Then the school cycled through coaches, was banned from the tournament for recruiting violations and — with N.C.A.A. investigators looking into players being given plane tickets, the use of coaches’ cars and charging close to $50,000 on telephone calls — Oral Roberts bolted for the N.A.I.A. for two years in 1989.
The university was in similar dire straits.
In 1987, Roberts bunkered for 10 days in the campus prayer tower — a 200-foot tall monolith — and proclaimed that unless his followers anted up $8 million by April 1, God was going to “call me home.” The stunt worked.
Now, the university’s finances are more stable and ambitions more modest. Its coach, Paul Mills, who was a longtime assistant at Baylor, said he borrowed a roster building philosophy from the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team, that good people make good players. It also helps if they are good shooters, and the Titans turned Golden Eagles are historically good free-throw shooters — their 82.19 percent free throw shooting is a sliver ahead of the record set by Harvard in 1984.
Oral Roberts also played a challenging nonconference schedule, playing Missouri, Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Arkansas — who they will get another crack at on Saturday — losing them all. Now, though, there will be unusual attention on the group.
Bigger schools might have been interested in Weaver if he hadn’t torn up his knee in high school. Abmas was recruited only by the service academies. Obanor drew interest but not a scholarship from Arkansas. And another starter, Kareem Thompson, had no scholarship offers in high school.
“I’m joyous,” said Weaver, who has a 6-foot-11 wingspan and wants to become a venture capitalist. “There’s a sense of familiarity we have being in this position. We created this. We didn’t just jump on a bandwagon, so it’s priceless.”
Even if nobody else gives them a prayer.