No Fluke Zone | Paul Mills On Mission To Validate Oral Roberts’ 2021 Sweet 16 Run

The Oral Roberts basketball team dominated play in the Summit League this season, going 18-0 and running through the conference pretty much unchallenged. They carried that over into the Summit League Tournament, leaving no doubt about their supremacy with their 92-58 obliteration of North Dakota State in the championship game. For head coach Paul Mills and star player Max Abmas it was hopefully the beginning of a lengthy March Madness run for the Golden Eagles.

The blowout win was a microcosm of how they’ve walked through the Summit League all season, led by the high-scoring Abmas who was named tourney MVP.

Oral Roberts Looking For NCAA Tournament Title

“The goal was a championship and we didn’t lose any that came with it. That’s a testament to all the hard work we put in. All the practices, all the sprints,” ORU senior guard Max Abmas said.

The win punched the ticket for the Golden Eagles’ seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history and second under the aforementioned Mills. It also made ORU just the second team in league history to reach the 30-win plateau in a season. 

Golden Eagles Won’t Sneak Up On Anyone

When you’ve been as dominant as ORU has been, there will be no surprising or sneaking up on anyone in the tourney. Winners of 17 straight and 27 of their last 28 games, the Golden Eagles, a confident and well-coached bunch, who will have no fear of the moment. 

That’s in part due to their 2021 run to the Sweet 16 in which they upset No. 2-seeded Ohio State and No. 7 Florida before falling to No. 3 Arkansas in an action-packed game that came down to the very end. In all it showecased the Golden Eagles behind Abmas and Kevin Obanor, who transferred to Texas Tech following that magical run. 

Abmas isn’t taking this for granted. In fact, the dynamic dynamo is relishing in the moment.

“The road back to March Madness isn’t easy,” Abmas said. “That’s a big thing we learned last year. It wasn’t a bad season, but it was bad if you look at what we expected to do.”

Abmas’ Loyalty Has Been Huge For ORU

While the aforementioned Obanor left for greener pastures on the Power Five level, Abmas who could’ve transferred to anywhere, in the country, decided to stick around after each of the past two seasons. 

Given the NIL craze, and the fact that Abmas could’ve garnered six figures easily, it’s a testament to his loyalty to the program that he stayed.

“I think the end goal is, not just to get all this NIL money, the end goal for me is to play professionally in the NBA for as long as I can play,” Abmas said. “Just understanding that, and understanding that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, and understanding what I had here at Oral Roberts and the relationship that I’ve built over the last few years.”

Mills stated that it doesn’t mean that teams haven’t tried to lure Abmas away from ORU by tampering with him. But he’s stayed true to his heart and love for the Golden Eagles. 

That loyalty has led to two NCAA Tournament bids in four seasons, giving Abmas that platform to hopefully propel him into the NBA. 

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