Old Dominion

COACH: Blaine Taylor (12th season at ODU, 237-124; 19th season overall, 378-190).

OPENER: Nov. 9 vs. Holy Cross.

5 GAMES TO WATCH: Dec. 7 vs. VCU; Dec. 22 vs. Virginia (Richmond); Jan. 2 vs. JMU; Feb. 4 vs. George Mason; Feb. 28 vs. Drexel.

STRENGTH: Potential. The Monarchs have had beaucoup turnover in the past two seasons and will field different, and different kinds of, lineups, with an emphasis on young. Junior Donte Hill is productive and appears to be a leader. Senior transfer DeShawn Painter is an ACC-caliber talent. Nick Wright and Richard Ross have been in the spotlight. Roles will evolve.

WEAKNESS: Inexperience. Seven new players and two sophomores will translate to some dyspeptic and disjointed moments for a program used to continuity and competing for the conference title. Mistakes and inconsistency are inevitable, but there's enough talent and energy to compensate. As usual, perimeter scoring and jump shooting will be key.

PREDICTION: It's hard not to see the Monarchs taking a dip from the program that's won at least 22 games each of the past four seasons. Still, Taylor's teams always improve. They'll be better in February than November.

Dave Fairbank