The young Hokies have quite a challenge ahead of them as they travel to Norfolk to take on Old Dominion in the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Old Dominion is a battle tested and experienced team that would like nothing better than to knock off an ACC team in their own gym.
The Constant Center, aka "The Ted," is one of the finest arenas used by a mid-major team that you'll find. It was built in 2002. It is a very good home court advantage, especially when ODU fans don't like the opponent. And guess what ... they don't like Virginia Tech.
The Monarchs lost starters Arnaud Dahi, Valdas Vasylius and Drew Williamson from last year's team, but head coach Blaine Taylor has simply reloaded with a new crop of players. They play the same tough style as all of his ODU teams have done in the past.
|Old Dominion Starting Lineup|
This will be the most traditional lineup the Hokies have faced this season. The Monarchs have a point guard who can distribute the basketball in Harris, as well as a scoring guard in Brian Henderson. Jonathan Adams has the skillset of a true small forward. Gerald Lee has the type of size and numbers you'd like to see from your power forward, and Sam Harris is a back-to-the-basket center with tremendous size.
Brandon Johnson is Old Dominion's senior point guard. He can score, run the offense, and set his teammates up with scoring opportunities. He is also a CAA All-Defensive team selection. That is perhaps his most important attribute as a guard on a Blaine Taylor coached team. Johnson is shooting 45% from the outside this year, but he's never approached that number in the past. If past seasons are an indication, that number will drop from here on out.
Johnson has 24 steals on the year, so he's well on his way to another CAA All-Defensive team selection. He is going to make life very difficult on Tech freshman point guard Hank Thorns.
Brian Henderson is a very experienced r-senior wing guard. He is ODU's second leading scorer. Henderson is a competent three-point shooter who has shot over 37% from the outside in each of the last two seasons. He has improved his scoring this year.
Johnson, Henderson, and sixth man Abdi Lidonde (6-2, 200, r-Sr.) form a dangerous backcourt. All three are seniors, and two are r-seniors. Lidonde comes off the bench to play 19.1 minutes per game. He is third on the team in scoring with eight points per game.
ODU's top player is forward Gerald Lee. Lee has developed into a very good player since the end of his freshman season. He comes from a basketball family. His father, Gerald Lee, Sr., was a player and then coach in Finland. Lee has a lot of European basketball experience, and he grew up in the home of a player and coach.
Lee is a skilled player. He leads the Monarchs in scoring and rebounding. For a big man, he doesn't turn the ball over much. He has just 14 turnovers in nine games. If the Hokies want to win this game, they have to check Lee. If he goes off, ODU is probably going to win.
Sam Harris is a big-bodied center who can really alter shots in the lane. He isn't much of a scorer, but he has blocked 26 shots on the season. Harris is just a space eater who makes his greatest contributions filling up the lane on defense.
Freshman wing Ben Finney is perhaps ODU's top freshman off the bench. Finney is averaging 17.1 minutes, 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. If the name sounds familiar to you, it's because the Hokies considered offering him a scholarship as a wide receiver.
Finney prepped last year at Hargrave. Before that, he had a standout senior season at I.C. Norcom High School. In basketball, he averaged 26.2 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. In football, he caught 81 passes for 1,186 yards. In one game against Wilson, he caught 19 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns. He might not be an elite power conference athlete, but he's just a good player at whatever sport he plays. He'll have a very good career at ODU before it's all said and done.
ODU prefers a low-scoring, slow style of play. That's why they've given the Hokies trouble in the past. This year that strategy could actually help Virginia Tech. ODU has allowed over 66 points just once all season, to UNC. The Hokies have scored over 70 points just once so far. The Hokies are scoring in the 60s in the rest of their games. I expect this game to fall somewhere in the low 60s or 50s.
Old Dominion has played a very difficult schedule. They have beaten the teams they should have beaten, and lost to the teams that are superior. The Monarchs have been defeated by Clemson, UNC, Louisville and Georgetown. They didn't really come close to beating any of those teams, but they weren't run off the court, either.
ODU is holding their opponents to just 62.2 points per game. The Hokies are scoring just 67.6 per game, and holding their opponents to an average of 59.2. Offensive record books are not going to be rewritten in this game. Look for this one to be a low-scoring, grind it out affair. It would be big for Tech's young team if they could pull this one out.