Matt’s Stats: How Does WKU Beat ODU to Win C-USA?
A quicker version this time, Matt’s Stats is simple.
I take a burning question, a topic, or in this case, a conference tournament on the horizon, and I use stats to help me figure out the answer.
In this case, how does WKU beat Old Dominion to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013?
Western Kentucky Postseason History
- 23 NCAA Tournaments
- 19–24 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- Seven Sweet 16s
- 1971 Final Four
- 33 Conference Tournament Championships
- Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2013
Old Dominion Postseason History
- 11 NCAA Tournaments
- 3–11 all-time in NCAA Tournament
- Sweet 16: Never
- Nine Conference Tournament Championships
- Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2011
Western Kentucky Season Stats
- 20–13 (11–7 C-USA)
- 71.9 PPG
- 69.5 PPG Allowed
- Leading Scorer(s): Taveion Hollingsworth and Charles Bassey (14.6 PPG)
Old Dominion Season Stats
- 24–8 (13–5 C-USA)
- 66.5 PPG
- 61.1 PPG Allowed
- Leading Scorer: B.J. Stith (17.1 PPG)
How to Beat Old Dominion
First, this is no easy task. Old Dominion has beaten WKU twice on its home floor. Due to the C-USA’s brand new pod system, WKU played ODU once in round robin play, and as the two seed in the pod to Old Dominion’s one, ODU got to take on the Tops in Norfolk a second time.
In the first match-up, WKU started with a 21–0 cushion, only to get outscored 69–45 the rest of the way in a 69–66 loss. This was certainly more than a legendary meltdown, and most of the damage was completed by halftime.
In the second game, Old Dominion was much more in control. In this version, WKU took the lead in the second half for a few moments, before melting down and allowing ODU to win by four.
Both games were ultimately extremely even, and both teams would argue they really deserved to win. Old Dominion actually did, but WKU had a lead with 1:30 left in the second game, and 21 point lead in the first meeting.
WKU Keys to the Game
- Hold B.J. Stith, Ahmad Caver, and Xavier Green under 50 points total. Those three are the most dangerous, streaky weapons Old Dominion has. They have been held under that both of the other games, but WKU has much more firepower combined with defensive ability. Combined, those three average 43 points per game. It’s very difficult to hold those guys at bay and lose against ODU. Just don’t let them run wild.
- Don’t get scared of or enamored with three point shots. WKU has a tendency to stand around, particularly against ODU. Western must have a flow to the game, so if there’s an open shot, take it. If you can run, run. If you can drive, drive. If WKU takes its opportunities with Hollingsworth, Bassey, and Anderson, all other parts of WKU should fire along with it.
- Marek Nelson was not available for either of these games against Old Dominion. Watch for a good game from Nelson to possibly make the difference for the Tops. Perhaps he could guard Xavier Green, or WKU could show some 1–3–1 because of his athletic ability.
- Bench play in general needs to score double digits. Whoever it is, be it Ohmer, Diagne, Smith, or whoever else, Old Dominion kept WKU’s bench from scoring double digits combined in the previous two games.
- Score 70 points. If the Tops get to 70, it’s difficult to see ODU competing offensively. Old Dominion is 3–4 (21–4 otherwise) when allowing 70+ points on the year. They would be extremely uncomfortable playing at this pace, and of those three wins, none were against a team that finished higher than seventh in its respective conference (at FIU 75–74).
- Play defense on par with Old Dominion or better. WKU has played lights out defense for 70 of 80 minutes in the C-USA Tournament. If WKU wants to dance, it better at least show up on this side of the ball, but if it plays like it did against North Texas, WKU might win by double digits.
- Win three of the six above. Imagine if WKU holds Old Dominion’s best scorers around their average, or even a little above, WKU has good offensive flow, and has production from the bench. How could WKU lose that game? Or if Old Dominion allows 70 points, Marek Nelson is a difference maker, and the Tops play great team defense?
Regardless, Old Dominion is different than all other Conference USA opponents. No other team swept WKU, and no other team prevents serious concerns on offense and defense in quite the way Old Dominion does. This should be one heck of a game, but WKU better play well, or Old Dominion is very likely to be dancing next week.
I believe the Tops come out and play well and seize this opportunity. Despite previous results, WKU did not play well against the Monarchs yet. They’re due on several different levels. None of the following happened for WKU in the first two outings: Jared Savage double digits, Charles Bassey with less than five turnovers, bench scoring more than four points, committing less than 13 turnovers, or hitting more than five threes. All of those are well outside of the WKU norm. Are we to believe that WKU reverse a few of those issues and is not now favored to win?
WKU is going to show up and win with relative ease, controlling this game basically from start to finish, winning 75–66.