Old Dominion Primer 2012

Darion Atkins and the Hoos hope to grab win No. 10 of the year.

After a sluggish 75-57 home victory against Morgan State, the Virginia Cavaliers (9-2) head to the Richmond Coliseum on Saturday to square off against Old Dominion (1-10) in the inaugural Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic. Will the Wahoos win their 9th straight game, or will they drop their third game of the season against a CAA opponent? Find out in the Old Dominion Primer.

1. Team Introduction. This is Blaine Taylor’s 12th year in Norfolk, the last eight of which have been capped with postseason tournament appearances, including four trips to the Big Dance. Given this level of sustained success, this year qualifies as quite a disappointment. After finishing 22-14 (13-5 CAA) and reaching the CIT Quarterfinals last season, the Monarchs were tabbed to match last year’s fourth place finish in the CAA. But, after beating the same Morgan State squad that UVa topped on Wednesday to level their mark at 1-1, the Monarchs have dropped nine straight games by an average of more than 10 points a game. ODU currently stands at No. 294 in RPI, No. 236 in KenPom, and No. 289 in the TAPE Ratings by Sabre poster 504-C Brandon.

2. Offense. When I was in high school in Virginia Beach, Old Dominion sent college brochures imploring us to come to their school and “become another brick in the wall.” Apparently, the administrators missed the meaning of Roger Waters’ screed against British education, but the message accurately describes the shooting of this year’s team. ODU’s 40.9% field goal percentage is 233rd in the country, and its 27.2% 3-point percentage scores a national rank of No. 317. As illustrated by Men’s Basketball HoopScoop, Taylor’s teams tend to run a continuity zone offense out of a “3-out, 2-in” set. This is a slow developing offense that requires precise cuts to free shooters, and something simply hasn’t been clicking this year. As is usually the case with Taylor’s teams, this year’s Monarchs try to make up for this halfcourt inefficiency with transition offense and excellent offensive rebounding (ODU is No. 13 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage). This season, it hasn’t been enough. The Monarchs are No. 197 in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency.

3. Defense. Where Blaine Taylor teams usually make hay is on the defensive end. ODU is typically a tough, physical defensive team that can throw a lot of looks at you. In the Virginia game, you might expect to see a 2-3 zone, some 1-2-2 zone, and man-to-man defense. But the Monarchs have seemed a step slow on their rotations all year. ODU is No. 325 in the country in opponent 3-point percentage (39.6%) and one spot worse in opponent effective field goal percentage (55.2%). These shooting stats translate into a No. 236 rank in adjusted defensive efficiency.

4. Player Turnover. A big reason for the Monarchs’ struggles this season is player turnover. Kent Bazemore, last season’s leading scorer, is now in the NBA, playing for Golden State. Second-leading scorer Chris Cooper, who averaged a double-double last year (10.5 points, 10.1 rebounds), graduated. And the same goes for last season’s third-leading scorer, Aussie Trian Ilidis (8.5 points). The other major loss for the Monarchs is Miguel De Lancey, who averaged 23.8 minutes and 2.4 assists a game last year.

5. Possible Starters. Here is a look at the likely starters …

Point Guard: Keenan Palmore (No. 3), a 6’1″, 174-pound freshman, has started 8 of ODU’s 11 games this year. Palmore’s bread and butter is driving the lane and dishing or finishing. So far, he’s been better at the former, averaging 3.2 assists against 2 turnovers a game. In terms of scoring, he’s averaging 8.5 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Only one of those field goal attempts has come from behind the arc, and his jump shot is still very much a work in progress. Defensively, Palmore is inconsistent. He’s averaging 2 steals a game, but he also gets beaten too often off the dribble.

Shooting Guard: Donte Hill (No. 25), a 6’4″, 205-pound redshirt junior that transferred from Clemson a few years ago, should start at the off guard. Hill has a solid handle and can score from the inside and outside, but his shot just isn’t consistent. He’s second on the team in points per game (10.2) but is shooting a mere 40.2% from the field, 24.3% from 3-point range, and 60% from the free throw line. Hill is an aggressive defender and uses his length to average 2 steals a game. But he’s also a step slow, with quicker guards giving him grief.

