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Season Preview: Old Dominion Monarchs

October 10, 2011

Kent Bazemore

2010-11 Record: 27-7 (14-4, 2nd in CAA)

What happened last season: Per usual, ODU used a suffocating defense to establish themselves as a major mid-major, won its last nine games to capture the CAA championship and then lost to eventual runner-up Butler in the real first round of the NCAA tournament.

What’s Changed: Center Frank Hassell, a CAA-First teamer, and fellow tough seniors Ben Finney, Keyon Carter and Darius James all moved on, and the pearl that remained – two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kent Bazemore – broke his foot, which came a close second in the physical features news department behind coach Blaine Taylor shaving his iconic mustache.

Key Team Stat: (59.4) Rebound percentage last year for ODU, a number that is sure to take a hit without Hassell (9.4 rpg) and Finney (6.3 rpg) around. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Chris Cooper – the only returning starter aside from Bazemore – will have to summon his inner animal for the Monarchs to dominate the glass again.

Key Player Stat: (6.0) Points per game last year for off-guard Trian Iliads, who will be the Monarchs’ leading returning scorer if they open their season without Bazemore on Nov. 12 against Northern Iowa. Iliadis is a spot-up shooter who tallied 61 percent of his points last year on 3-pointers. He’s, in no way, a go-to scoring option.

Who’s Vince: Bazemore’s left foot. It’ll be the most coddled, nursed appendage in the “757” this winter. Bazemore, a second-team All-CAA performer who averaged 12.3 points and was even more game-changing as a defender, injured the foot in a local Pro-Am league game in late July and had surgery in early August. No definitive timetable on his return has been announced, but it is likely that he will miss at least the beginning of the season. If healthy, Bazemore is POY-good. If out, ODU is stuck in tides without a paddle. The Monarchs hope he’ll be back some time in December.

Who’s E: Cooper notched double-figure points just once last year – during a 17-point loss to George Mason. Scoring isn’t what defines the Monarchs, who play at the league’s slooowest pace, but it’s still obviously a necessary component to winning. Two seasons ago, center Gerald Lee was a POY candidate, and last year Hassell was. Now most of the low-post touches will go to Cooper, who doesn’t have as refined a post game as either. But those guys both improved tremendously over time. Cooper, who averaged 5.0 ppg as a junior, has the size and athleticism to be an effective option, even though he won’t be a star.

The Entourage: Clemson transfer Donte Hill has hoards of athleticism and will fit nicely in Taylor’s grinding defense when he becomes eligible during the second semester. Whether he can be a scorer, which is much needed on this roster, is more of a question. Redshirt freshman forward Richard Ross, is also a standout athlete, and will also be ineligible for the first semester, because of academics. Junior forward Nick Wright will need to be productive, despite little experience thus far. Senior Marquel DeLancey is a downgrade from James at point guard. How Iliads gets open looks on this team, where there is no post player to draw double teams and no dangerous penetrator to drive-and-kick, is beyond me.

Realistic Goal: Tread water until health and eligibility come around, and then defend your shorts off to become a surprising 3-peat CAA champion.

Postseason tournament chances: The Monarchs have an NIT look this year.

DN-R Prediction: 5th in the CAA

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