Introducing Cinderella: Old Dominion wins Conference USA tournament

AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter
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Old Dominion won the Conference USA tournament for the first time in school history Saturday, beating Western Kentucky 62-56 in Frisco, Texas. Xavier Green scored 14 second half points, finishing with 16 to lead the way with B.J. Stith (13 points) and Ahmad Caver (ten) also scoring in double figures.

ODU won the C-USA regular season and tournament titles this season, allowing 70 points or more in just six of their 21 games against conference opponents. Jeff Jones’ team isn’t prolific offensively, but this is a group that has the potential to pull off an upset due to the presence of guards Stith and Caver, and the team’s ability to defend and control tempo.

The last time ODU reached the NCAA tournament: 2011, when Blaine Taylor was the head coach and the Monarchs were a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

CONFERENCE: Conference USA

COACH: Jeff Jones

RECORD: 26-8 (13-5)

RATINGS:

  • KENPOM: 116
  • NET: 101

PROJECTED SEED: ODU projects to be either a 13 or 14-seed when the bracket is revealed Sunday evening.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: There aren’t many guard tandems that have the combination of talent and experience that seniors B.J. Stith and Ahmad Caver boast. Stith, Conference USA’s Player of the Year, averaged 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season with Caver posting averages of 16.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. Both Stith and Caver were first team all-conference selections, and sophomore guard Xavier Green earned a spot on Conference USA’s All-Defensive team.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: ODU has two wins over NCAA tournament teams on its resume, as it beat VCU at home in late-November and picked up a win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in mid-December. As for “bad” losses, the Monarchs dropped a neutral site game to Northern Iowa on November 19 (they avenged that loss with a home win over UNI four days later) and a road game at Saint Joseph’s November 9. ODU is 11-6 in Quadrant 3 games this season.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Old Dominion is ranked tenth in field goal percentage defense (39.2%) and seventh in two-point percentage defense (43.5%). The Monarchs aren’t the best offensive team however, as the team is shooting just 41.1% from the field overall and 44.6% inside of the arc, and its average of 66.3 points per game ranks 314th nationally. Old Dominion is also ranked 326th in adjusted tempo, so don’t expect to see this group attempting to get in a “track meet” next week.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: If you followed Virginia basketball at all during the 1990’s then a couple names should be familiar. Jones, who played at UVA for Terry Holland and is one of the school’s all-time assist leaders, served as an assistant at the school from 1982-90 before taking over as head coach following Holland’s retirement. Among Jones’ players during his eight seasons at head coach at Virginia was Bryant Stith, who’s now an assistant on his staff at ODU.

Jones’ story also has emotional pull, as in 2015 he underwent treatment for prostate cancer, and in September he announced that the disease had returned.