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Monarch Basketball Insider No. 30- One more Day

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: March 15, 2011
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March 15, 2011

Monarch Basketball Insider #30 -- One more day! I don't know about you Monarch fans, but I'm pretty excited

Brendan O'Hallarn

Monarch Basketball Insider

The team left yesterday afternoon for Washington, and their Thursday lunch "date" with the Butler Bulldogs. I'm leaving this morning, taking three days off to enjoy Washington, D.C. -- and the games -- with my wife.

The team went through a final, crisp workout Tuesday afternoon in the practice gym. During the two-hour, high-energy practice, Coach Blaine Taylor hollered out instructions, warning of tendencies to avoid when the Monarchs play a talented, intelligent foe in Butler.

After practice, I related a story to Taylor about reading a piece of analysis that suggested basketball coaches watch the Butler-ODU game to see a coaching clinic between him and Butler coach Brad Stevens.

Taylor said he has a lot of respect for Stevens. For one thing, the coach of a mid-major program like Butler, or Old Dominion, needs to do a lot of things well to succeed consistently.

"If you look at the Crieghtons and the Gonzagas, and some of the people that have been there, I think typically those programs have to pay a little more attention to detail," Taylor said. "Sometimes talent can outshine mistakes, the developmental aspect of players, the strategic elements you employ. I'm not saying there's more coaching going on there, because it's not that. But you have to do a pretty good job of making sure of a lot of things, because if you succeed but don't continue to have that level of success, people think you're a one-hit wonder."

I talked with Ben Finney after practice as well. He's thrilled that his mom Desiree (you've heard her high-pitched encouragement at ODU home games) will be able to travel to Washington to see him play in the Tournament for the first time. Last year in New Orleans, she had to watch on television.

Ben said he tries not to think about the fact that each time he takes the court from now on, it could be the final game of his college career. "It is emotional, but I try to approach every game the same way. That's how I play. Butler was in the national championship last year. I'm looking forward to playing them."

Two very interested observers weighed in with good wishes for the Monarchs before their big game tomorrow with Butler.

Last year's seniors Gerald Lee and Marsharee Neely are avidly following the Monarchs still - Lee from his Italian Second Division team in Udine, Italy; Neely from his home in Greensboro, N.C.

At this time last year, they were doing exactly what Old Dominion's four seniors are doing right now - preparing to take the court in the first game of the NCAA Tournament, knowing that a loss ends their college playing career.

The two former Monarchs were on the court when ODU played Butler the last time in the Tournament, losing in 2007 in Buffalo.

I sent emails to both of them, asking if they could provide a little encouragement to their former teammates. Lee responded almost instantly, and said he doesn't need to say a thing.

"I don't think that I need to send them a motivational note about anything. Trust me, Coach Taylor will have that issue handled," Lee wrote. He said he'll be following the game online.

Last year's team upset Notre Dame, and gave Baylor everything it could handle before losing in Round 2. Lee thinks this year's team could do even better. "The guys are playing so well that I think they could go to the Final Four, if not further!"

Neely said he was so thrilled to see the team win back-to-back CAA championships, something he told me all last season was the team's big goal - win the conference before worrying about any NCAA Tournament glory.

"I'm extremely excited for the boys. I mean first we win the CAA two years in a row (which hadn't been done since Brett Blizzard and the 2000 UNCW team) then we go to the NCAA Tourney two years n a row," Neely wrote.

"With the talent and basketball knowledge we have from all the returning players I have a strong feeling they will make a even deeper run in the NCAA race than last year. ODU is one of the top mid-major teams, still rising, trying to gain the respect of higher Division 1 teams. It's time to shock the world!!!!!!! LET'S GO MONARCHS!!!!!"

Once a Monarch, always a Monarch. We miss you guys.

Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in University Relations, writes Monarch Basketball Insider for ODU Athletics. Look for Brendan's blog posts on the ODUsports.com website. During the Tournament, he'll also be posting entries at http://monarchbasketballinsider.blogspot.com/. To contact Brendan, email him at pjaarm@gmail.com, or on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/#!/White__Knuckles.

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