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TrueBlue82

Mid-Season Observations

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TrueBlue82

Many of you have been adding similar comments to the WIU game thread, but I thought the topic was worthy of its own thread...

Key observations at this point of the season.

 

Leadership

I am pretty impressed by what I’ve seen from the team and coaching staff this year.  Even during a tough non-conference schedule (and losing a major three-point threat to injury) this team held it together.  In past years, we often maligned the lack of leadership and teamwork.  This team has it – and the coaching staff has embraced a culture that allows this leadership to flourish.

 

Seniors

In recent years, the coaching staff had deferred to seniors for playing time and leadership.  There is no way that they would have started four sophomores and a freshman, especially with a pre-season all-conference senior on the bench.  But, somehow, the new staff has made this very successful – and everyone (including the senior coming off of the bench) has bought in.  It takes strong leadership (coaching staff) and true humility (Albert) to make an unconventional switch like this work – and it is working like a charm.

 

Defense

It is SO refreshing to see some new forms of defense on the floor.  It doesn’t always work – but it sure works better than “we’re going to play man-to-man defense 99% of the time, no matter what, because that is how basketball is supposed to be played”.

 

Ball Movement

As much as I love ORU athletics, ORU basketball had become painful to watch in recent years, as the offense would seemingly pass the ball around the court for no apparent reason and with no known intent, until a contested shot or a turnover occurred.  If we didn’t have a playmaker (such as Obi), we were ineffective.  This year, the team is engaged as a TEAM.  As proof of this, 55.3% of this year’s field goals were set up by an assist.  Over the last five years, the HIGHEST assist/FG % was 49.7% with an AVERAGE of 47.8%.  Big difference.

 

Double-doubles

The stat of “double-double” can be over-rated (as the difference between nine and ten rebounds, points or assists is unduly magnified), but when it happens on a consistent basis, you know that something special is underway.  In the past three seasons (by my unofficial count), ORU has averaged 6 D-D’s per year.  So far, just over halfway through this season, we already have 13.  E-Man and Javan are double-double machines.

 

Killer instinct

How long has it been since we’ve won three games in a row, all by fifteen or more points?   Almost seven years. February 15-24 of 2011, with wins over Centenary on the road (81-61), Pacific at home in the bracketbuster (79-63), and IUPUI at home (92-74).  That team eventually lost to Oakland in the Summit Championship game, and then came back the next year to finish 27-7. 

 

We can't base too much confidence on our three game home winning streak, as we won home games that we SHOULD have won.  But the WAY we won them was pretty special, and definitely served notice that ORU basketball is no longer the doormat of the conference.  This is a team that no one in the conference will want to face in Sioux Falls in March - and could still prove to be a contender.  We will find out more on this over the next two weeks.

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ORUalum

what he said.....:clap::clap::clap:

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ORUTerry

Great post - as usual. 

Some more observations:

* We are communicating a lot on defense. That is always a good sign. 

* The real test will be how we react/compensate when we go through the conference the second time - after our league foes adjust to playing against our zone. I assume Mills & company have some ‘tricks’ up their sleeves. 

*  The team is playing confident right now; how will they react against adversity or a loss? Playing up in the Dakotas is a tough challenge against talented opponents, hostile crowds and referees who might not see things ORU’s way. 

* My son remarked about this coaching staff’s use of statistics and data. In the pregame show, Coach Perry remarked that WIU had only played against a zone defense in seven possessions all season. And Coach Mills in the postgame show talked about the fact that they chart deflections and  target 40 per game. This staff is prepared and they are putting the players in position to make plays. 

* I assume that Ruder will be used sparingly at first so that he can get back in shape and coordinated with the flow of the game. The key is how/if this affects team chemistry. 

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ORUParentLurker

Having not been around ORU until this year I genuinely feel bad for you long timers.  It's sad to have to appreciate teams that play hard and unselfishly. 

Mills seems to simply be and old school coach with a big splash of modern analytics.  It makes it a heck of a lot easier to get your point across to kids when you have numbers to back it up.  

I do think he is fortunate to have a returning group that has largely underachieved and is hungry to win.  Toss in Sam and RJ who are both savvy facilitators and tough competitors... and you get a team fully bought in.

There are tough games ahead but I don't think these guys will waver.  Mills said it himself he rarely had 11 road games all season at Baylor.  Now he has a team that lived on the road for 2 months.

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theeagleman5

This is a fun team to watch....not painful like the past few seasons have been....these kids are young and hungry and they have talent....the Coach is upbeat and willing to try different things if a tactic isn't working....ORU basketball is on the upswing and the future is looking a lot brighter...TheEagleman can see us competing for Summit Championships....if not this year then surely next and beyond.....Thank you Coach Mills....GO BLUE!!!....:eagles:

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Idig32
On 1/7/2018 at 11:58 AM, ORUTerry said:

We are communicating a lot on defense. That is always a good sign. 

