Hoops update: still searching for a second SoCon victory

Just a few quick thoughts on the losses to Wofford and Furman:

– The Citadel has a lot of issues to address, both offensively and defensively, but one noticeable problem the Bulldogs have had, particularly over the last three games, is a tendency to commit a ridiculous number of first-half turnovers. The Citadel has averaged over 11 turnovers in the first half in those three games. The Bulldogs have taken care of the basketball in the second half in two of those games, but to win consistently (or at all) they must cut down on turnovers throughout the game.

If The Citadel had not committed 12 first-half turnovers against Wofford, the Bulldogs likely would have had a decent lead at the break instead of being tied at 21. Against Furman, ten TOs in the opening stanza led to a deficit that the Bulldogs could never quite overcome.

The Citadel had 12 first-half turnovers against Georgia Southern in a game the Bulldogs lost in double overtime; in the second half and two overtime periods in that contest, The Citadel only committed seven turnovers. Just cutting down on a few of the first-half miscues would have resulted in a victory for the Bulldogs.

You just can’t throw away possessions like that. Against Furman, the Bulldogs shot the ball very well in the first half (53% FG), actually got to the foul line and made a good percentage of their free throws (9-12)…and still trailed by six points at intermission because 29% of The Citadel’s possessions ended in a turnover.

Against Wofford, 37.5% of The Citadel’s first-half possessions ended in a turnover.

Admittedly, none of this is news to the Bulldogs. As Mike Groselle said after the Wofford loss:

We’re really close, and everyone on the team knows it. It’s up to us to be more solid with the ball. That’s going to be the difference in winning and losing these games.

– Groselle is continuing to put together what is by anyone’s definition an outstanding season, despite The Citadel’s struggles. There is no telling how many points he would have scored against Furman if the Paladins had not elected to go to a sagging 2-3 zone midway through the second half; as it was, Groselle finished with 24 points on 10-12 shooting from the floor (along with 11 rebounds).

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were unable to make Furman pay for that defensive strategy, only making three of fifteen three-point shots. Not only was The Citadel unable to hit from outside, the Bulldogs’ guards could not penetrate the zone for easier shots in the paint (or simple feeds to Groselle). Chuck Driesell’s take:

The zone bothered us, and I’m surprised about that. We worked on it, and we knew they played it some. We didn’t knock down shots. The zone keeps the ball out of the big man’s hands, but if you knock down a couple of 3-pointers, they can’t stay in it long.

Of course, it’s easy to say what the Bulldogs need to do against a zone. Executing that plan is another matter. I was reminded that it’s not the simplest of propositions when on Sunday, Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit tweeted that “to beat a zone, you have to move the ball quickly and get the ball into the paint via pass or penetration.” The team that drew Dauster’s ire because of its inability to do that?

That team would be Connecticut — which, last time I checked, won the national title last season.

– I was able to make it to McAlister Field House on Saturday night, and happy to have been in attendance, despite the loss to Furman. The 1600 or so fans at the game were treated to a good game between two teams that played hard, if not always well.

At halftime, The Citadel honored Jake Burrows, whose accomplishments I mentioned in a previous post, by putting jersey number 3 in the rafters. Burrows is the third hoopster so honored by The Citadel; somewhat amusingly, only one numeral has been needed, as the other two honorees (Regan Truesdale and Art Musselman) both wore no. 33. Burrows spoke briefly and movingly to the crowd, better than most people could have, and most people aren’t 93 years old.

It is a shame there weren’t more cadets on hand, although it certainly is understandable, given it was Saturday night. The Southern Conference schedule doesn’t really help The Citadel on that front.

I have a suggestion to the administration that I’ve made before and that I’m going to make again. There are cadets on campus on Saturday nights (besides the hard-working pep band). I’m talking about cadets who are serving tours or confinements. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give those cadets credit for tours/cons by letting them come to McAlister and support the team. I am betting some of them would be ideally suited for the role of cheering the Bulldogs and mocking the opponents.

Actually, I know they would be ideally suited, because the idea is not without precedent.

