Team preview: Old Dominion

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

For the first time in three years, expectations for Old Dominion slide toward the murky side.

In 2005, the Monarchs were chosen as the CAA's preseason team to beat and responded with a 28-win, league championship season. Because it was losing just one starter and returned the conference player of the year in Alex Loughton, ODU was again tabbed as last season's top team.

However 2005-06 would be a season filled with injury, tragedy, and malady. Everything that had gone right the previous season didn't as the Monarchs were forced to overcome season-long, nagging injuries to their two best players, Loughton and fast-forward guard Isaiah Hunter. What's more, top reserve guard Brandon Johnson missed time after he was shot in the shoulder in late January. Even head coach Blaine Taylor beat an early season illness.

Despite the challenges, ODU managed 13 conference wins and a fourth-place finish in the CAA. After dropping out in the conference tournament quarterfinals to Northeastern, the Monarchs were able to reach deep and find the resolve to win their way through the NIT and earn a trip to Madison Square Garden. The season ended with a loss to
Michigan in the semifinals, and it was a loss chock full of good, bad, and ugly irony.

The good: Sophomore Jonathan Adams (1.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg) emerged as a force. The 6-6 Adams grabbed seven rebounds in two of the Monarchs' four NIT victories, but more importantly showed hustle and leadership qualities far greater than most freshmen. The bad: Senior leader Alex Loughton could barely walk because of an injured lower back and ODU was not playing anywhere near full strength. The ugly: Senior and an important cog in Taylor's machine, 6-7 Arnaud Dahi (11.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg), suffered a torn ACL injury and spent the off-season rehabbing his knee.

All of the tumult, along with the graduation of the two instrumental leaders, leads ODU to an unfamiliar precipice: what are the expectations of this club?

"We were picked to finish first the past two years," Taylor said. "We were thought to be good and were able to win in those shoes. This group wants to prove our program is on that kind of solid footing."