This is absolutely true and it's essential to playing good defense. I had a lot of fun just watching how engaged everyone was on defense. Communicating, keeping track of cutters, and anticipating the offense is crucial with the type of defense we play and the guys were doing all of it at a high level. Another thing I thought of is that our bigs, except for Chris, did a really good job of contesting/blocking shots without fouling. 

On offense, I wanted to point out how much the team communicates on that end as well. Eman especially seems to have taken a real leadership role as far as getting guys in position. In one instance, Eman passed to either Albert or Javan on the baseline. I think it was Javan. After he passed, he cut through to the opposite block, all the while telling Javan that he was going. Once he got through he yelled at Javan to go score, that he had one on one. Javan took it in, I believe he missed the shot, but Eman got the putback because he was in perfect rebounding position. It was mainly just a great example of how this team communicates and how they have such a good understanding of spacing and matchups on offense. 

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ORU82

I believe it all starts with the basics such as communicating as well as fundamental basketball.  I think we are seeing this with our Team.  

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Old Titan

Great post, JB.  I was actually wondering how long it had been since ORU won three games in a row by ANY margin! (it was two seasons ago).

A couple of other observations re: "how the coaching has changed" (with all due respect to the previous regime):

1.  Inbound plays designed to lead directly to a high-percentage shot, instead of just getting the ball in play.

2.  Building on halftime leads, rather than blowing them before the first media timeout of the second half.

3. Calling timeouts to stop runs by the opponent, instead of waiting for the media timeout.

4. NOT calling timeouts after ORU baskets during ORU runs with the opponent on their heels.

5. Crisp, accurate perimeter passing, leading to faster ball movement and quicker shots-after-the-catch.

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Dr. Cornelius

Summit League Power Rankings: Jacks back on top, Bison rising, and more

Quote

The Summit League schedule is finally under way and it’s off to a fast start. There’s been a few high-scoring affairs, and there haven’t been any blowouts yet. The games have been pretty competitive so far, as expected.

The usual suspects are at the top of the standings through a few games. South Dakota State, North Dakota State and...ORAL ROBERTS!

4. Oral Roberts (7-11, 3-0, Previous: 6)

The arrow continues to point up for Oral Roberts under Paul Mills. The Golden Eagles played a tough non-conference schedule, and are reaping the benefits to the tune of three straight wins. They’ve posted the league’s best defense in those three games, and are absolutely pounding their opponents on the offensive glass. Oral Roberts has had double digit offensive rebounds in every game thus far, and has rebounded a gaudy 43.4 percent of their misses so far. An upcoming three-game stretch against the three teams above will tell us a lot about ORU.

This Week: 1/11 at South Dakota State, 1/13 at North Dakota State

 

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Section A

Some on this board have given the new coaching staff credit for a plan to sit a pre-season all-conference senior Albert Owens.  Was this a plan or just dumb luck and is it fair to Owens?

There is no doubt that Nzekwesi and White have great talent and that Miller is also a solid player.  However, in ORU’s first 11 games Owens outplayed each of the other ORU big-men.  Yes we only won 2 of these games but was that Owens’s fault?  Why was Owens benched for the Missouri State game?  And why is Owens now a 6th-man?

Is having Owens in the dog-house a “plan” or dumb luck because Nzekwesi, White and Miller are now playing to their potential and ORU won 5 of its next 7 games.  Is the “plan” to start underclassmen a staff looking to the future at the expense of a senior who could have transferred to another Division I program but chose to come back to ORU (graduates can transfer and play without sitting out).  Owens may have “humility” regarding the “plan” but his production certainly has gone down.  Owens played well at South Dakota but sat the last 14 minutes of the game.  Owens didn’t play well at North Dakota State and did not help his cause.  I hope this “plan” hasn’t caused Owens to give up.  He deserves better for what he’s done at ORU these past four years.

 

I’ve supported ORU for 24 years not for the coaches (they are paid and come and go) but for the student-athletes.  All athletic departments give lip service about a rewarding college experience for their student-athletes.

 

In fairness to Owens I think it’s time he be let out of the dog-house.