On a February night in 1990, conduct-restricted cadets (and a few of their “free to roam” colleagues) cheered on The Citadel’s basketball team as it battled an outstanding East Tennessee State squad, one that would win the second of four straight SoCon titles that season. The Bulldogs had played ETSU earlier that season in Johnson City and lost badly, 92-57.

However, with the support of a particularly rowdy section of the corps behind them, the Bulldogs put together what may have been their best performance of that season. Alas, it wasn’t quite enough for a win, as Ted Mosay’s last-second shot was blocked, enabling the Buccaneers to escape with an 87-86 victory. Still, it was a great game and a lot of fun.

The night at McAlister wasn’t over, though. In a decidedly unusual development, a wrestling match between The Citadel and UT-Chattanooga had been scheduled to follow the basketball game. The hoops game had tipped just after 6 pm, so by the time the first wrestling match started it was around 9 pm. UTC, the conference favorite, would eventually win, but things were tougher than expected for the Mocs, in no small part due to a vocal contingent cheering on The Citadel.

It was a great experience for the Bulldog wrestlers, and probably for the Moc grapplers as well. My lasting memory of that evening, though, was the one voice in the stands that stood out the most. Leading the crowd in cheers, needling the referee at every given opportunity, supporting the cadets on the mat throughout every match…was the assistant commandant of cadets, the one and only LTC Harvey M. Dick.

Harvey Dick died Saturday morning; there was a moment of silence before the game, and flags on campus were lowered to half-staff. It is a loss that has hit the greater community of The Citadel hard, understandably so. Few people loved The Citadel and cared more for its students than Harvey Dick. Stories about him are numerous, mostly true, and could be told for days on end. For me, I’ll always remember that night at McAlister. Condolences to his family.

Hoops update: SoCon play begins for The Citadel

– The Citadel at the College of Charleston, 8:00 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011, at TD Arena, Charleston, South Carolina

– The Citadel at Wofford, 7:00 pm Saturday, December 3, 2011, at Benjamin Johnson Arena, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Both games can be heard on WQNT-AM 1450 in Charleston, with “voice of the Bulldogs” Danny Reed describing the action. Audio is also available online via Bulldog Insider. The game against the College of Charleston will be televised by WMMP-DT 36.1 in Charleston and is also being carried by ESPN3.com.

The Citadel is now 2-3 on the season, with a 97-44 win over Florida Christian (a non-Division I team) sandwiched by a pair of losses, 73-50 at home to Clemson and 80-72 on the road against High Point, the latter contest being decided in overtime.

The Bulldogs did what they were expected to do against Florida Christian, although it should be noted that the Suns only lost to Bethune-Cookman of the MEAC by 18 points. The game was notable for being the first start of the season for Barry Smith, who also started the game against High Point. The sophomore forward scored 19 points against Florida Christian after being inserted into the lineup for defensive reasons.

I wanted to make a few observations about the games against Division I competition. The Citadel has now played four contests against D-1 teams, winning one and losing three, with two of the losses being close games. The not-so-competitive loss, alas, came at McAlister Field House, and to a Clemson team which then lost consecutive games at Littlejohn Coliseum to the College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina. (The Tigers defeated Furman by ten points on Saturday night to avoid losing three straight home games to in-state foes.)

Chuck Driesell has used the early part of the season to give opportunities to numerous players on his roster, with eleven cadets seeing action in every game. Those aren’t just cameos by the 9th or 10th players off the bench, either; of the 57 individual appearances made by Bulldogs in five games, 50 were for at least nine minutes and two others were for eight minutes.

Offensively, the Bulldogs have played fairly well. The Citadel has taken care of the basketball and has been reasonably balanced on offense, although the Bulldogs got into a three-point shooting contest against High Point and subsequently took 43% of their field goal attempts from outside the arc, which is too many. (The Panthers shot 44 three-pointers in that game, out of 59 field goal attempts.)

The Citadel has to continue to work the ball inside to Mike Groselle, who has been unsurprisingly excellent thus far. Groselle is averaging 18 points (these stats do not count the Florida Christian game) while shooting 68% from the field. He also has a double-double in every game this season while averaging 36 minutes per contest, answering any lingering questions about his stamina.

Groselle needs more help inside, though, both offensively and defensively. He particularly needs some assistance on the offensive glass, as Groselle has almost half of the offensive boards claimed by the Bulldogs in the four D-1 games (18 of 39).

