also quite tall basketball players - and it’s good to see him have some sustained success.
Max Abmas is still the star though. Just 6-0, the native of Rockwall, Texas can light it up. He’s a real problem.
Incidentally, his hometown is the subject of a very odd geological mystery. Let’s just say it’s appropriately named.
Mills has been coaching Oral Roberts since 2017; prior to that he was an assistant at Baylor. His is an interesting story.
He walked on in college and in his first game dove for a ball and ran into a concrete step, thus ending his career. Apparently it still bothers him which is why he rarely sits.
He took pay cuts three times for the sake of his career.
At Oral Roberts, Mills had two losing seasons before turning things around. He got to the Sweet Sixteen in 2020-21 when the Golden Eagles knocked off the “THE™” (aka Ohio State) and Florida before finally falling to Arkansas, 72-70.
Clearly the guy can coach. Winning 30 games is a huge accomplishment, particularly in smaller conferences. It’s also helped marked him as a rising star. His name will be mentioned in many searches this month.
We’ll be reading up on ORU during the week but our advice is don’t take this team lightly.