 

Here are some statistics:

First 11 Games Minutes – Points – Rebounds - Blocks:

Owens:                28.5 - 14.5 - 5.0 - 1.5

Nzekwesi:           31.0 - 10.0 - 5.9 - 0.8

White:                 26.4 - 10.2 - 8.2 - 0.8

Miller:                 10.1 - 04.3 - 1.8 - 0.5 

 

Next 9 Games Minutes – Points – Rebounds - Blocks:

Owens:                17.7 - 07.1 - 00.6 - 1.8

Nzekwesi:           35.9 - 17.8 - 09.0 - 0.6

White:                 30.2 - 11.6 - 10.3 - 0.2

Miller:                 17.4 - 08.9 - 03.3 - 0.4 

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ORUParentLurker

I don't think Owens is in the doghouse.  He comes off the bench and if he's playing well he gets good minutes.  If Miller is playing better then he plays more, it's as simple as that.  Owens seems to be very hot and cold especially at the defensive end.  Meanwhile, Chris is more versatile offensively but is foul prone.  So having both of those guys available is a great luxury.  Against NDSU they went small to play man-to-man the last 10 minutes of the game.  That was the reason Owens sat.  You could argue that Al is just as mobile as Chris on defense but I think the coaches would disagree.

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Old Titan

Owens' early-season numbers are skewed by a couple of huge games statistically. 

He also had a number of early games where he simply did not show up.

There is nothing worse for a coach than starting a player who is unreliable.  The coach needs to know that the guys in the starting five (and the ending five) can be counted on, every time out!

Also, there are no stats presented representing defensive efficiency while those players are on the floor.  I'm just guessing, but I'm betting the defense is better without AO on the floor than when he's out there, particularly when Miller is on the floor instead.

All things considered, Albert is fortunate to have defined a vital new role so late in his career.  I am much more concerned right now about how the minutes are being distributed in the BACK court, not the front court.

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Section A

If Owens is not in the dog-house why was he benched for the Missouri State game.  Did he say something he shouldn't have to someone or was he blamed for the Southern Nazarene loss?  In that game Owens, Nzekwisi, White and Miller had 14, 6, 11 & 6 points respectively.  The other three big-men didn't show-up until AFTER Owens was benched. 

Owens was a pre-season conference first team selection  and now Old Titan has him "fortunate" to have a role with this team in his senior year. 

I agree about the back court. They are the key reason ORU only won 2 of its first 11 games.  Shot poor in these games and have been on and off as of late. 

 

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Dr. Cornelius
38 minutes ago, Section A said:

If Owens is not in the dog-house why was he benched for the Missouri State game.  Did he say something he shouldn't have to someone or was he blamed for the Southern Nazarene loss?  In that game Owens, Nzekwisi, White and Miller had 14, 6, 11 & 6 points respectively.  The other three big-men didn't show-up until AFTER Owens was benched. 

Owens was a pre-season conference first team selection  and now Old Titan has him "fortunate" to have a role with this team in his senior year. 

I agree about the back court. They are the key reason ORU only won 2 of its first 11 games.  Shot poor in these games and have been on and off as of late. 

 

Was never a fan of Sutton playing upperclassmen regardless of talent or effort. Glad Mills isn't doing the same thing.

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ORUJason

Albert has been blocking a good number of shots lately.  I would say that while they are somewhat different players, there isn’t much of a drop off between Albert and Chris Miller.

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EagleManiac

Personally, I like the starting five the way I is. But I do think Albert should be the first one coming off the bench every single game. We’ve got four talented bigs (Eman, Javan, Miller, and Nzekwesi) that can really punish these smaller Summit league teams. Keep them rotating and wear the opposition down. Albert offers an offensive game that Miller hasn’t quite developed yet. 

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ORUTerry

We have flexibility with our post players and that is a great position for ORU. Owens can sometimes play distracted and uninspired. He is a good shot blocker and can score down lower when he establishes position. Albert is not a great rebounder; doesn’t seem to have an instinct for the ball.

Miller is surprisingly quick - with good feet and hands. He is learning to control his propensity to foul. The zone defense helps in that regard. He also shows offensive promise - that is why he stayed on the court late in the SDSU game. 

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ORUJason

From what I have heard, Albert is a nice guy who is not the type of person you would expect to have an attitude or an ego problem.  So just because he isn’t starting right now, I don’t think he would start negatively affecting team chemistry.  He is actually playing quite a few minutes right now anyway.

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theeagleman5

Albert has been up and down every year....mostly a disappointment for a 6-9 260 guy...he has one move....and as pointed out above, he sometimes appears disinterested and unmotivated.....yet one game earlier this year he had 33 points...so it's in him to score....but not in him to rebound....he does seem like a good guy and from all reports Albert is a fine teammate....TheEagleman hopes he finishes his career at ORU on a strong note but it needs to be from the bench....again, as pointed out above...Albert is still getting 15-20+ minutes per game.....:eagles:

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EagleManiac

I think he's great as an option off the bench. He doesn't offer the stability and consistency you want from your starting center, but he has the potential to be a sparkplug for us to get the offense going. Props to him for keeping a positive attitude and continuing to be a positive influence in the locker room. It's gotta be really tough having a new coach take your starting spot from you. 