The Bulldogs have struggled on defense. The Citadel ranks in the bottom 75 nationally in several key defensive measures, including eFG%, free throws attempted per field goals attempted, and turnover rate (numbers are from kenpom.com).

The Citadel is dead last in all of Division I (345 teams) in the percentage of opponents’ shots blocked (which probably accounts in least in part for opponents of the Bulldogs having success in converting 2-point baskets). Charleston Southern is next-to-last in the category, with Army, Navy, and Presbyterian also in the bottom 11. That’s three military schools and three Palmetto State schools, so I guess it’s only natural that The Military College of South Carolina is last.

At 5-1, the College of Charleston is off to a promising start as it enters SoCon play. The Cougars’ five victories include the road win at Clemson mentioned earlier, along with two victories in the Battle 4 Atlantis holiday tournament that was recently held in the Bahamas. After losing its opening game in the tournament to Central Florida 74-63, the CofC outlasted UNC-Asheville 68-66 in the consolation bracket. The Cougars completed the tourney with an 85-61 win over Massachusetts, running away with that game in the second half.

Through six games, the CofC is shooting the ball very well, with an eFG% of 54.9, ranking in the top 25 of Division I. The Cougars get about one-third of their points via the three-point shot, which is fairly high, but you can get away with that when you have several guys shooting well from distance, including Jordan Scott, Anthony Stitt, and Andrew Lawrence (who has made 14 of 28 three-pointers).

The Cougars have at times struggled with rebounding, which was their downfall against UCF (as they were outboarded 43-21 in that contest). It was probably not a coincidence that touted freshman forward/center Adjehi Baru got in early foul trouble in that game. When playing, Baru has been a significant defensive presence. CofC opponents have an offensive rebounding percentage of 39.7, which places the Cougars in the bottom 20 of D-1 for that metric. Obviously, the sample size is a small one.

The lone senior on the CofC’s roster, Antwaine Wiggins, was named the Southern Conference player of the week last week after the Cougars’ victory over Clemson, a game in which he scored 22 points. He followed up that excellent performance with a total clunker against Central Florida, only scoring two points against the Knights. However, he scored 23 points in each of the next two games, so the UCF contest appears to have been an aberration.

I think the primary longterm concern for CofC fans will be the Cougars’ depth, a problem exacerbated by the loss in preseason of forward Willis Hall to a knee injury. Hall started all 37 of the CofC’s games in 2010-11. Without him, the Cougars have been reduced to what is essentially a seven-man rotation, with five players averaging more than 25 minutes per game. That isn’t exactly a new thing for a Bobby Cremins squad, but it’s something to watch over the grind of a long season. There are three players averaging more than 30 minutes per contest — Wiggins, Lawrence, and 6’8″ forward Trent Wiedeman.

The Cougars have won eleven straight SoCon games at home. Their last loss in league play at what is now called TD Arena came on February 8, 2010, against The Citadel.

The Citadel will face Wofford in its second game of the SoCon season, with the matchup taking place at the Benjamin Johnson Arena. That facility opened in 1981 with a game between the Bulldogs and the Terriers, won by The Citadel 65-64.

Wofford is 3-3 on the season. Like the College of Charleston, the Terriers had to replace multiple key performers from last season’s team, including a star player. The Cougars lost Andrew Goudelock, while Wofford now has to make do without Noah Dahlman. Goudelock was a first-round pick of the L.A. Lakers, but it is Dahlman who will be more difficult to replace.

Dahlman helped make Wofford one of the nation’s better offensive teams, with a team adjusted efficiency rating of 111.0, a top 50 mark in Division I. This season, that number through five D-1 contests (Wofford’s only home game to date was a victory over Emory&Henry) is 94.5, a huge differential. That is what can happen when you have to replace four starters who accounted for 66 points and 23 rebounds per game.

I should note that it doesn’t help Wofford’s offensive statistics to have played one of those five Division I games against Wisconsin. The Badgers bludgeoned the Terriers, 69-33. Wofford does have a nice win over Bradley (70-66), but that is somewhat offset by a neutral court loss to UMKC (64-58, in OT). The Terriers also struggled mightily in a win over Prairie View, which is not expected to be one of the SWAC’s better teams (in other words, it is expected to be among the nation’s worst teams). Wofford’s other loss was a respectable effort against Georgia (62-49).

