The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team will begin a three-game road stretch when they travel to Old Dominion to play a very tough game on Friday night at 7pm. It is a very important game for the Hokies. A road win would give them extra points in the RPI as well as ten wins in the out-of-conference portion of their schedule. But getting a victory is far from certain. Old Dominion is the favorite, and they are very tough at home. The Hokies will have to play their best to win.
The Old Dominion Monarchs have been up and down this season. They defeated Georgia in the season opener, and also blew out DePaul 87-43 just two days after the Blue Demons defeated Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. But their season has been marred by some bad losses as well. The Monarchs have been blown out in losses to UAB and Drexel, and also managed to lose to a Richmond team that has scored more than 60 points just twice this season.
It’s impossible to say which ODU team will show up on Friday night, but it will probably be the good one. It isn’t every day that an ACC team comes to your house when you are in the CAA, so the Monarchs will be fired up. They have also lost three of their last four games, so getting back to their winning ways is a priority before January begins.
ODU is led by the trio of Isaiah Hunter, Arnaud Dahi and Alex Loughton. Hunter will play shooting guard and he averages 13.1 points per game. He leads the team in field goals attempted and three-pointers attempted. He is not having a particularly good shooting year, hitting just 38.3% of his field goals and 32.8% of his three-pointers. He is a dangerous player who scored 21 points against the Hokies two years ago. His build is slight at 6-2, 170, so it will be important for Tech’s bigger, stronger guards to be physical with Hunter.
Arnaud Dahi hails from the Ivory Coast and has developed into one of ODU’s top players. He averages 13.1 points per game, as well as 4.5 rebounds. At 6-7, 230, he can play inside or outside. He is shooting 52.5% from the floor and 43.5% from three-point range. He is a skilled forward who can extend the defense to the perimeter, which opens up the inside for his frontcourt mate, Alex Loughton.
Alex Loughton, from Australia, is the reigning CAA Player of the Year. He is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game for the Monarchs. He had 13 double-doubles last season and is a member of the Australian National Team. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds against Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament last season. Loughton is a skilled player who has good range on his jump shot. He has attempted 17 three-pointers this year, hitting five of them. Loughton and Tech’s Coleman Collins are very good inside players, and this should be a great matchup.
Hunter, Dahi and Loughton are complemented by talented point guard Drew Williamson. He is a very good point guard, with 41 assists and just 16 turnovers in 11 games this season. He led the CAA in assist-to-turnover ratio last year, with a ratio of 4.03. He also made the CAA All-Defensive team. Williamson ranked third in the conference in assists and steals as well. Williamson can also score if needed. He averages eight points per game, shoots 50.8% from the field and 42.4% from three-point range.
The other ODU starter is Brian Henderson, who averages 4.6 points and three rebounds per game. The key player off the bench for the Monarchs is Valdas Vasylius, who averages 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
The first concern of this game is ODU’s skill level. They have talented players and are well-coached. They won the CAA last season and gave Michigan State all they could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Blaine Taylor has a career record of 214-115 and has built programs at Montana and now at ODU. He was also an assistant coach at Stanford, where he coached in the National Championship Game.
The second concern is Virginia Tech’s depth, or the lack thereof. Because of injuries and illnesses, the Hokies played all five starters for 30 minutes or more against William & Mary. With the exception of Vasylius, ODU does not get a lot of points and rebounds out of their bench, but they do get quality minutes. Each starter for the Monarchs plays an average of 27.6 minutes per game or less.
This should be a competitive game from the opening tip. Old Dominion has been losing a lot of games recently and they are better than they have looked, and they want to get back on the right track. Virginia Tech desperately needs as many victories as possible if they hope to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Both teams also want to be known as the best basketball program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This should be another very close game that isn’t decided until the final minutes.