Tech returns to Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night with the hopes of turning
their season around. The Hokies host the Old Dominion Monarchs, who have already
upset then-#8 Georgetown on the road. A victory over a good team like Old
Dominion could be just what Tech needs to jumpstart their season, which
currently stands at 4-3.
If you haven’t seen either of the last two Virginia Tech-Old Dominion
basketball games, then you have missed two great games that just didn’t go the
Hokies’ way down the stretch. In 2003, a young Virginia Tech squad lost to ODU
94-92 in overtime in Blacksburg, but a freshman guard named Jamon Gordon served
notice that he would be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Gordon scored
18 points, grabbed nine rebounds and served up seven assists in that game. You
can read more about that game here.
Gordon followed that up with another impressive 18 point, seven rebound
performance, while playing all 40 minutes, in last year’s 58-55 loss to ODU in
Norfolk. Gordon scored 10 points in a 39 second span late in the game to
overcome an 11-point ODU lead with 1:09 remaining. The recap for that game can
be found here.
The Hokies can win this basketball game, but they are going to need someone
to step up and help Gordon. They are facing a very experienced Old Dominion team
that is poised to make a run at the NCAA tournament. The Monarchs are 6-2 on the
season, with a close loss to Clemson and another loss to Marist.
Dominion Starting Lineup
Old Dominion is well-coached by Blaine Taylor, who sports a career record of
218-116. Taylor has guided Montana and Old Dominion to the NCAA tournament.
Taylor is blessed with a very experienced lineup that features three seniors and
a fourth year junior. He also has solid depth off the bench.
Taylor has used several different starting lineups this season. Eight
different players have started games this season, but ODU is led by their
outstanding senior triumvirate of Drew Williamson, Valdas Vasylius and Arnaud
Williamson is arguably the top point guard the Hokies will have faced this
season. He is a 40.5% shooter from three-point range, and he is the team’s
second leading scorer. He runs Blaine Taylor’s offense very well. He has 35
assists on the year compared to just eight turnovers in eight games. He has led
the CAA in assist-to-turnover ratio for the past two seasons and is working on a
third. He also has 22 steals, an average of almost three per game.
Williamson is putting up All-CAA numbers thus far, and Virginia Tech’s
senior backcourt will have their work cut out for them. Last season Williamson
had five points, eight assists and just two turnovers against the Hokies.
Old Dominion’s inside duo of Valdas Vasylius and Arnaud Dahi could
potentially cause the Hokies a lot of problems. Vasylius is a versatile player
who can go inside or outside. He leads his team in scoring and rebounding. He is
shooting 52.2% from the field this season, including 46.7% from the three-point
Dahi enjoyed a big game against Virginia Tech last season. He isn’t huge
for a power forward, but he is very strong and plays a smash-mouth style of
basketball. Last season against the Hokies he scored 15 points, grabbed nine
rebounds and had six blocks.
Like most schools from mid-major conferences, ODU isn’t huge, but they do
have some size off the bench. 6-9, 225 Gerald Lee averages 16.8 minutes per game
and has started three times on the year. Mammoth 7-3, 283 Sam Harris has started
twice and plays 9.6 minutes per game. But those players combine to average just
3.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Blaine Taylor isn’t afraid to use his bench. Eight Monarchs average at
least 14.3 minutes per game, and a ninth (Harris) averages 9.6.
It will be very important for Virginia Tech to get a lead early in this game.
Old Dominion has a tendency to slow down their offense and go to a zone defense
when they take a lead. The Hokies seem to be at their worst in slow-tempo games
and haven’t had much success against zone defenses. If the Hokies can stay in
front of the Monarchs, even by just a few points, and get them into a high-paced
basketball game, they have a great shot to win.
Virginia Tech’s frontcourt needs to step up and provide some production
against Old Dominion. Dahi is the type of player that can go to town against a
soft rebounding team like the Hokies. Because of this, expect to see a lot of
Cheick Diakite in the lineup. Diakite is a very good rebounder, averaging five
boards per game in just 15.7 minutes. His physical presence will be needed
Lewis Witcher also shows some signs of being a good rebounder, with eight
boards against George Washington. He’ll need to bring the same intensity to
the court on Wednesday night. And this goes without saying, but this would be an
excellent time for Coleman Collins to shake off his preseason injury and rust
and return to his sophomore form. Old Dominion has a +6.8 rebounding margin this
year, so the Hokies need all the help they can get on the boards.
One factor that could favor the Hokies was mentioned in the Norfolk-Virginian
Pilot this morning. The Old Dominion team is suffering from a virus. The virus
sidelined Arnaud Dahi over the weekend, and leading scorer Valdas Vasylius is
questionable for tonight’s game. It is unclear how many other players could be
affected by the virus, but the situation certainly doesn’t help the Monarchs.
Hokie in-state nemesis Old Dominion enters the Cassell this Wednesday night
with a nifty 6-2 mark, on the heels of a 2005 NIT final-four appearance. ODU had
been picked as a middle of the pack Colonial Conference team this preseason, so
the Monarchs are off to a bit of a surprising start. ODU is a smallish hoops
team, only fielding one player checking in above 6-7 in their top eight players,
though the Monarchs are fairly experienced, as six of those same eight players
ODU is a rather average offensive team. They are 86th in three point
percentage, and it is the Monarchs defense and rebounding that has been taking
care of ODU’s business, as ODU is 52nd in scoring defense, and 38th in
rebounding margin. That’s gonna make for a tough out for our Hokies, even
playing at home. ODU’s small and lightweight backcourt coupled with their
vertically lacking frontline suggests that a VT inside attack, from
dribble-penetration and post-ups would serve our Hokies well. But I somehow
sense that ODU will be more motivated to try to knock off a name ACC team than
we will be to beat a Colonial team.
ODU 68 VT 65