The Terriers’ offensive woes are reflected in their eFG% (41.1) and their FTA/FGA, ranking in the bottom 30 nationally in both categories. Wofford has also been a bit turnover-prone (and conversely has not been particularly effective in forcing turnovers, which has hurt its defense). The Terriers have not shot the ball well from the field, either in front of or behind the three-point line.

Wofford has employed a seven-man rotation, with senior guards Kevin Giltner and Brad Loesing each averaging more than 38 minutes per contest. Yikes. Loesing, the point guard, started last season, but Giltner was more of an impact sub, shooting 42% from three-land last year. Through six games this season, Giltner is shooting 31% from beyond the arc.

Drew Crowell’s time on the court has increased by about 20 minutes per game from last season to this one; he is basically filling the Tim Johnson role for the Terriers. Two true freshmen, forward Lee Skinner and the highly regarded Karl Cochran (a 6’1″ combo guard), are also seeing plenty of time on the court, as is Domas Rinksalis, a 6’9″ forward/center who redshirted last season.

Wofford isn’t expected to contend in the Southern Conference this season, though the Terriers might prove a tough out come SoCon tourney time.

Neither of these games will be easy for The Citadel, to say the least. The Bulldogs aren’t expected to win either contest, and are a sizable underdog to the College of Charleston (kenpom.com gives the cadets only an 8% probability of winning).

I think it’s good, though, to start out league play with a pair of road games. I would like to think that by the time the return games roll around, the team will have improved substantially, with the freshmen more fully understanding their roles and gaining confidence. Then that increased understanding and confidence can be put to good use at McAlister Field House, where the Bulldogs should have a better chance of success.

Odds and ends…

– I am continuing to contribute to a roundtable discussion (more or less) about the SoCon. The latest edition for this season has been posted to a Chattanooga blog, Mocs Mania, and can be found here:  Link

– I was at McAlister Field House for the Clemson game. So were lots of Clemson fans. I would say almost half the fans in attendance were wearing orange. That’s okay (for now), though. We’ll gladly take their money. I took a few pictures. As always, keep in mind that I’m a less-than-scintillating photographer with an iffy camera, which is one reason you won’t see any action photos. All the pictures are from the pregame scene.

Hoops update: The Citadel returns home to host Clemson

The Citadel vs. Clemson, 7:00 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2011, at McAlister Field House. The contest will be broadcast on the ESPN3.com platform, with Darren Goldwater calling the game alongside analyst Dean Keener. The game can also be heard on WQNT-AM 1450 in Charleston, with “voice of the Bulldogs” Danny Reed describing the action. That audio is also available online via Bulldog Insider.

The Citadel opened the 2011-12 campaign by splitting a pair of games at the All-Military Classic in Colorado Springs. The Bulldogs lost 103-100 to VMI in their opener before coming back from 20 points down in the first half to defeat Army, 83-72.

The two games were essentially played on the same day, at least if you were on Eastern Standard Time, which to me made the comeback against the Bulldogs of the Hudson that much more impressive. Army is not a good team (projected to finish last in the Patriot League), but any D-1 win at this point of the season with a squad as young as The Citadel’s has to qualify as a good win.

The Bulldogs had a chance to win both games, but could not overcome a bad start against VMI. The Keydets led by as many as 16 points in the first half before The Citadel made a run to cut the lead to two. VMI scored two late baskets to take a six-point lead into the break, and continued to increase its lead throughout the second half, actually leading 98-83 with less than four minutes to play. A furious rally by the Bulldogs fell just short.

Obviously, The Citadel needs to avoid falling behind by so many points early in the game. While the Bulldogs were able to rally past Army, that’s not something they will be able to do on a regular basis.

The game against VMI was televised by CBS Sports Network, with Roger Twibell calling the game alongside analyst Pete Gillen. In the first half, Lefty Driesell joined them via telephone for a five-minute interview segment.

Listening to Pete Gillen have a conversation with Lefty Driesell gave me a renewed appreciation of the versatility of the English language.