Shooting Guard: Aaron Bacote (No. 2), a 6’5″, 175-pound freshman, has started five games for the Monarchs, including the last two. The Peninsula District Player of the Year was primarily known for his 3-point acumen coming out of high school, and he’s connecting on a decent 34.1% of his 3.7 attempts per game. But he’s been less successful from the free throw line (62.5%), and, despite a high basketball IQ, he is (understandably for a freshman) a bit careless with the ball, averaging more turnovers (2.5) than assists (2.2) per game.

Power Forward: Nick Wright (No. 1), a 6’8″, 206-pound senior, was out sick for ODU’s last game, a 76-65 loss against the College of Charleston. The senior is expected back for this game, but he’s been a pretty big disappointment to this point. Wright is averaging fewer points (7.2 vs. 8.4) and rebounds (4.8 vs. 5.2) per game than he did during his junior campaign, and both his field goal (29.3% vs. 38.7%) and 3-point (20% vs. 39%) percentages have precipitously dropped. As these stats show, Wright is a hard hat type of player who isn’t exactly known for his offensive prowess, but his blocks per game (.6 vs. 1.1) have dropped as well. Something just seems off about Wright’s game this year, and it is hard to see him breaking out of his funk on the heels of an illness.

Center: Many of you probably remember DeShawn Painter (No. 11) from his days at NC State, where the Hoos played against him twice last season. After a transfer and hardship waiver, the 6’9″, 235-pound senior has made the transition from career back-up to leading man. Painter paces the Monarchs with 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Painter has a good low post game but not much scoring ability when he’s five feet or more away from the basket. He’s shooting a pedestrian 44.3% from the field but has gone 12-19 in his last two games (against Central Florida and Charleston). Painter has athleticism to spare, but the effort is not always there on the defensive end of the floor.

6. Key Reserves. Here are some other key names to know …

Guard: Dmitri Batten (No. 4), a 6’3″, 190-pound sophomore, is suffering through the proverbial sophomore slump. After a promising freshman year, Batten has seen his numbers fall in most significant categories, including points per game (7.2 vs. 8.0), shooting percentage (33.3% vs. 43.5%), free throw percentage (57.1% vs. 67.9%), steals (.5 vs. 1.1), and blocks (.1 vs. .5) per game. Too often, Batten has sulked or committed silly fouls in frustration, and these reactions go a long way toward explaining why his minutes have dropped the last three games.

Guard: Deion Clark (No. 15), a 6’3″, 198-pound freshman, is averaging 18.6 minutes and 5.1 points per game for ODU. Clark is a coach’s son and has good court awareness, but, like most freshmen, he’s inconsistent. In his last game, he scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting, but the previous game he got only 3 points on 1-4 shooting. Clark is known for his outside shot, but he’s yet to find the range as a freshman, connecting on only 28.6% of his 3-point attempts so far.

Forward: Richard Ross (No. 23), a 6’7″, 210-pound redshirt sophomore, has already had a colorful career for the Monarchs. He redshirted as a freshman, was academically ineligible during the first semester of his redshirt freshman season, and fractured his right wrist this offseason. But that hasn’t stopped him from playing in each of Old Dominion’s 11 games and averaging 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.6 minutes. Ross is an athletic freak (he high jumped 6’10” as a high school senior), and he relies on that athleticism more than polish. What that means is he’s a bit of a garbage man, connecting on 60.4% of his shots but not really possessing many moves.

7. Prediction. 504-C Brandon has this game as a 65.1-48.7 UVa win, with the Wahoos having a 92.1% chance of winning. The Team Rankings Simulation largely agrees, predicting a 70.5-51 Virginia victory.

I don’t see anything to counter these conclusions. The Hoos are playing a team that is No. 273 in effective field goal percentage (44.7%), and the Cavaliers rank No. 5 in opponent effective field goal percentage (39.7%). So, where do the Monarchs get their points? UVa will put the brakes on ODU’s transition offense, and, while the Monarchs are great on the offensive glass, Virginia is a solid No. 65 in defensive rebounding percentage (72.6%). I just don’t see the Monarchs having the offensive ability to give this Cavalier team too much trouble and therefore predict a 61-46 UVa win.