Oral Roberts at Gonzaga (Thursday, December 15 at 9pm)
After a five-game homestand to end the month of November, the Golden Eagles went on the road last week to play the first of four-straight road games against tough opponents. They dropped the first against Oklahoma and will next take on Arkansas-Little Rock on Monday. But the highlight match-up this week is when Oral Roberts heads to Gonzaga for a Thursday night tip.
Opponent Analysis: Gonzaga is good again, as always, with its only two losses coming on the road to Illinois and at home against what is looking like an underrated Michigan State team. Through seven games the Zags have been humming along on offense, especially from beyond the arc where they're making 41 percent of three-point attempts. Their biggest strength thus far has been their ability to get to the free throw line as they are currently fourth in the nation in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) at 55 percent. Oral Roberts will have to deal with Gonzaga's strong interior players Robert Sacre and Elias Harris, both of whom draw a ton of fouls and rebound well. Fortunately, the Golden Eagles have a pretty good frontcourt themselves. To have a chance at winning in Spokane, they'll need a manly performance from Damen Bell-Holter, who is steadily producing after missing early games due to an injury. If Bell-Holter and Steven Roundtree can defend Sacre and Harris without fouling, ORU can make this one interesting.
ORU's Warren Niles has been experiencing a shooting slump as of late. He usually hovers around the 36-37 percent mark in terms of three-point shooting, and yet this season he has connected on just 26 percent of his attempted threes. In the last three games, the junior shooting guard has gone 1-of-11 from beyond the arc. Niles' rebounding and assists have also lagged behind his season averages over the last trio of games. To contend with UALR and Gonzaga, the Golden Eagles need for Niles to open up the floor by making teams respect his shooting ability.
2) Can the teams not named ORU go undefeated this week?
It's a rather weak slate of games this Monday through Thursday for Summit League teams not named Oral Roberts. Two of the four games are against non-Division I competition. The two Division I matches feature IPFW vs. Dartmouth and SDSU vs. North Dakota. The latter game is on the road. The Summit League really should go 4-0 in these games this week.
3) Which of the newly-eligible players will debut soon?
One of the reasons there are so few games this week is because many schools are going through final exams. That means the fall semester is nearly over. As a result, there will be a few players who will be debuting soon after sitting out this semester due to transfer rules or academic ineligibility. Justin Jordan and Antwaun Boyd should get their first action of the season soon for IPFW. These experienced players will have to contend for playing time with quickly improving freshman point guard Jonny Marlin. Meanwhile, back-up big man Andy Nagel should take to the court for North Dakota State soon after sitting out the fall semester.