The star for the Bulldogs over the two games was, not surprisingly, Mike Groselle, who was named the Southern Conference Player of the Week for his efforts. His totals were great, and perhaps even more promising going forward, Groselle played 68 minutes over the two games. Considering that was at altitude, over a period of less than 24 hours, and that 37 of those minutes came against VMI and its racehorse style of play, any questions about his conditioning and general endurance have been answered.

Tangent: In its game release, The Citadel listed players who had three or more consecutive double-doubles (Groselle has now had three straight such games on two different occasions). I am surprised not to see Gary Daniels’ name on this list. I would have thought he had probably done that at least once during his career at The Citadel.

Groselle wasn’t the only player who excelled in Colorado. DeVontae Wright rebounded from a tough night against VMI (1-7 FG) and had an outstanding game against Army, scoring 26 points on just 12 shots from the field (he was 8-8 from the line).

Eleven Bulldogs played in each contest, and all of them scored against VMI. Ten of them got in the scoring column against Army (C.J. Bray was the exception, though he did have four rebounds in that game). Cosmo Morabbi attempted one three-pointer against Army, and made it, the first three he had made since the 2009-10 season (he had missed a number of games last year due to injury). I hope that is a sign of things to come for Morabbi. Bo Holston had 12 points and 7 rebounds in that game.

Lawrence Miller provided a spark against VMI, going 4-5 from three-land and scoring 14 points. Marshall Harris III had 11 points and 9 assists against the Keydets, and Ashton Moore added 10 points and 5 assists in the same game. The Bulldogs had four players come off the bench to score in double figures against VMI, as Barry Smith scored 12 points in 16 minutes of play.

Offensively, there wasn’t much to complain about in the first two games. The Citadel shot the ball well from the field and the line, made a decent percentage of threes (without taking too many), and did not commit an avalanche of turnovers. The assist-to-basket ratio was good, particularly against VMI. Groselle could use a little help on the offensive boards, though.

The defense needs to get better, however. The Bulldogs struggled defensively last season, and must improve on that side of the court to compete in the Southern Conference. The Citadel gave up 103 points to VMI on an estimated 85 possessions.

Thanks to a strong second-half effort, the numbers were better against Army, but the Bulldogs needed as many stops as they could get in the second half after giving up 49 first-half points. The Citadel did a much better job defending the three in that second frame; Army was 6-8 beyond the arc in the first half, but only 1-13 thereafter.

It has been a while since The Citadel defeated a “BCS team” in basketball. Indeed, the Bulldogs have lost 55 consecutive games to schools currently in a BCS conference, and 81 of their last 82. The lone victory in that run came near the end of the 1988-89 season, when The Citadel memorably defeated South Carolina in Columbia, 88-87. The Gamecocks actually made the NCAA tournament that year, so it’s not like the Bulldogs took advantage of a bad team.

The last time The Citadel beat Clemson? 1979, at McAlister Field House. The Bulldogs won 58-56, one of twenty victories for The Citadel in that particular campaign, the first time the school had ever won that many games in a season (and only matched once since then, three years ago).

Interesting note: the Bulldogs’ last two victories over BCS schools came against South Carolina and Clemson. Randy Nesbit was the head coach when The Citadel beat the Gamecocks, and a player when the Bulldogs defeated the Tigers. In fact, Nesbit hit the game-winning shot against Clemson in 1979.

Last year at Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson defeated The Citadel 69-54. Mike Groselle had 14 points and 10 rebounds (five of them offensive boards) in that game.

Milton Jennings of Clemson, who went to Pinewood Prep in Summerville, also had a double-double in that game despite playing only 18 minutes; he’s an expected starter for Wednesday’s game. Jennings also had a double-double at Duke, on the Blue Devils’ Senior Night. The junior was a McDonald’s All-American, and he may be just starting to realize his potential.

Other Tigers who will start or see major action include sharpshooter Andre Young, who can fill it up despite being only 5’9″, freshman guard T.J. Sapp, and 6’5″ swingman Tanner Smith. Jennings will be joined in the frontcourt by Devin Booker, a decent jump shooter with nice touch around the rim. He’s a good rebounder as well. Jennings and Booker will be a formidable challenge for the Bulldogs’ big men.

