NIT Season Tip-Off Preview
The Roadrunner are off to a quick start this year after swiftly dealing with the UTEP Miners in El Paso. In a pre-recorded interview with Andy Everett during halftime of the UTEP game, Junior shooting guard Melvin Johnson III stressed the need for UTSA to pick up marquee wins in out-of-conference play in hopes of being granted a 13 or 14 seed in the NCAA tournament, should the Roadrunner take care of business in the conference tournament. While a road win against an historically strong C-USA team is nice, a run in the NIT Season Tip-Off is what UTSA needs to have a legitimate shot at a favorable seeding come March.
UTSA will face off against future Southland member Oral Roberts on Tuesday in Stillwater. ORU will come into the match at 1-0 after losing to West Virginia 78-71 on the road. Don’t get too worked up over the close score, as ORU trailed by double digits for much of the game. The game is available on ESPN3 if you care to watch, and I may do a more in-depth analysis of the Golden Eagles if I can find time. Oral Roberts returns from a strong 2010 campaign that saw them wrap up the season with a 19-16 record, leading to a second place finish in the Summit League. ORU returns almost all of their production in 2011, with Mid-Major All American Dominique Williamson leading the way. In ORU’s match with West Virginia, Williamson came away with 21 points. Another threat to look out for is Oral Robert’s Steven Roundtree. Roundtree finished his freshman year at ORU with 12.1 PPG and 6.4 boards per game, in route to Mid Major Freshman of the Year status. Roundtree had 11 points and ten rebounds against WVU. Also of note for ORU is returning starter Warren Niles who sank 76 three point shots last year. Needless to say, UTSA is going to have its hands full with Oral Roberts, however if Friday’s game is indicative of the level of defense the Roadrunners can play then UTSA looks to be in the driver seat. Size wise, these two team are neck and neck, with ORU having just a few mere inches of an advantage. In their game against WVU, Oral Roberts did very little subbing. Only eight Golden Eagles saw the court, and their five starters all logged over 34 minutes. If the Roadrunners are able to play at a high tempo and move the ball up and down the court with minimal turnovers, fatigue could play a key factor in this affair.
Following Game One, UTSA will meet with Oklahoma State in a rematch of last year’s 63-79 beatdown or lowly Arkansas Pine Bluff of the SWAC. UAPB saw their 2010 season end in flames with a 7-29 record, with all seven wins coming against SWAC competition. It is critical that UTSA win against Oral Roberts in order to face Oklahoma State and increase the Runners’ strength of schedule. A close loss against OkSt may be more advantageous to the team’s RIP than a consolation win against Pine Bluff.
Be sure to check back for much more coverage as the NIT Tip-Off, well, tips off. Oh and be ready to be sleep-deprived at work/school on Wednesday as UTSA and ORU won’t start playing until 9:30 pm.
Editor extraordinaire, UTSA grad student. Twitter