CAA Preview: Old Dominion Monarchs
Last Year: 22-14 (13-5 CAA) 4th in the CAA, Lost to Drexel in the semifinals of the CAA tournament, Lost to Mercer in the quarterfinals of the CIT after losing Kent Bazemore when he was arrested.
What Happened: Old Dominion started its season against a strong non-conference schedule culminating in hard-fought losses to Kentucky and Missouri. However, they were unable to parlay the tough play into a real resume-building win, only overtaking a mediocre USF in Connecticut. However, they turned things around by midseason after winning eight of nine in CAA play. Their fourth place finish was guaranteed by the fact that they never were able to beat the top three of Drexel, George Mason and VCU, home or away.
- Kent Bazemore (G/F): The go-to guy for Taylor’s Monarchs last year. When he got hot, Bazemore was one of the premier scorers in the CAA. Not to be outdone, his work on the defensive end was what caught the Gold State Warriors attention in the Summer League as he recently signed a two-year deal. His work was noticed in the NCAA as well where he received the 2011 Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award for his hard work and antagonizing defensive play. His loss will be irreplaceable to Old Dominion. However, all the accolades and success were overshadowed by his arrest during the CIT quarterfinals for a DUI he committed last summer.
- Chris Cooper (F): Cooper played a great 1B player for this Monarch’s team. A monster down low, he was one of a few group to average a double-double with 11.3 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game collectively. His presence was highlighted when he grabbed his home arena’s, the Ted, record 22 rebounds against James Madison. Old Dominion will be hard pressed to replace his presence in the post.
- Trian Iliadis: (G): This promising veteran seemed to be finally primed to put together a fantastic season for Old Dominion. Unfortunately, his senior season was cut short in February when he tore his ACL. He had developed into a guard that helped do everything from dishing out dimes, finishing third on the team, to picking the other teams’ pockets; he finished with the second most steals on the team. While he never really took over games, but was a constant threat on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
- Nick Wright (F): This leader is on track to be co-captain with his other senior, and has adapted the frantic pre-season workouts of a man that knows it’s his final season. Most importantly, he’ll have to get it together off the court after he was suspended for the first three games. On the court, he’s going to have to develop into a continual threat if ODU wants to compete with the top teams. Wright put together some great stretches, highlighted by an early season run of four double-digit point games but was plagued with stretches of ineffectiveness.
- DeShawn Painter (F): Recently transferred from NC State. He was considered by some to be the Wolfpack’s best reserve. The NCAA cleared him, so that he did not have to sit out a year, after a heartfelt decision to return closer to home in order to be near his ailing grandmother. Working with Wright, the two have dedicated themselves to mentoring the young team into one that will work hard to continue the Old Dominion success the school has come to expect. In order to complete that goal, he’ll have to improve after averaging 6.2 ppg and 4.3 rpg off he bench.
It’s hard to ever count a Blaine Taylor coached team out. But given the fact that the Monarchs cannot win the CAA conference due to the impending move to Conference USA, it is hard to imagine them staying focused if they don’t perform in their early-season nonconference games. If they do underperform, they might meander to a finish in the middle of the pack. Instead of concentrating on the team, Taylor might instead let the upperclassmen begin to work on their profiles out of college and allow the coach time to experiment with his young team. However, if they surprise and win some of those high profile out-of-conference games we could see a very focused and committed team that surprises in the CAA.