Cox's Corner: Men's Basketball Season Promises Plenty Of Excitement
BRIDGEWATER, Va. – When the ODAC preseason poll was released earlier this year, I feel certain several ODAC coaches were a little puzzled by the predicted order of finish.
Bridgewater’s Don Burgess, Roanoke’s Page Moir and Emory & Henry’s Paul Russo had their teams tied for ninth in the preseason rankings and none expects to finish that low. W&L was picked eight and Lynchburg was seventh. Both may have the talent to be better than that prognosis..
The reality is, however, if someone is going to move up, then someone else is going to have to move down.
When looking at the early-season results, picks 1, 2 and 3 in the preseason poll look to be pretty solid. Trying to differentiate between teams four through eight is a tough task.
Let’s take a look at how the teams are doing thus far along with a brief scouting report on each. The teams are listed in the order they were ranked in the preseason poll.
Virginia Wesleyan – The Marlins were the clear-cut choice for No. 1 in the conference and they are currently3-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. Wesleyan returns ODAC Player of the Year DJ Woodmore and All-ODAC second team pick Chris Astorga. Woodmore is averaging 16 points and Astorga is scoring 14.0 points per game this season. The Marlins also have an experienced third-scoring option with senior Chris Teasley who is averaging just under 13 points per contest. As usual, the Marlins are talented and athletic and Coach Dave Macedo has a knack for getting his team to play hard at both ends of the court.
Hampden-Sydney – The Tigers are 3-1 and considered by some to have the most talent in the conference. HS-C returns Player of the Year candidate Harrison George and Khobi Williamson, one of the best big men in the ODAC. Those two along with Cam Anderson give the Tigers one of the most talented front lines in the region. Through four games, the trio has combined to average 40 points and 12 rebounds per game. In the backcourt, sophomore Leon Hargrove and freshman Mike Murray are handling the point with big guard Sasha Obradovic playing at the other guard spot. The Tigers also have plenty of depth with seasoned veterans like seniors Patrick Corrigan and Fletcher Lumpkin coming off the bench.
Randolph-Macon - Don't worry about the Yellow Jackets 1-3 start. The team lost to three quality teams to start the season and should be fine as the season progresses. The Jackets lost to Transylvania and St. Mary's, both preseason Top 25 teams, and CNU, the preseason favorite in USA South. They have an all-conference forward returning in Lamar Giggetts who averaged 12.3 points per game a year ago. Sophomore guards Marcus Badger and Connor Sullivan saw plenty of meaningful playing time in their first year in the program. Sullivan is the team's leading scorer after four games this season with a 13.7 average. Junior Andre Simon averaged more than 11 points last year and senior Dylan Cole gives the Jackets a presence down low.
Guilford – The Quakers have a go-to guy with senior guard Josh Pittman, a first-team All-ODAC pick a year ago. Pittman’s one of the best 3-point threats in the ODAC. Guilford also has a solid second option with sophomore forward Will Freeman. Freeman averaged 9.3 points a year ago and is scoring in double figures early this season. Matt McCarthy, another sophomore, played meaningful minutes as a freshman and is averaging double figures through the first three games this year. The rest of the roster is either young or relatively untested. Guilford has won two of its first three games.
Randolph – The WildCats, Bridgewater's Wednesday night opponent, are another team with a definite go-to player in senior guard Colton Hunt who is averaging 25 points per game this season. Hunt was a first-team All-ODAC pick a year ago. He is tough to contain because he is a deadly 3-point shooter, but he can also take his defender off the dribble. Randolph has another quality guard in junior Mike Ehilegbu and a solid big man in Chris Battaglia. Both are averaging in double figures. The remainder of the roster consists of freshmen getting their first taste of ODAC play. The WildCats are off to an impressive 3-0 start to the season.
