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2019 NCAA Tournament Round 1: Purdue vs. Old Dominion Preview

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The champions from Conference USA have a pair of dynamic guards.

NCAA Basketball: Old Dominion at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I have to admit that the last few years of the NCAA Tournament have kind of broken me as a Purdue fan. I even wrote about it last year. As a fan, you build to this moment for months. The perception of your program rides on these games in March, and Purdue has seen nothing by heartbreak for almost 40 years now. In the last four years alone we have seen a pair of losses in overtime after a late collapse in regulation, a full-fledged butt-whipping at the hands of Kansas in the final 18 minutes of the game, and a critical injury to an irreplaceable player at the worst time.

But there is always hope.

Every year represents yet another chance to erase all those bad memories. In our on bracket we have Virginia, a team that suffered the most humiliating loss in NCAA history, but they are in a great spot to redeem themselves just a year later. George Mason, Butler, VCU, Wichita State, and Loyola (IL) have all come from nowhere in recent years to reach Final Fours. They got there because they simply had a chance and it all worked out.

On Thursday Purdue gets to take its latest chance.

Old Dominion Monarchs

From: Norfolk, Virginia

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2018

Tip Time: 9:45pm ET

Location: Hartford, CT

Arena: United Center (16,294)

Television: TBS

Online: March Madness On Demand

Radio: Purdue Radio Network

SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)

Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats

Odds: Purdue by 13.5

KenPom: 112

NET: 100

2017-18 Record: 25-7, 15-3 Conference USA (

2018-19 Record: 26-8, 13-5 Conference USA

Opponent Blog: None

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 2-0

Last Old Dominion Win: None

Last Purdue Win: 61-31 in Hall of Fame TipOff Classic at Uncasville, NY on 11/21/2015

NCAA Tournament History: 12 appearances, last in 2011. Reach Round 2 three times.

Coach: Jeff Jones (140-66 in 6th season at Old Dominion. 497-353 overall)

ODU head coach Jeff Jones is one of the feel good stories of the tournament. In September he announced that he had a recurrence of prostate cancer after previously battling it in 2015. He has coached all season while undergoing treatment and he now has Old Dominion in the tournament for the first time in eight years. ODU is the third different school he has taken to the NCAAs after he took Virginia five times (including an Elite 8 in 1995) and American twice. At Old Dominion he has taken teams to the CBI, NIT, and the one-year only Vegas 16. ODU won the Vegas 16 during its only year of existence in 2016.

This year ODU got off to a slow start. They started 2-3 after a loss to St. Joseph’s and losses to Oregon State and Northern Iowa in the Paradise Jam. They do have a couple of very good wins, however. They beat VCU by 10 and went to the Carrier Dome and won 68-62 over Syracuse.

The Monarch won Conference USA by two full games and were pushed in the conference tournament, but won their three games by 8 total points. All told, they played a single game against Quad 1 (the win at Syracuse) and were 2-2 vs. Quad 2 (beating VCU and winning at UAB). SBNation’s College Basketball mothership had them as a potential Cinderella for the following reasons:

Don’t sleep on the Monarchs. Old Dominion went into the Carrier Dome and handed Syracuse a 68-62 loss back in December, less than a month after knocking off VCU. They squeaked through the C-USA tournament with a one-point win, a two-point win, and a six-point win. ODU faces Purdue in the first round, then could see Villanova.

Keep an eye out for B.J. Stith, the C-USA Player of the Year, who leads the team in scoring with 16.9 points per game. If you recognize the name, it’s because he’s the son of Virginia legend Bryant Stith (and actually transferred to ODU from UVA ... a lot of Virginia ties). Ahmad Caver has also been phenomenal with 16.5 points per game, although he’s a volume shooter (38 percent from the field, 30 percent from three).

ODU coach Jeff Jones previously coached at American and the University of Virginia (his alma mater). He was an assistant under Terry Holland at UVA for eight years before taking over as head coach at the age of 29, making him the youngest head coach in ACC history. Jones has been battling prostate cancer, and making the postseason was a clearly emotional thing for him and the team.

ODU was clearly the best team in their conference, but it was not a great conference as evidenced by their #14 seed. They even have a few players left over from our last meeting during the 2015-16 season. Stith, the C-USA Player of the Year was out for the year and did not play against us. Ahmed Caver played 14 minutes against us and scored two points. He has blossomed into an excellent senior guard that averages 16.5 points and 5.6 assists per game.

Xavier Green is a third guard to watch out for. He averages 9.7 points per game (third on the team), but hits threes at a 41.7% clip. This is a very guard-oriented team with Marquis Godwin averaging 7.2 points per game. Justin Kitchart also shoots 41.2% from three of the bench.

In terms of size Elbert Robinson III is a graduate transfer from LSU as a 7’1” center, but he only averages 2.3 points per game in 9 minutes per game. Dajour Dickens, a 7-foot center, also plays 16.8 minutes per game and averages 3.3 points per game and 3.6 rebounds. They are the only two players over 6’8”, but they have enough size to pressure Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams inside.

The Monarchs struggle to score outside of Stith, Caver, Green, and Godwin. They are also not a great shooting team at 41.1% from the floor, but they shoot 35.3% from three. They are 216th on KenPom in adjusted offense compared to Purdue’s #5 but 48th in adjusted defense.

On paper, Purdue should have an easy time. Vegas even thinks we’re a 13.5 favorite already. The Monarch have two dynamic guards though. Nojel Eastern can take one away, but this is the NCAA Tournament. Weird things can happen. A 14 seed has beaten a 3 seed 21 times, last in 2016 when Stephen F. Austin beat West Virginia. Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, and Indiana are Big Ten teams that have felt this bite, too. It is not a complete mismatch like last year’s game vs. Cal State Fullerton was. They are worse than the same Notre Dame team that beat us, but we need to be ready. Purdue was sharp against Ohio State, but shaky in both Minnesota games of late.