Old Dominion Basketball Preview: #48
Overall Rank: #48
Conference Rank: #1 Colonial Athletic Association
2008-09: 25-10, 12-6
2008-09 postseason: CIT
Coach: Blaine Taylor (161-94 at Old Dominion, 303-159 overall)
Eight players started at least nine games for Old Dominion last year and all of them are back. While somebody like Northeastern, George Mason or VCU will step up and give the Monarchs a challenge for the Colonial Athletic Association crown, ODU is the clear favorite heading into the season.
Key Losses: F Jonathan Adams
This team will not need much help from the newcomers with so much talent returning and it is possible that all three newcomers will find themselves on the bench for most of the season, or possibly be redshirted. Shooting guard Josh Hicks is the most likely player to see some minutes this year as an offensive spark off the bench. Redshirt freshman Nick Wright and Denmark native Anton Larsen will have more trouble finding playing time, but both have potential to make an impact in the future.
The backcourt duo of Darius James and Marsharee Neely did not score too often, but both are important pieces of the puzzle. James is the only major returning contributor who shot under 40 percent from the floor. But that is not a big deal since he does more important things than shoot. James dished out 4.5 assists per game last year and did a great job keeping the turnovers to a minimum. If James can start hitting his outside shot a little more consistently, he will turn into a star. Marsharee Neely will be by his side. Neely is a more consistent long range shooter and should return to his starting role at the two guard spot. With Kent Bazemore available off the bench, the ODU backcourt is gaining experience and should be more productive than they were last season.
But the frontcourt might take away a lot of that production since Keyon Carter, Frank Hassell and Gerald Lee are all back. It is Lee who has turned into the star of the team after averaging an impressive 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds last year. He is even one of the best free-throw shooters on the team and the 6-10 senior will get fouled a lot. Carter started 13 games last year and will probably be relegated to the bench in favor of Hassell again this season. Both are good scorers, but Carter can stretch out the defense with his outside shooting, while Hassell is tougher on the glass.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt players are all good rebounders, but wing Ben Finney is the best of them all, leading the team with 6.0 per contest during the 2008-2009 campaign. Finney does more than rebound though. He pretty much does everything. He can hit the outside shot, use his 6-5 frame to attack the basket and even pass the ball quite effectively. It is Finney who holds this team together and does what needs to be done during any particular game.
If Coach Blaine Taylor can avoid injuries and pretty much play with an eight man rotation all season long, this is more than just the team to beat in CAA. This could be a team that will make some noise in March or at least give somebody a big time scare. If Old Dominion plays as well as they did at times last year, they might not even need to win the conference tournament to get to the big dance, but they better win some big games in the non-conference portion of their schedule if they want to keep any at-large hopes alive.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Darius James, Junior, Guard, 6.9 points per game
Marsharee Neely, Senior, Guard, 7.1 points per game
Ben Finney, Junior, Guard, 9.9 points per game
Keyon Carter, Junior, Forward, 7.9 points per game
Gerald Lee, Senior, Forward, 15.5 points per game
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