Eastern Mennonite – The Royals, 4-0 to start the season, are athletic, experienced and deep. EMU returns four starters from a year ago and senior Andrew Thorne has emerged as the team’s go-to player early in the season as he is averaging 19 points per game. Three more starters from a year ago also return for EMU. The backcourt is the same with Dajon Daniel at the point and R.J. Sims (12.3 ppg) at the shooting guard spot. Big man Owen Longacre returns to patrol the middle while transfer Dorian Valentine completes the starting five. There's quality and experience coming off the bench with players like David Falk, James Williams and Ryan Yates.
Lynchburg – The Hornets lost leading scorer Nathan Campbell, but return three starters and a boatload of quality reserves. Austin Chillemi, a third-team All-ODAC pick a year ago, gives Lynchburg one of the best post players in the league. Backcourt mates Xavier Parham and Brendan Connor are back and Manny Hernandez can fill it up from outside. Seniors Michael Wims and Michael Glover also return to the rotation. Lynchburg is 4-0 and averaging more than 90 points per game.
Washington and Lee – The Generals, 3-1 to start the season, are another team with a lot of experience returning. J.D. Ey, a second-team All-ODAC pick last year, is a quality big man who can score. Javon McDonald is a talented points guard who can score and Kevin Gill is a quality long-range shooter. The Generals have four players averaging double figures this season led by Gill with 13.2 points per game and Ey with 13 per game. McDonald is scoring 12.2 points and fellow sophomore guard Clay McLean comes off the bench to average 10.8 points. The Generals opened their conference schedule with a solid road victory at Shenandoah.
Bridgewater - The Eagles are off to a 3-1 start and have won three straight after a season-opening loss to Ferrum. The Eagles are deep, balanced and athletic. They are also young, but they are experienced. Bryan Lynch is the only one senior on the team and he transferred in to BC for his senior season. There is plenty of game experience as at least 10 of the returning players saw plenty of action a year ago. Junior guard Ronnie Thomas is a solid all-around player and has played well this season. Sophs Aaron Adams and Ed Reddick lead the team in scoring so far. Both are talented, but consistency will be the key from these two. Inside players Daniel McClain and David Larson are back after injury plagued sophomore seasons. The Eagles have shown flashes of being very good. If they can play hard and smart for 40 minutes, they have a chance to be a good basketball team.
Emory & Henry – The Wasps are off to a slow start at 0-3, but they return a solid inside-outside tandem in Armando Murrell and Malcolm Greene. Greene is averaging 13.0 points and Murrell checks in at 9.3 points per game so far this season. Tyler Mullins also returns to the starting lineup and fellow juniors Stephen Brown and Charles Smith give Coach Russo experienced depth. First-year player Myles Turner has cracked the starting lineup and is averaging 12 points per game over the first three games of the season.
Roanoke – The Maroons have one of the most dynamic scorers in the conference in senior Kwasi Amponsah. Amponsah led the ODAC in scoring last year with 18.4 points per game and this year is scoring at a 22.8 clip over the first four games. Head coach Page Moir also has a big man in 6-8 sophomore Daniel Eacho. Eacho came on strong toward the end of his freshman year and should develop into a quality big man in the ODAC. He is averaging 10.0 points per game this season. Roanoke is also receiving production off the bench with sophomore Andrew Daniels averaging double figures. The Maroons also have depth at the point with freshman Cameron Smith and junior Ethan Humphries.
Shenandoah – These Hornets are the unknown as they embark on their first season in the ODAC. Head coach Rob Pryor probably expected his team to be picked at the bottom of the conference after a tough season a year ago in the USA South. The Hornets are 2-4, but have a nice win over Mary Washington. Shenandoah also gave W&L all it could handle in its first ODAC encounter, losing to the Generals 68-63. The Hornets are starting a pair of freshmen and one, Sharif Almulla, leads the team in scoring with a 107 scoring average.
Would you like to predict the order of finish this season. Good luck.
Spots four through 12 in the standings could be up for grabs. Each of those teams have holes, but each also has a strength they can rely on. For teams like Randolph, Guilford and Roanoke they have a proven go-to player to depend on. Teams like EMU, Bridgewater, Lynchburg, W&L and E&H have enough experience and talent to be dangerous as the season progresses.
There will be some surprises and it all begins to unfold this week as conference play swings into gear.