Salem, Va. – (Courtesy- ODAC press release)
A few things jump out at you when reviewing the 2019-20 ODAC Men's Basketball Preseason Poll. The most telling observation? It is anybody's guess how this season will shake out.
Just five points separate the top-three teams from each and three ties dot one of the most varied men's hoops surveys in recent memory. Defending champion Guilford College tops the chart with 136 points powered by six first place votes from the league's head coaches. Virginia Wesleyan University and Randolph-Macon College are locked in second with 131 markers each. The Marlins secured four top nods, while the Yellow Jackets corralled the remaining three.
Roanoke College stands alone in fourth with 107 tallies, but yet another tie rounds out the top-six as the University of Lynchburg and Washington and Lee University each earned 97 points.
Guilford captured its fourth ODAC title under head coach Tom Palombo in the 2019 conference tournament. The Quakers, playing as the #2 seed, earned a 77-67 quarterfinal triumph over Emory & Henry College before posting a 67-65 victory over Roanoke in the semifinals. The tournament's top seed, Randolph-Macon, played like the nation's then fifth-ranked team with a 79-42 win over Randolph College in the quarterfinals before joining Guilford in the title game with a 65-57 victory over Washington and Lee in the semifinals.
The championship game saw Randolph-Macon sprint to an early advantage, only to see Guilford catch fire and work its way to an 18-11 advantage at the 10-minute mark. By the end of the opening frame, the Quakers owned only a two-point edge heading to the break. The start of the second frame was a bit more methodical before GC went on a 10-3 mini-run to open up a 47-34 lead with just under 11 minutes to play. The Quakers advantage hovered between eight and 13 points until R-MC pulled to within five points with 1:37 to go. That's as close as the Yellow Jackets would get as Guilford closed out the contest to hoist the league trophy and earn the ODAC's bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Guilford was joined by Randolph-Macon in the NCAA Tournament's field of 64 teams, and both were selected to host first and second round pods. Randolph-Macon trounced Morrisville State, 95-70, and then earned a ticket to the sectional round with a 78-60 victory over York College (Pa.). Guilford matched the Yellow Jackets' success, downing Sewanee, 97-59, and then taking care of Wittenberg University, 70-61.
Randolph-Macon travelled to Amherst College to square off with Swarthmore College in the round of 16. R-MC led most of the contest, but a late surge from the Garnet saw Randolph-Macon eliminated via a 58-57 result.
Guilford made a trip west to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for its sectional contest. The Quakers posted a big 80-73 victory over the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) to setup a quarterfinal showdown with the host Titans. Guilford fought back from a 48-38 halftime deficit, pulling to within one point including 80-79 with 0:27 on the game clock, but a UW-Oshkosh layup with 19-seconds to play proved the final score of the game in the Titans' 82-79 win.
Entering the 2019-20 campaign, less than half of last season's All-ODAC honorees return with seven standouts back on ODAC rosters. Virginia Wesleyan leads that list with three all-conference award winners in tow. It begins with 1-of-2 in-conference transfers as former Emory & Henry All-ODAC First Team guard Daniel Spencer is now a Marlin for his senior season. Forward Lamont Steward is a two-time All-ODAC Second Team choice, while forward Tim Fisher further adds to VWU's star power following an All-ODAC Third Team choice last season.
Randolph-Macon's Josh Merkel, the reigning Bob Johnson Coach of the Year, enjoys the return of the playmaker Buzz Anthony. In addition to being the only other returning first teamer, Anthony looks to build upon last season's Kurt Axe Memorial Player of the Year nod.
Guilford and Lynchburg feature second team returners. The Quakers rally around forward Kyler Gregory leading their corps of returning talent, while the Hornets welcome transfer guard Tharon Suggs from Emory & Henry. The remaining all-conference returner dons Bridgewater College colors with guard Dimetri Chambers set to help lead new head coach Steve Enright's squad.
In addition to the all-conference returners, a pair of special award winners are back for the 2019-20 season. Washington and Lee features forward Curtis Mitchell, who earned the first ODAC Defensive Player of the Year award last season. Shenandoah University looks forward to the continued development of the 2019 ODAC Rookie of the Year, guard Jaylen Williams.
The 2019-20 schedule begins with non-conference play on Friday, November 8. The start of conference play is staggered this season, with the first contest slated for Wednesday, November 20. The regular season closes on Saturday, February 22 with tournament play with first round action on Tuesday, February 25. The two first-round winners will join the top six seeds at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va., for the quarterfinals on Friday, February 28. The semifinals and finals will be Saturday, February 29, and Sunday, March 1, also at the Salem Civic Center.
|2019-20 ODAC MEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL|
|(#) Denotes First Place Votes|
|1. Guilford College (6)||136 pts.|
|2. Virginia Wesleyan University (4)||131 pts.|
|2. Randolph-Macon College (3)||131 pts.|
|4. Roanoke College||107 pts.|
|5. University of Lynchburg||97 pts.|
|5. Washington and Lee University||97 pts.|
|7. Eastern Mennonite University||60 pts.|
|8. Randolph College||57 pts.|
|9. Hampden-Sydney College||52 pts.|
|10. Emory & Henry College||40 pts.|
|10. Ferrum College||40 pts.|
|12. Shenandoah University||34 pts.|
|13. Bridgewater College||32 pts|