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A long, strange trip for ODU to play Fresno State
A long, strange trip for ODU to play Fresno State

In the friendly back and forth over which member of the Old Dominion traveling party would be the first to succumb to sleep once the team got airborne Tuesday afternoon, the smart money was on Lamar Barrett.

The Old Dominion assistant coach pulled an all-nighter breaking down video of Fresno State, the Monarchs' opponent tonight in a College Basketball Invitational tournament semifinal game in Fresno, Calif.

"I think he slept about 20 minutes," coach Jeff Jones said.

Actually, it was 15, Barrett said.

It was a long night for all concerned. After beating Radford in a CBI quarterfinal Monday night, the Monarchs didn't learn who or where they'd be playing until about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday.

Kieran Donohue, the special assistant to Jones, began working on arrangements, in conjunction with the tournament's travel agent. Things appeared to be nailed down Tuesday morning. The team was preparing to bus to Dulles Airport, then fly to Fresno, through Denver. Plans changed when it was discovered the flight from Denver was oversold.

"Only a certain number of us could have made it on," Jones said.

Plan B entailed flying out of Norfolk on Tuesday afternoon, connecting via Minneapolis to San Jose and then busing to Fresno. The team was scheduled to arrive at its hotel about 1 a.m. Pacific time. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Pacific - 10 p.m. Eastern.

Call it a different sort of March Madness.

"We're looking at it as an adventure, something the players can remember," Jones said. "You have to have a positive attitude about it."

The CBI rebracketed the tournament after Monday night's games. ODU's other possibility was to travel to Albany, N.Y., to play Siena. Instead, the Saints will host Illinois State.

"There's a variety of reasons and each situation is different," said Ray Cella, a spokesman for the Gazelle Group, the sports marketing firm that runs the tournament. "It comes down to arena availability, travel, the number of games you've hosted. There's a lot of factors involved and we try to do the best we can."

The tournament picks up the travel expenses. ODU spent $85,000 to host opening round and quarterfinal games. Monday night's attendance of 3,486 was about 2,000 more than the Monarchs drew for the win over South Dakota State on March 19.

With a win tonight, ODU could host another game, and possibly two, depending on the opponent. The tournament championship is best-of-three, and is tentatively set for next Monday, Wednesday and Friday, depending on the availability of the arenas.

First, the Monarchs will have to find a way get past Fresno State, playing on little rest and with little prep time after logging roughly 3,000 miles.

When plans changed Tuesday morning, players went to their early classes and then gathered for a quick film session on the Bulldogs, who are 19-16 and have won four of their last five.

A shootaround was scheduled for this morning.

"Not too early," Jones said. "We're going to let the guys sleep as late as we can."

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