ODU Athletics

Minium: Dear Coaches who Vote in USA Today Top 25, Please do Your Homework on ODU and Conference USA

February 19, 2019
By ODU Athletics

By Harry Minium

Polls are just an amalgam of opinions, and everyone is entitled to their own, even if they’re dead wrong as are some of the 32 coaches who vote in the USA Today College Basketball Top 25.

You would think that every coach would take the rather awesome responsibility of participating a national poll seriously. Even if they don’t do the work themselves, they should at least ask a sports information person or a graduate assistant to do their homework for them.

But you would be wrong. It’s embarrassingly obvious that some coaches know little about Conference USA, or the extraordinarily fine season that Old Dominion is having.

If the poll released Monday extended beyond the Top 40, two Conference USA teams would make it -- North Texas was 28th in voting and Southern Mississippi was tied for 36th.

If you’re an ODU fan, I don’t need to remind you that the Monarchs are first in the Conference USA standings, are by far the top-rated C-USA team in every computer ranking and have a two-game lead over the field with four games to play.

Did I mention how many votes ODU got?

None. Nada. Zilch.

ODU coach Jeff Jones wearing a Columbia blue shirt during the University's Prostate Cancer Awareness Game.

Let’s be clear, the Monarchs don’t deserve to be in anyone’s Top 25. Their schedule is ranked the 232nd-best in the country by Jerry Palm of CBS Sports (UNT’s is 271th).

There are extenuating circumstances in ODU’s case – teams such as Richmond, William and Mary, James Madison and Northern Iowa (who ODU played twice) – aren’t having good seasons. That drags down ODU’s schedule rating.

But ODU is 21-6, has won 19 of its last 22 games and 10 of its last 11.

ODU would have a 16-game winning streak had the Monarchs not blown an 18-point lead at Texas-San Antonio, and missed three shots in the last nine seconds, in a 74-73 loss to the Roadrunners.

If any C-USA team deserves votes, it’s ODU.

Southern Miss (17-9) has been playing well as of late, after early season losses to North Florida and William Carey. Southern Miss has won six in a row, but I watched the Monarchs absolutely crush Southern Miss, 76-62, last month.

And North Texas? The Mean Green are 20-7, but have lost three in a row and six of their last ten games, including a 72-61 smackdown to ODU in Norfolk.

Somehow, after dropping 10-point losses at FIU and FAU last week, UNT managed to move up several spots among those receiving votes.

UNT didn’t even make first division in C-USA’s bonus play, in which the top five teams will play a round-robin schedule the last two weeks to determine the league regular-season champion.

This slight may seem like a small thing to Power 5 coaches, players and fans who are accustomed to Top 25 mention. But it means a lot to mid-majors, who strive for national recognition with the deck stacked against them.

Power 5 schools rarely go on the road to play mid majors and have so much more money and TV and media exposure that schools such as ODU struggle to compete.

Earlier this season, ODU rallied and upset No. 25 Syracuse on the road, then rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat VCU, which is in the Atlantic 10, arguably among the power conferences of college basketball.

Jason Wade is one of several freshmen who have stepped up in a big way for ODU this season. 

The Monarchs are but a half dozen or so missed jump shots from a 24-2 record.

And I saved the absolute best for last – the team is coached by Jeff Jones, who is eight games away from his 500th victory and has shown incredible courage and perseverance this season.

After having surgery for prostate cancer a few years ago, he announced in October that the cancer had recurred. It’s being controlled with medication. Yet, as a prostate cancer survivor, I can tell you the meds he’s taking take a toll on you.

Even so, he has coached harder and with more heart and passion than I’ve ever seen, and I saw him coach a lot of games when he was at the University of Virginia. He’s clearly the leader, at this point, for C-USA coach of the year honors.

Jeff Jones announces prostate cancer has returned.

Jones lost two very good starters from last season in Brandan Stith and Randy Haynes. Then Jones learned that Trey Porter, ODU’s best big man, was transferring to Nevada.

Jones has two outstanding seniors in B.J. Stith and Ahmad Caver, but has relied for a ton of playing time from freshmen and transfers. The slow start – ODU lost three of its first five games – was to be expected.

Winning 19 of your next 22 wasn’t. ODU was picked to finish third in C-USA.

It’s not as if coaches don’t know Jones. Three years ago, he served as head of National Association of Basketball Coaches, and served the NABC in various capacities for more than a decade.

This slight means nothing to Jeff. All he wants to do is win and get to the NCAA tournament. Rankings never mattered much to him.

But it matters to ODU fans, who boiled over on Twitter. And I can’t blame them.

Tweet about USA Today Coaches Poll

ODU hosts Western Kentucky Saturday at 1 p.m. and that will be a difficult game to win. WKU is just 16-11 but the Hilltoppers have the most talented team in the league. They’ve beaten Arkansas, No. 23 Wisconsin and West Virginia.

They are so talented that coach Rick Stansberry held a Pro Day before the season that attracted more than 20 NBA scouts.

ODU upended the Hilltoppers 69-66 earlier this season after trailing 21-0 in the first half. It was the biggest comeback victory in ODU’s 88 years of basketball

Even if ODU manages to sweep WKU, as I said, the Monarchs don’t deserve to be in the Top 25.

But they deserve some votes, and readers of USA Today deserve better than coaches who just mail it in.

Contact Minium: hminium@odu.edu

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