CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If Marshall's 2014-15 team can pull off what Old Dominion is doing this season, the atmosphere around the program will be a little brighter.
Under first-year coach Jeff Jones, the Monarchs have improved from a dismal 5-25 to their current 13-15, a Division I-leading eight-win improvement with at least four games to go. That upgrade is tied with Missouri State (from 11-22 to 19-10).
Perhaps more impressive is the Monarchs' record in their first year in Conference USA. The former Colonial Athletic Association program is 7-6 in the league, tied for sixth place out of 16 teams.
Tonight, the Thundering Herd takes on the Monarchs at the 8,472-seat Constant Center in Norfolk, Va. Tipoff time is 7 p.m.
Jones, the former Virginia point guard and head coach from 1990-98, came to ODU after winning a program-high 212 games at American from 2000-13. Now 366-302 in 22 seasons, he inherited a sudden mess at a proud program.
"I've known Jeff for a long time," said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. "We followed Jeff at UVA when I was with Coach [Pete] Gillen. He did a great job at American.
"Old Dominion has had as much success and tradition as anybody we've added. They made the change [in conferences] and Jeff will do a good job."
Last season, Blaine Taylor was fired after a 2-20 start, with athletic director Wood Selig saying the decision was not about wins and losses but about "a number of factors by which a head coach is evaluated." ODU officials wouldn't elaborate, but widely circulated videos showed Taylor appearing to be inebriated at one of his shows.
Taylor's downfall wasn't gradual — the Monarchs had won 22 or more games seven of the previous eight seasons.