For the next few weeks, we'll be scrutinizing over the schedules announced by the various Summit League schools. Generally, they'll appear in alphabetical order with an array of thoughts on the teams and their opponents. The general idea behind this comes from a similar feature on RushTheCourt.net, where writer Zach Hayes kindly encouraged us to adopt some pieces of the format for use here, though you'll find plenty of Summit League flair in the words below.
Oral Roberts University
General Theme: This is a rather beautifully pieced together schedule for Oral Roberts here in 2010-11. The Tulsa-based team plays three games against Big 12 competition (all on the road but worth noting Oklahoma and Texas Tech will make return trips to Tulsa in future years, and Missouri played and lost there last season) and a couple against the Missouri Valley and Conference USA in addition to being included in a three-day tournament over the holidays. For whatever reason, the Golden Eagles get Arkansas-Little Rock at home and in Las Vegas, which counts against them as the only odd feature of the schedule.
Travel At A Glance: The ORU coaching staff has done a tremendous job in securing many nearby road games. The series with Tulsa is always perfect since the two schools are in the same city and both competitive; the Big 12 teams are always close enough; and even a trip to Akron shouldn't seem too far since it's still in the footprint of The Summit League. Touché, Oral Roberts.
Easiest Game: Talking Bob gets Arkansas-Little Rock twice in what should be two easy wins. No excuse there.
Toughest Game: The Golden Eagles play three Big 12 teams, yet thankfully none of them are called Kansas or Kansas State. They will compete with all three teams, but the toughest of the bunch will be Missouri. Even though Oral Roberts beat them last year at the Mabee Center, Mizzou coach Mike Anderson has a touted recruiting class to pair with an experienced bunch coming back. Kim English and Co. will not let ORU beat them for the second year in a row.
Most Likely Upset: Coach Scott Sutton's squad had the most upsets in the conference last season, beating Stanford, Missouri, and New Mexico at various points in the non-conference portion of the year. This season, they'll go to Salt Lake City to play Utah and will get Miami (The U) in Las Vegas. It wouldn't surprise me if Oral Roberts beat both of these teams, or at the very least Miami on a neutral court. If I were an ORU enthusiast, I might also make the trip to Norman because the Golden Eagles will keep it close against a reloading Oklahama Sooners team.
Most Challenging Non-Conference Stretch: @Oklahoma (12/11), @ Missouri (12/16), neutral site against Miami (12/21). Even though Oral Roberts could conceivably win any of these games, it's still one tough stretch of games against three straight high majors.
Most Challenging Conference Stretch: Like a few other teams this season, there is not a particular stretch of conference games that will be too daunting for this experienced team. With that said, they'll travel to North Dakota State (1/6) and South Dakota State (1/8) just three days after a game at Akron on January 3rd. The back-to-back travel alone could cost the Golden Eagles a game or two on the trip.
Best Individual Match-Up: ORU has a loaded roster next season full of guys who will compete for First Team honors in The Summit League. Dominique Morrison, Michael Craion, and Warren Niles will each look to have standout seasons while much-hyped redshirt freshman Hunter McClintock will seek to make an immediate impact. Morrison is one of the more dynamic forwards/wings in the league, and he'll have the chance to battle with the likes of Alex Young (IUPUI), Michael Tveidt (NDSU), and Drew Maynard (Oakland) all season long.
Most Anticipated Home Game: There are no marquee home games for the Golden Eagles this season, though Indiana State from the Missouri Valley is a nice get. The Oakland game at the Mabee Center could be most interesting due to the fact ORU will be gunning for the championship this year and seeking to avenge last season's rare home loss to the Golden Grizzlies.
Concluding Thoughts: Another year, another solid schedule for Mr. Sutton. He has put together a list of opponents that will test his team and give them a chance to win. Barring injuries or setbacks, Oral Roberts will be scary this year. And this schedule - with so many upset opportunities - could really help register the Golden Eagles' name in the national hoops conscious early in the season.