The Tigers were a solid defensive club last year under first-year coach Brad Brownell. They held their opponents to an eFG% of 45.6, 25th-best nationally, and also forced turnovers at an impressive clip. Clemson occasionally struggled keeping opponents off the offensive boards.

Notable stat: the Tigers led the ACC in free throw shooting, which for many observers was disorienting.

Clemson played another group of Bulldogs, Gardner-Webb, in its opener. That game was tied at the half, 29-29, after G-W overcame a 13-point deficit. The Tigers broke out early in the second half, though, and reasserted control of the game, cruising to a 65-44 victory. Young was 7-9 from the field (3-4 3FG). Clemson also got 11 points from Sapp and a career-high 14 rebounds from Smith.

This will be the Tigers’ first visit to McAlister Field House since November 28, 1989. That was a big night for McAlister, as it was the first game played in the venerable arena since it had closed for remodeling two years earlier.

I was at that game, won by the Tigers 71-54 (the game was more competitive than the final score suggests). Clemson’s team featured both Elden Campbell and Dale Davis. On that particular evening, Campbell was average, but Davis was tremendous, impressing everyone in the building with his athleticism and skill.

It should be a fun night at McAlister Field House. I enjoyed the commercial The Citadel produced to promote the game. I hope a big crowd is there to “Pack the Mac”, as Chuck Driesell so eloquently put it.

The Citadel hoops it up: Basketball 2011-12

Yes, it’s basketball season!

Last year, there was a good deal of anticipation for Bulldogs basketball, as a senior-laden team was expected to contend for league honors, or at least compete in the upper echelon of the Southern Conference. It didn’t quite work out that way, to say the least.

The Citadel finished 10-22, 6-12 in the SoCon. The Bulldogs lost nine of their last ten games, and did not win a home game after January 22. Times were tough at McAlister Field House.

New coach Chuck Driesell wanted to play a more uptempo style, but the players seemed to have trouble adjusting after playing in Ed Conroy’s more deliberate system. In truth, though, The Citadel still played last season at a slower tempo than all but 35 schools in Division I. It wasn’t quite as slow as the year before (when the Bulldogs’ pace of play was in the bottom ten nationally), but it wasn’t exactly racehorse-style ball.

The raw numbers don’t necessarily reflect it, but once adjusting for tempo it is clear that much of The Citadel’s struggles, at least from a statistical perspective, came at the defensive end of the court. The Bulldogs allowed 1.112 points per possession, which ranked in the bottom 40 nationally (all numbers in this section per Pomeroy). The Citadel forced very few turnovers and allowed opponents to convert a way-too-easy 53.7% of all two-point baskets.

Given those statistics, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Bulldogs also fared poorly in categories like steals per game and blocked shots (though I can’t remember the last time The Citadel had a legitimate shot-blocker; it was probably back in the BRK days).

The team clearly suffered from the lack of a bigger presence in the post (two years after Demetrius Nelson had graduated, he had still not been effectively replaced). Another issue was a shortened rotation, as Chuck Driesell elected to go with just seven players (for the most part) over the latter part of the season. It’s my opinion (one shared by a number of other observers) that Bulldog hoops squads have a tendency to wear out over the course of a campaign, thanks to the rigors of the basketball schedule combined with the “being cadets and students too” thing.

Now most of the regulars from last year’s team are gone, and gone with them is a lot of experience (77% of the minutes played from last season). That experience provided the overwhelming majority of the team’s points (three career 1,000-point scorers, including alltime leading scorer Cameron Wells), three-point shooting (98.7% of all made threes, including career leader Zach Urbanus), and assists (83% of last year’s total).

Given all that, it’s not entirely surprising Driesell stated that “it almost feels like this is my first year.” He has had to do what Ed Conroy did four years ago, basically. Like Conroy, Driesell brought in an eight-man freshman class in his second season.

First, though, it’s worth noting the players from last season who are back, particularly 6’8″ junior forward Mike Groselle, who should be one of the SoCon’s best returnees. Groselle is a model of efficiency who shows particularly well in “advanced stats”, including effective FG% (60.1).

