18-4, 11 straight wins, 5 all-league players and no one’s talking about Oral Roberts?


TULSA, Okla. – On Saturday night, I had the chance to see one of the nation’s best-kept secrets play as Dominique Morrison scored 22 points in a 93-86 win over Summit League rival Oakland. Morrison is a four-year starter at Oral Roberts and a guy that has been all over the all-Summit teams throughout his career. And this season, he’s playing the best basketball of his career. While his per-game averages aren’t all that much better than what he posted as a junior, in league play he’s averaging a league-best 23.5 ppg while shooting 56.3% from beyond the arc.

Should I mention that ORU is currently 10-0 in the Summit League, on an 11 game win streak and currently own a 22 point win over the only team in the conference within striking distance, South Dakota State?

But there is more. ORU isn’t a one man show. In fact, they had five players named to either first- or second-team all-Summit in the preseason, including Michael Craion, the team’s third-leading scorer and leading rebounder who missed last season with an injury. Craion’s return has meant that Steven Rountree and Damion Bell-Holter, who both started last season, have split time coming off the bench this season.

I think its fair to say that it’s a luxury to rotate two preseason all-conference players as a fifth starter. And for what its worth, Roderick Pearson, ORU’s point guard, is the only starter that didn’t receive preseason honors and he’s third in the conference in assists and second in assist:to:turnover ratio.

“I think we have probably a better cast around [Morrison],” ORU head coach Scott Sutton said when I asked him what set his team apart from the rest of the Summit League. “And not to say those other teams don’t, but we have Craion and Rountree and Bell-Holter and [Warren] Niles, and all of those guys could lead us in scoring any given night. If Dominique went out, last year he did for a few weeks with a knee injury, obviously we missed him but we have other guys that can pick up the slack.”

It begs the question: when are people going to start talking about ORU?

This group is experienced, with a starting lineup made up entirely of juniors and seniors. They are balanced, as six different players have led them in scoring this season, all of whom are averaging at least 7.3 ppg. They have a core group of six players that see the majority of the minutes, but they are capable of going eight deep with a couple of young shooters coming off the bench.

But most importantly, this is a team that is currently playing their best basketball of the season. During this 11 game winning streak, Morrison has played as well as anyone in the country, averaging 24.7 ppg and 4.5 rpg while shooting 58.2% from the floor, 60.2% (35-58) from three and 88.2% from the line. Prior to that stretch, he was averaging 15.1 ppg while shooting a career-low 41.4% from the floor and 23.5% from beyond the arc.

Its not just Morrison, though. Warren Niles, who averaged 14.2 ppg as a sophomore but has struggled to find his stroke this season, has led the team in scoring in two of the past three games, including a 27 point performance against Oakland.

“I kind of went back to myself and told myself that I need to be more aggressive,” Niles said. “I’ve been trying to do other things — defense, rebounding, get assists — but I’ve been wanting to be more aggressive on the offense end.”

“We just got a lot of good players, and people don’t realize that,” Morrison said.

And while that may cause some trouble for a potential first-round opponent, the issue for ORU is going to be getting to the tournament. At this point, it looks fairly unlikely that they are going to be able to get an at-large bid. They whiffed on opportunities to notch marquee victories with competitive losses at West Virginia, Gonzaga and Oklahoma. Their best win is against a Xavier team that was playing their first game after the brawl — without Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells — and has looked thoroughly mediocre the past month and a half.

The bigger issue, however, is a loss to UT-San Antonio in the second game of the season. Granted, ORU was a different team at that point — Craion was still working his way back into rhythm while Morrison was struggling to shoot the ball — but since their entire team was available, the selection committee probably won’t look at it that way.

Andy Glockner, the man in charge of the Bubble Watch at SI.com, wrote that ORU is a “good team, maybe with not enough juice for an at-large. That galling loss to UTSA in the first-round of the preseason NIT, when vulnerable Oklahoma State was on tap for a trip to NYC, is a killer.”

There may be a chance if they win out — which would include a road win at South Dakota State, who is 66th in the RPI — and lose to SDSU in the Summit finals, but that is a risk that Sutton probably isn’t going to want to take.


Because the Summit League is one of the best conferences that no one talks about, from both a team and individual perspective.

South Dakota State went into Seattle and knocked of Washington 92-73 and won at Atlantic Sun leader Mercer. Oakland owns a win over Tennessee at home, at Houston and at Horizon leader Valpo. There are 15 players across the country that are currently averaging more than 20 ppg and five of them — Reggie Hamilton of Oakland, Nate Wolters of SDSU, Alex Young of IUPUI, Frank Gaines of IPFW and Morrison — are in the Summit League. A sixth, Taylor Braun of North Dakota State, has averaged 20.8 ppg in Summit League play.

All it takes is one of those guys to get hot on a night where ORU isn’t shooting the ball well, and there goes the dreams of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“We have players in this league that can play all over the country,” Hamilton said. “Wolters, Morrison, Young. Those are good players. Given the opportunity, they can shine on any other team.”

Should ORU make a run to the tournament, their solid RPI — 49th as of Thursday morning, according to ESPN — should get them a pretty good seed to the dance. Sutton is hoping for a 12 seed. Glockner currently has them as a 14 seed in his latest bracket, but that number is likely a bit low considering that, somewhere along the line, there are going to be upsets in the tournaments of the one-bid leagues.

For ORU to be able to make a run this season, they are going to have to get a favorable matchup. The Golden Eagles aren’t the biggest team in the country — Craion is listed at 6’5″ — and they struggle defensively — Kenpom has them at 164st in the country in efficiency — mostly because they struggle to put pressure on the ball; when you don’t force turnovers and allow teams with good shooters open looks at the rim, you are going to struggle.

But ORU can score. So if they match up with a team like, say, Indiana — someone without a ton of size inside or penetrators on the perimeter — they’ll have a chance. The Hoosiers are currently sitting at a four seed, so a matchup with ORU is quite possible.

Niles, to his credit, isn’t worried about the matchups.

“If we make it, I think we can [make a run],” he said.

“I want the Sweet 16.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.