NORFOLK, Va. - When the Conference USA preseason poll was released, only two teams were projected to finish higher than Old Dominion in the league standings. Those two teams? Marshall and Western Kentucky.
This weekend, ODU opens conference play with two quality opponents. Those two teams? Marshall and Western Kentucky.
The Monarchs enter Thursday’s contest vs. Marshall, the defending C-USA champion, on an eight-game win-streak. ODU's last loss came on Nov. 19. Old Dominion is a perfect 7-and-0 at home this season, but senior captain Ahmad Caver says none of that matters anymore.
"We haven't done anything yet," Caver told News 3. "10 wins in non-conference is a good accomplishment, but the real time is now. Here in conference, we'll figure out if we're really for real - if our team is willing to compete at both ends, every game."
"Even if people pick us to be the underdog, we'll take it," senior captain B.J. Stith said about the opportunity to face the two teams picked ahead of the Monarchs in the preseason poll. "We'll prove we are not the underdog. It gives us more fight, more grit and an edge to us."
The Monarchs rank second in the nation for holding teams to 35.2% shooting from the floor for the season. Old Dominion’s defense also ranks fourth in the country for scoring defense, allowing just 56.5 points per game. ODU turns the ball over just 10.8 times per game, which ranks 29th in the country.
The Herd won the C-USA Tournament last season and won its first-round NCAA matchup against No. 4 seeded Wichita State. Marshall is led by the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, Jon Elmore, who is averaging 19.2 points per game, followed by teammate C.J. Burks, who is going for 17.5 ppg. The Herd enters Thursday night’s contest with a 7-and-6 overall record, while averaging 80.6 points per outing.
“Our fans have a reputation of being very supportive,” ODU head coach Jeff Jones said. “You throw in the fact that these are our first conference games and they were picked ahead of us, we really need our fans to come out in full force to support this team. Let’s make it the best environment in Conference USA by a mile. Let’s help these young guys so that while they’re playing this really difficult schedule, we can get every possible win towards fighting to be in the NCAA tournament.”
Tip-off between ODU and Marshall is set for 7:00 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. The Monarchs host Western Kentucky Saturday at 7:00 p.m.