SCOUTING THE MONARCHS
It's another shortish, guard-oriented lineup opposing the Mountaineers, as Old Dominion is expected to start three guards and two forwards on Tuesday night against WVU. With no one standing taller than 6-7 getting appreciable minues, ODU has still managed a three-rebounds per game edge in its first five contests, and features three solid inside scorers who have been very efficient.
ODU gets the bulk of its outside shooting from starter Aaron Bacote (G, So., 6-4) and backup Jordan Baker (G, Fr., 6-2). Bacote has made 52.4% of his tries from three point range, while Baker, who gets more than 20 minutes of action per contest off the bench, nearly equals that mark at 47.6%. Bacote also mixes ballhandling duties into his assignments, and has achieved a nice balance, averaging 21.6 points per game while leading the team with five assists per outing. He also gets to the rim, scoring 24 times in side the three-point line and averaging seven free throw attempts per game.
Fellow backcourt starters Keenan Palmore (G, So., 6-1) and Dimitri Batten (G, Jr., 6-3) are also dependable scorers, averaging 10.2 and 12.2 points per contest. Palmore is the much better percentage shooter, but doesn't range outside to shoot, as he hasn't attempted a three this year. That will affect WVU's defensive rotation, as it will shade the covarge toward Bacote and Baker at the three-point line. It can't afford, though to neglect Palmore at closer range.
Richard Ross (F, Jr., 6-6) is the primary offensive threat in the frontcourt, but also gets it done on the boards, averaging 11.4 points and 8.0 boards per game. He has almost as many offensive rebounds as defensive grabs. Denzell Taylor (F, Fr., 6-7) is primarily a rebounder and scorer off the glass. He gets 7.4 rebounds per game and adds a couple of hoops per contest.
Joe Ebondo and Ambrose Mosley also see significant time off the bench. Mosely looks to hit the three, with 13 of his 18 attempts coming behind the arc, while Ebondo is the primary sub up front. He gathers 5.4 rebounds per game in just 18 minutes of action -- an impressive rate that should eventually pay off in more stickbacks and points.
ODU and WVU share similar early season profiles - both are 4-1, but buried in the nether regions of the RPI. Both should improve in that area, especially the Mountaineers, as the season progresses, but a loss in this game will certainly sting come tournament time.
6:00 PM E
Hard Rock Hotel
Puerto Aventuras, Mex.
WVU 4-1, 0-0
ODU 4-1, 0-0
CBS Sports Net
WVU - 216
ODU - 280
The comparison holds a bit more weight than most non-conference match-ups, because WVU and ODU have each faced Presbyterian and Georgia Southern in the past week, making the strength of opposition a bit more similar than in most early season games. Each handled those foes easily, although WVU did pile up a bigger final margin of victory.
It's no secret that WVU is shooting the ball better this year, and that's also borne out in another advanced metric: True Shooting Percentage. TSP includes all shots, both from the field and free throw line, and gives a more balanced picture of how a team is doing from everywhere on the court, and also factors in the more difficult nature of three-pointers. So far, West Virginia is 31st in the country with a 60.3% TSP, while ODU is 254th at 51.3%. If those rates hold, WVU will come out with a win.
Of course, these are overall ratings and percentages, and don't necessarily reflect what will happen in any one game. Another factor to watch here is the adjustment of both teams to the ballroom facility at the Hard Rock Hotel, where the game will be played. How will the low ceilings, the temporary floor and the different lighting affect each squad? Those that are able to make those adjustments will have an early leg up in the contest.
Finally, which team will be ready to play? WVU head coach Bob Huggins noted that Juwan Staten made an early statement about the "business trip" facing the Mountaineers, and given his increased leadership role this year, that should carry some weight. Still, it has to be tough for any college student to transition from time on the beach in great weather to the gym, and also to keep the upcoming games in mind. Again, the squad that does that most successfully will be heading to the championship contest on Wednesday.
Old Dominion was first established as a branch of William & Mary in 1930. It became independent in 1962. After facing this spin-off, West Virginia will play the parent next month in its final game of 2013.
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This weeks' games mark the first time the Mountaineers have ever played regular season contests outside the U.S. or Puerto Rico, which is a commonwealth of the U.S. The Mountaineers have played in 39 states overall.
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The Big 12 is now 6-0 all-time in the Cancun Challenge.
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WVU holds a 107-68 record in in-season tournament games. The Mountaineers last won a title during such an event in the 2009 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.
The advent of owned, for-profit tournaments has meant the death of hosted tournaments conducted by a school entirely on its own court. WVU held several such events in the 1970s and 80s, recording a 15-3 all-time record in those games. West Virginia was 11-3 in the Mountaineer Classic in Morgantown, and 4-0 in the West Virginia Classic in Charleston.