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Old Titan
20 hours ago, Section A said:

If Owens is not in the dog-house why was he benched for the Missouri State game.  Did he say something he shouldn't have to someone or was he blamed for the Southern Nazarene loss?  In that game Owens, Nzekwisi, White and Miller had 14, 6, 11 & 6 points respectively.  The other three big-men didn't show-up until AFTER Owens was benched. 

Owens was a pre-season conference first team selection  and now Old Titan has him "fortunate" to have a role with this team in his senior year. 

I agree about the back court. They are the key reason ORU only won 2 of its first 11 games.  Shot poor in these games and have been on and off as of late. 

 

I think it's pretty obvious Coach Mills saw SOMETHING from Albert that warranted him being benched for the entire Missouri State game.  I don't think it was punishment or "blame", but he did something (or, perhaps more accurately, DIDN'T do something) to justify such a drastic move.

And yes, Albert IS fortunate to lose his starting spot and yet still get significant playing time.  In some instances, a player gets buried deep on the bench after such a demotion (or, quits the team in frustration). More often than not, that demoted player can become a locker room cancer, ESPECIALLY if he's a senior.  Takes a lot of guts for both the player and the coach to devise a plan to make it work on a reduced scale.

Finally, just because the media and/or SID's in a league recognize some returning player with a fantasy award in October based on how he MIGHT play in the coming year should not figure into a coach deciding whether that player deserves playing time during the actual season.

If that was the case, 2016 preseason "Freshman Of The Year" Dez MacDaniel should have been starting from Day 1 for Scott Sutton last year...

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ORUALUMNUS99

Hello all, I am new to the ORU sports forum community. I am very close to a number of former ORU basketball staff/team members from the late nineties to the present day because I found a wife and never left Tulsa after graduation :).  I caved in and finally started to make an account after all these years because this is the first big change ORU has seen in quite some time. New coach, logo, a lot of new faces etc.  

 From asking around the athletic department this is what I have been able to glean concerning Albert Owens: there was basically an inside look taken of the team by the coaching staff. Obviously Albert had been at ORU for all 4 years, which was a rarity during Sutton's final years. He had genuine offers to grad transfer back home to Baylor or go an hour away to play at OSU which would have been ironic considering Sutton's hiring. However, he chose to stay here because he genuinely loves his teammates and he has a pretty serious girlfriend that he's dated since freshman year on campus. Regardless the teams early losses were put on his shoulders because he was who the coaches ran the offense through. As mentioned above he averaged 15 and 5 for the first however many games for a reason. Sometimes when you only see the box score and you get a much different tale than the actual game. Owens left the Montana game after being the leading scorer and rebounder at half because of coaches decision, he didn't play most of the the second  half of Penn St because of coaches decision. Even after he got benched at Mo St he has played more minutes at center than Chris Miller has in just about every game. If something works why change it? When the stats are taken into account from an advance point of view (Per 40, Net Rating, Offensive Efficiency etc.) the simple truth is Owens is better than Miller and thats why his playing time still reflects it. Owens has a per 40 of 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Miller's per 40 is extremely similar at 18 points, 8 boards, but only 1 block. The kicker is that Miller would average 10 fouls a game if he played 40 min while Owens would only pick up 3. This type of stuff makes a huge difference and is why Owens is still seeing much more time. No one on this team currently has a positive net rating except for Javan White at +4. Miller and Owens both have negative net ratings for their careers (-16 and -6 respectively). At the end of they day from what I have heard Mills is looking towards the future. He wants Miller to get as much experience as possible and unfortunately Owens has to take a reduced role. He is a 1000 point scorer 4th all time in ORU blocks and soon to be 500 career rebounder who last year showed he was honestly a top player in the league regardless of position with Daum, Mooney, Miller, and Mo Evans. It is truly unfortunate that there was not enough of a supporting cast around him and Nzekwesi last year for the team to compete day in and day out. If White had been healthy and the extreme roster turnover stable that team last year could have competed with anyone in the summit. This is just what Ive heard from people closer to the situation than any of us..

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ORUParentLurker

Owens got suspended for Missouri State for straight up disrespectful comments to an assistant coach during the Nazarene game.  It's not a dog house it's a rule and I'm sure everyone has moved on.  The irony is that it's turned into a nice situation.  Miller is way more skilled than I originally thought and AL is a great option off the bench.

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ORUALUMNUS99

Yes, I am sorry ParentLurker I have heard that as well I am not saying anyone on the team is free of issues.  All I am saying is that this situation may be more a stroke of luck than it was a stroke of genius or bravery on Mills's part.. 

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ORUTerry

It took recognition/bravery to sustain it... Glad Albert embraced the move; it has helped him and the team. 

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