Last evening at the Richmond Coliseum, the Old Dominion Monarchs defeated the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, 70-65, to clinch the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title and earn an automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. As futile superfans of the CAA, I and my other comrades on Gheorghe: the Blog have seen our share of conference games this year, and we feel it's safe to say the Monarchs are an extremely dangerous NCAA Tournament team. Some of us are even making wild bracket proclamations about Blaine Taylor's squad six days before Selection Sunday:
So we all agree that ODU is dangerous. But why? Why should you believe us? To answer those questions, I called on G:TB's founder Rob to assist me in listing seven reasons why Old Dominion is not a team to be trifled with come NCAA Tournament time. So, without further yammering:
1. This team has actual NCAA tournament experience: The seniors mentioned in the quote above (along with manchild Frank Hassell) beat Notre Dame 51-50 last year in the first round as a No. 11 seed. These guys already know the hoop is still 10 feet high in the Big Dance.
2. ODU is a championship caliber club: Yes, obviously they won the CAA tournament last night, but they also won the Paradise Jam preseason tournament in the Virgin islands in November, defeating Clemson and Xavier along the way to the title.
3. They just might be the best rebounding team in the nation, at least by some measures. They are eighth in the NCAA in overall rebounds, at 40.2 per game, and the always insightful Ken Pomeroy stats have them as the nation's best rebounding team in terms of offensive rebounding percentage.
4. Since their last loss, a 17-point drubbing at the hands of George Mason 10 games ago, ODU has improved dramatically in terms of offensive efficiency. It was never more on display than in their last two wins in the CAA Tournament. ODU shot a then-season best 57.1 percent from the floor in the semifinal win over Hofstra, only to top that by shooting 58 percent against VCU in Monday's final.
4a. The Monarchs zone defense is going to be difficult for a lot of team to handle. Especially impatient (or nervous) ones. ODU simply does not allow you to get good looks at the basket, and even when you do get a shot, good luck getting a rebound. To illustrate the point, ODU began last year's tourney game against Notre Dame in man-to-man and got absolutely gashed, falling behind 15-6 early. They started to go back to their bread-and-butter zone after that initial rough patch, and held the Fighting Irish to 31 percent shooting in the second half.
5. If ODU does indeed draw a No. 7 seed, I don't see a No. 2 seed that is a lock to beat them. That's right, I've already skipped past the Monarchs winning their first-round game and am simply pondering the second round possibilities. To wit...
6. If ODU were to be an No. 8 or No. 9 seed ... Ohio State and Kansas as No. 1 seeds would give them fits, but the Monarchs could give other possible No. 1s like Duke, Texas and Notre Dame a real game.
7. Blaine Taylor's mustache is worth four to six per game. That's always important to remember.
There you have it folks. I don't even need to wait for Selection Sunday to ink a Sweet 16 Selection. Blaine, let the fellas know we're all counting on them.