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With the third round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament set to begin Saturday March 27th, this year’s Cinderella story belongs to Oral Roberts University out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Taking down multiple Goliaths on their journey, this year’s team feels like they are right where they are supposed to be.
After winning The Summit League, Oral Roberts received the #15 seed in the NCAA Tournament and had a first round matchup with #2 powerhouse Ohio State University. Few expected #15 Oral Roberts to put up a contest. In fact, over 95% of ESPN’s Men’s Tournament Challenge brackets (almost 14 million) had picked Ohio State to win the game.
“We put our shoes on just as the other team puts their shoes on. We just had the mindset of ‘show us that you deserve to be #2’, and we came out with a lot of confidence,” said Junior Forward Kevin Obanor who had 30 points and 11 rebounds in the overtime win.
ORU players “don’t cut corners.”
This is the mindset that the Golden Eagles have had since the beginning of the season; Believing that they belong with the best of them, and doing everything with excellence. It led the team to it’s first Summit League Championship since the 2007-2008 season and the team’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1974.
“Coach Mills has preached to us since the beginning of the year that we can win multiple games in the NCAA Tournament. However, there’s a level of expectation that comes with that in doing everything with excellence,” Senior Guard Justin Lovvorn told The Black Wall Street Times. “Winning teams in March don’t cut corners. They buy into the team, the game plan, and the belief that they belong.”
With Oral Roberts being a mid-major team, they typically don’t get the same interest from high-level recruits that schools like Ohio State and Florida do. Yet, those two teams lost to Oral Roberts in the tournament so far. This year’s run is sure to benefit the school with recruiting in the future.
A contender for years to come
“I think the most beautiful thing about this historic run is the impact it’s having on the school as a whole,” said men’s basketball alum Parrish Purnell Jr. “Our social media accounts have become officially verified and with that comes more exposure. Prior to this year nobody really knew who Oral Roberts University was. Tournament appearances automatically put more eyes on you, but I think Oral Roberts will be a contender for years to come.”
The next test comes in a rematch with #3 Arkansas whom Oral Roberts lost to earlier in the year 87-76. It has the potential to be another major upset, but to the Oral Roberts players and staff it’s another opportunity to showcase their God-given skill and break labels.
“As I told the guys, we’re not going to let somebody put a number in front of our name and tell us that that’s our worth, or that’s our value,” coach Paul Mills said. “We’re not capitulating to anybody here.”
Catch Saturday’s game at 6:25pm CT on TBS.