Oral Roberts hoping for first NCAA tournament berth in two decades

Updated: November 11, 2004, 8:02 PM ET
Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. -- For Caleb Green, the thought of Oral Roberts in the NCAA tournament could only have been a dream before now. The 19-year-old wasn't even born the last time the school made it to March Madness.

But thanks to Green and fellow sophomore sensation Ken Tutt, the dream might not be so far from a reality.

The Golden Eagles find themselves as the preseason favorite to win the Mid-Continent Conference and the thoughts of playing on college basketball's biggest stage are already dancing in their heads.

"It's fun to dream about it," Green said Thursday at the team's annual preseason media day.

To get to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1984, the Golden Eagles would almost certainly have to win the Mid-Continent Conference -- a goal the team's players say they'll be highly disappointed if they don't achieve.

The Golden Eagles return young talent in Green and Tutt, the highest-scoring freshman tandem in the country last season, along with a solid corps of veterans including fifth-year senior Luke Spencer-Gardner and center Matt Gastel. Coach Scott Sutton also expects contributions from two transfers -- center Mickey Michalec from Texas Tech and Larry Owens, a second-team junior college All-American from Arizona.

"I really believe that we've got a pretty special team," Spencer-Gardner said. "If we're able to do the little things and play some defense, I think we can go a long way."

But Spencer-Gardner, who missed last season with a leg injury, knows the Golden Eagles can't afford to get carried away with being the conference's preseason favorite.

"We've got to realize it doesn't mean anything," he said. "We've been picked first before and floundered at the end of the year. It's nice to get a little pat on the back, but you take it with a grain of salt and just keep working."

Sutton said he's glad his team is getting some preseason attention, even though it can at times be detrimental.

"I think that there's more good than bad," Sutton said. "I think sometimes the kids can get caught up in thinking they're better than they are at this time of the season, but sometimes reality will set in and sometimes that's not all that bad."

The sixth-year coach, who's the youngest son of Oklahoma State legend Eddie Sutton, said he already saw some signs of overconfidence in the Golden Eagles' first preseason exhibition -- a 76-67 win against St. Gregory's,

"We didn't play with the type of effort and intensity we need to play with," Sutton said. "I kind of accused them of reading too much of the preseason articles.

"Hopefully, we got their attention."

That doesn't mean Green and the rest won't be able to keep dreaming, but they'll have to keep a firm grip on reality, too.

"Everybody dreams about being in the NCAA tournament," Green said, "but you can't dream too far and forget about what you've got to accomplish right there."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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