INDIANAPOLIS — The code of conduct at Oral Roberts University acknowledges that opinions differ amongst Christians about dancing.
“However,” the handbook states, “the following official University policy has been established: social dancing is not permitted on campus.”
But a number of hundred miles away from the Tulsa, Oklahoma, campus whose landmark is a 60-foot excessive pair of praying fingers, its basketball staff is dancing prefer it has by no means danced earlier than, dancing proper into subsequent week’s Sweet 16 and really a lot the Cinderella story of the largest dance of all.
Oral Roberts, a college of two,800 undergrads based by considered one of America’s first televangelists whose basketball program is finest identified for launching Bill Self’s head teaching profession, turned simply the second No. 15 seed ever in the males’s NCAA Tournament to achieve the second weekend. To do it, the Golden Eagles took down Ohio State and Florida, two of the true behemoths in faculty athletics, clawing their way to a pair of three-point wins.
For a staff that was the No. four seed in the Summit League match a pair weeks in the past, that isn’t simply unbelievable — it’s a longshot so incalculable it might solely register above zero as a result of this can be a match loopy sufficient that it could possibly occur every so often.
“Honest to goodness I told the guys all year that not only are we going to win the conference tournament, but we’re going to win multiple games in the NCAA,” Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills mentioned. “We talk about winning in March way back in November. These are the things that have to happen in order to win in March, and there’s a graphic we show once a week: This is what it takes and there’s times in practice where one of them is taking care of the ball and I’ll ask, ‘Have you ever been to March Madness? Do you understand you can’t make that turnover?’
“Now they’re going to have a response, so that’s pretty cool. That’s what you want.”
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It’s one factor to say that to a gaggle of gamers in the center of a two-hour follow in November, it’s one other when the bracket comes out and the reward for successful an automated bid is taking part in an Ohio State staff with a roster full of men who would have by no means answered a recruiting name from Oral Roberts.
Then, when you one way or the other make that miracle occur as a handful of groups have finished in the historical past of this match, how do you come again and hold that edge 48 hours after changing into America’s darling? There’s a motive why, amongst the handful of No. 15 seeds that gained first-round video games, solely the Florida Gulf Coast phenomenon in 2013 had beforehand survived to the second week.
And on this case, it wasn’t like Oral Roberts acquired to play some mid-major that additionally pulled a first-round upset. This was the Florida Gators of the mighty SEC, a staff with a match pedigree and an NBA prospect.
Despite all that, Oral Roberts surprised us once more.
“As I told the guys, we’re not going to let someone put a number in front of our name and tell us that’s our worth, our value,” Mills mentioned. “We’re not capitulating to anybody here and after we won against Ohio State, I told them, ‘You’ve got the bus ride back to answer text messages, and obviously there’s some media obligations, but this needs to get over with quick.’”
Now, Oral Roberts should determine the best way to take care of one other week of unprecedented consideration, a few of which might not be fully flattering on the subject of the college itself.
Since its founding in 1963, the faculty has been a lightning rod for controversy. In January of 1987, Oral Roberts locked himself in a prayer tower on campus and instructed his followers he’d be known as house by God if he didn’t increase $eight million by March. In the finish, he overachieved like the basketball staff that will later signify him, elevating over $9 million.
Twenty years later, allegations of monetary impropriety compelled his son Richard Roberts, who had taken over from his father as president of the college, into a messy resignation.
In newer years, tales have popped up alleging discrimination towards college students who establish as LGBTQ — Oral Roberts has a strict code of conduct that bans “any homosexual behavior and premarital sex” — including one in 2018 in which a former student said he was subject to conversion therapy attempts.
That doesn’t necessarily have much to do with a giant-killing basketball team that will face Arkansas in the Sweet 16, but the people representing Oral Roberts aren’t going to run from it. In fact, fresh off scoring 28 points against Florida, Oral Roberts forward Kevin Obanor said that it was important for a “school that glorifies God” to get this star flip in March.
“It deserves to be on a higher pedestal,” he said.
But Oral Roberts only deserves that because it won, which is the most beautiful thing about the tournament. Whether you’re a flagship campus in one of America’s biggest states or a tiny Evangelical school with a narrowly focused mission, you get your chance here.
In the NCAA Tournament, everyone can dance, even if the school might frown upon it.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken.