Is ultimate sixth man awaiting WSU in O-Rob?

HOLY MOLY. WSU fans refer to the Palouse as God's Country. But they're at a disadvantage of Biblical proportion this week when it comes to invoking divinity. Oral Roberts University, the Cougs' first-round NCAA tourney foe, was born from "the fires of evangelism." It's a self-dubbed "charismatic" school. Not sure exactly what that means, but fear not if Coach Sutton starts speaking in tongues.

The Cougs and Golden Eagles face off Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time in Sacramento's Arco Arena. The game will be televised on CBS. The winner will play Saturday against Vanderbilt or George Washington.

There are many differences between Oral Roberts and Ol' Wazzu.

WSU is 117 years old. Oral Roberts opened its doors in 1965.

WSU is a major research institution, has 18,000 students, and is run by the state. ORU is a small liberal arts college, serves 5,300 students, and is so private that it is run by Richard Roberts, the son of the school's televangelist founder Oral Roberts.

ORU's alumni list includes Kathie Lee Gifford and Ned Flanders, WSU's Chad Eaton and Tom Tuttle from Tacoma.

ORU offers a degree in pastoral Christian ministry, while WSU's famed ag school offers a bachelor's in pasture management (not really, but you get the point).

Washington State fans bleed crimson but are notoriously stingy with their donations. After Oral Roberts (the preacher, not the school) announced on television that God would "call him home" unless he raised $8 million by March, the faithful ponyed up $9.1 million.

In some Pullman social circles, the center of campus is wildely believed to be The Coug. At Oral Roberts, the center of campus is The Prayer Tower, which houses the Abundant Life Prayer Group, which in turn operates 24/7 talking to callers from around the world who are in search of healing and spiritual guidance.

Lore has it that some WSU students in the early 80s lobbied for The Coug to stay open 24/7 with a similar, though less Godly, mission in mind.

Roberts once said he had a vision of a 900-foot-tall Jesus encouraging him to continue a construction project. Washington State once hung a banner on a 100-foot-high grain elevator in Dusty of one of their student-athletes.

One thing the schools share, a little bit, is geography. Northeast Oklahoma is rural -- though ORU's address is big city Tulsa.

The schools may also share a theme. ORU's has long been the phrase "expect a miracle." Given where the Cougars have been since their last NCAA appearance, 1994, this season could serve as testament that prayers eventually are answered.

On the basketball court, unlike WSU, ORU is no stranger to modern-day March Madness. This will be the Golden Eagles' second consecutive trip to the Big Dance and sixth overall. In 1974 they advanced to the Elite Eight -- a rise to national promience built on their founder's early belief that credibility for his young school would be enhanced greatly with a quality basketball program.

Under the guidance of head coach Scott Sutton, Oral Roberts has reclaimed some of its 1970s/early 80s hardcout magic. Over the last three seasons the team has averaged 23 wins and won two straight Mid-Continent Conference crowns.

The Golden Eagles are led by three-time Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year Caleb Green, who averages 20.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per outing. The 6-8 Green is the Mid-Con's all-time leading scorer (2,490 points) and rebounder (1,000+). Teammate Ken Tutt also has more than 2,000 career points.

"He could play for any team in America," Sutton told the Sacramento Bee about Green. "I think he's one of the most underrated players in America ... He'll have a place in the NBA."

Green is so agrressive in the post that Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley, an astute basketball watcher, floated the notion of the entire Cougar front court fouling out trying to defend against him.

ORAL ROBERTS STARTERS: Caleb Green, 6-8 Sr. F (20.8 points, 9.3 rebounds); Ken Tutt, 6-1 Sr. G (16.1 points, .391 3-pt. pct.); Shawn King, 6-10 Jr. C (7.2 points, 5.7 rebounds); Adam Liberty, 6-2 Jr. G (6.9 points, 2.5 rebounds); Yemi Ogunoye, 6-9 Jr. F (2.3 points, 3 rebounds).

THE RECORD: The Golden Eagles, 23-10, play in the non-descript Mid-Continent Conference against the likes of Centenary, Valpariso, Southern Utah and Western Illinois, but their non-conference slate was formidable. They beat No. 1-seeded Kansas early in the seson, as well as Seton Hall. They lost to BYU and tourney-bound Arkansas and Georgetown.

COACHES WITH PEDIGREES: Sutton, 36, and WSU head man Tony Bennett, 37, are considered two of the brightest young coaches in the game. They also are sons of college coaching legends. Scott's dad is retired Oklahoma State icon Eddie Sutton and Bennett, of course, is the son of Dick Bennett. The elder Sutton opined last week that if Oral Roberts was a 15 or 16 seed in the tournament they'd probably be looking at one and done this week, but if they could secure a 14 seed they may pull off a first-round upset. The Golden Eagles are a 14 seed.

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