That would have been good enough for third in the SoCon among players who played at least 60% of their team’s minutes; Groselle narrowly missed that standard (59%). It will be important for him to play more minutes this season (he averaged just over 24 minutes per game last year).

Groselle also ranked in the top 10 in the conference in both offensive rebounding percentage and defensive rebounding percentage. With more playing time and a little more range on his shot, I think he would be a good match for Wofford’s Noah Dahlman over the last two years — in other words, a first-team all-league player and a candidate for player of the year. I’m not the only person who thinks Groselle could have a good year; College Basketball Prospectus suggested he “could be a trendy mid-major name four months from now.”

The lone senior on the Bulldogs’ roster is 6’2″ guard Cosmo Morabbi, who had an injury-plagued junior campaign after breaking his finger in the weight room. Morabbi was the player who I thought might benefit the most from a more-uptempo system, so his injury was doubly disappointing.

Before he got hurt, though, he had struggled with his shot. Morabbi is at his most effective when he is a threat from distance, especially the corner three-ball. He was 2-4 from beyond the arc in The Citadel’s exhibition victory over Tennessee Wesleyan, hopefully a good sign.

DeVontae Wright is a sophomore guard from Goose Creek who will have a chance to play more this season, provided he improves, among other things, his assists-to-turnovers ratio. He scored 13 points in 26 minutes of action in the exhibition game.

Bo Holston is a 6’4″ forward who is more of a 3-man; he was placed in the role of the 4 at times last season, a tough assignment. Holston is an “energy guy” who started 13 games last year.

There are a few other players returning from last year who may feature in the rotation. You never know when someone will suddenly get in the mix, as Holston did last season, or as John Brown did three years ago.

Driesell’s eight freshmen are a diverse lot, at least in terms of hometowns. He brought in eight players from seven different states (two are from North Carolina). The general consensus seems to be that the globe-trotting coach brought in a class with some athleticism, but which in at least a couple of cases will need time to develop.

I’m not going to pretend to know much about any of these guys. I also did not see the exhibition game (link: box score) in person, so I’m at a disadvantage in that respect as well. I’ll make a few comments anyway. Hey, it’s my blog…

C.J. Bray is a 6’7″ forward from Charleston (James Island High School) who turned down a football scholarship from Arkansas to plays hoops at The Citadel. At the very least, he should be an athletic presence down low. He started against Tennessee Wesleyan and played 19 minutes, scoring six points.

Ashton Moore is a 6’0″ guard from Virginia. He was the breakout star of the night in the exhibition game, going 6-10 from 3 and scoring 21 points. He also played 30 minutes, more than any other player.

When Moore wasn’t hitting from downtown in the exhibition, fellow freshman guard Lawrence Miller (4-7 from 3-land) was. The 6’1″ Miller is from Charlotte.

Marshall Harris is a 6’1″ point guard from San Antonio. He only played ten minutes in the game against Tennessee Wesleyan, but dished out five assists. I would not be surprised if his playing time increases once the season begins.

P.J. Horgan is a 6’8″ post player from New Mexico. The Blue Ribbon preview was high on Horgan, noting he led his high school team to the state semifinals and was second team all-state. He grabbed four rebounds in ten minutes of play against Tennessee Wesleyan.

Driesell didn’t skimp on signing size. Another example of that is 6’7″, 232 lb. Jordan Robertson, of Greensboro, NC. Robertson did not score in the exhibition game, but did reel in seven rebounds in 16 minutes of play.

Two other freshmen did not play against Tennessee Wesleyan. Dylen Setzekorn is 6’7″, but more of a swingman than a post player (at least, that’s my understanding). He’s described by Driesell as being a good shooter.

Michael Hundley is the tallest of the newcomers, at 6’9″, but only weighs 178 lbs. (according to his roster page on the school website). In the Blue Ribbon preview, Driesell said that Hundley “could be the sleeper of the bunch. He’s long and athletic and could be an excellent shot blocker. He’s got a chance, although he might need a year.” That suggests Hundley may be a redshirt candidate.

