Don't get Blaine Taylor wrong. He appreciates the votes. He's just not all that concerned with them.
"It's nothing we need to talk about," said Taylor, whose Old Dominion men's basketball team, with five starters back from last year's 25-10 squad, is favored to win the Colonial Athletic Association. "The expectations of our program have grown to this point where we're not really concerned with picks and prognosticators and all that kind of stuff."
Leading the way for the Monarchs is 6-foot-10 senior center Gerald Lee, who averaged a team-best 15.5 points per game and proved he could be a dominant force in the low post. Also back from the ODU team that went 12-6 in the CAA and won the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Tournament are senior forward Ben Finney, junior forward Keyon Carter, junior forward and CIT MVP Frank Hassell, and junior point guard Darius James.
"Gerald is one of the better players in our league, and I like to think that if we matched up anybody nationally, they would see that he's as good as anybody around," Taylor said. "(But) he's not a one-man band."
Add to that experienced mix sophomore forward Kent Bazemore, who averaged 16.3 minutes as a redshirt freshman, and senior guard Marsharee Neely, who contributed seven points in 19.4 minutes.
Throw in sharpshooting sophomore guard Trian Iliadis and a pair of head-turning newcomers in freshman guard Josh Hicks and redshirt freshman forward Nick Wright, and the Monarchs' preseason accolades aren't much of a mystery.
"We know we have pretty good players," Taylor said.
"We know we have a pretty good program. How far we can go remains to be seen, but it's going to be fun to follow on a day-to-day basis, because we do have a lot of potential."
ODU at a glance
Coach: Blaine Taylor.
Last year's record: 25-10, 12-6 CAA.
Games to watch: vs. Bethune-Cookman, 1 p.m. Nov. 15; vs. Missouri, 8:30 p.m. Nov. 27 (South Padre Island Invitational); vs. Delaware, 7 p.m. Dec. 5; at Georgetown, 7 p.m. Dec. 19; at VCU, 4 p.m. Feb. 6.
Players to watch: Gerald Lee (Sr., C, 15.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg); Ben Finney (Sr., F, 9.9 ppg, 6 rpg); Keyon Carter (Jr., F, 7.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Darius James (Jr., G, 6.9 ppg, 4.5 apg); Frank Hassell (Sr., F, 7.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Odds of making NCAA tournament: 2-1.
Our thoughts: ODU advanced to the CAA tournament semifinals last season with a cast of characters that lost only stalwart senior Jonathan Adams, so there's no reason to think the Monarchs can't make another postseason push. It doesn't hurt that Eric Maynor finally graduated from traditional top dog VCU.
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