As expected, The Citadel is not expected to contend in the Southern Conference this season. The SoCon media picked the Bulldogs to finish last in the South division. College Basketball Prospectus rates The Citadel as the 10th-best team in the league (ahead of Georgia Southern and Samford). Ken Pomeroy’s preseason ratings rank the Bulldogs lower than any other team in the conference (298th in the nation). The Sagarin ratings are a little kinder, ranking The Citadel ahead of three other SoCon squads.

Blue Ribbon’s preview noted that it was “hard not to pick the Bulldogs at the bottom of the South Division because they have so little experience.” The Post and Courier also predicted a last-place division finish for the Bulldogs.

It’s hard to argue with those predictions and assessments, given The Citadel lost so much experience from a team that lost 22 games anyway. On the other hand…

One thing working in the Bulldogs’ favor is that The Citadel is not the only team that lost a lot of players. The College of Charleston lost three starters, including alltime leading scorer Andrew Goudelock and Jeremy Simmons, a key cog in the Cougars’ rotation. Wofford lost four starters, including Noah Dahlman (the best player in school history) and hardnosed rebounder Tim Johnson. Furman lost four starters too; one of them was All-SoCon forward Amu Saaka. That’s just from the South division.

The various polls and previews had a hard time trying to figure out the order of the SoCon South after the top two spots (Davidson and the CofC). While Wofford, Furman, and The Citadel all suffered heavy graduation losses, Georgia Southern only lost one starter, and also has Willie Powers III (an excellent scoring point guard) coming back after missing last season with a knee injury.

No one seems really confident in the Eagles, though. Part of that may have to do with Powers’ extensive injury history, but much of it is based on the fact that while GSU brought back a lot of players, those players only managed to win two Division I games last season (one of those, alas, was against The Citadel).

In other words, the SoCon South is wide open, other than the top spot (where Davidson seems to be a solid pick to not only win the division, but the league) and maybe second place (with the College of Charleston bringing in highly-regarded recruit Adjehi Baru).

As far as the rest of the conference is concerned, the SoCon North in general has more returning talent, and is perceived as being more settled as the season begins, with snakebitten Samford (literally!) a consensus choice to finish last (and that was before the Birmingham Bulldogs lost their starting point guard for the season with an achilles’ tendon injury).

Chattanooga is the favorite in the North, and generally considered the second- or co-favorite for the league title (with Davidson), though not everyone is on the Mocs’ bandwagon — notably the Pomeroy preseason ratings. Omar Wattad will fire from three-land all night long, sometimes forgetting the rules allow him to shoot two-pointers too. Keegan Bell is a fine point guard who will be first team all-SoCon if his field goal percentage improves.

Appalachian State lost alltime leading scorer Donald Sims, yet some observers think the Mountaineers may be better off. Ike Butts’ return is a major reason why; not every SoCon team has a viable post player who is 6’10″, 280 lbs. Omar Carter is the league’s leading returning scorer and a player of the year candidate.

Western Carolina brings back a solid squad as well and may be a nice dark horse pick. The Catamounts finished last season strong, winning 14 of their last 19 games. UNCG will play a slightly more reasonable non-league schedule this season, which should help the Spartans avoid another 0-15 start. Elon is a sleeper pick in some precincts, although the Phoenix may be a year away.

I think it’s likely The Citadel will have some hard times on the hardwood this season. However, the Bulldogs won’t be the only league team in that position, and if some of the freshmen can contribute early and provide a helping hand to Groselle and co., it wouldn’t be a surprise to see The Citadel have a better year in the league than expected.

I do believe that with more of his own players, Chuck Driesell will be able to fully implement his style of play. I am also hopeful that he will have a deeper rotation, which would help the team avoid the late-season stumbles that have habitually plagued the program.

At the very least, the defense (particularly in the paint) should improve. Offensively, besides shooting the ball well (obviously), I would like to see the Bulldogs make a concerted effort to get to the free throw line more, which has been a problem for the last three seasons.

Odds and ends:

– I’ve been asked to contribute to a kind of roundtable discussion about the league this season. This is going to be a weekly thing for the most part. The first edition for this season has been posted to a Chattanooga blog, Mocs Mania, and can be found here:  Link

– From what I can figure out, The Citadel will only appear on television once in 2011-12 during the regular season, and that will actually be in the season opener against VMI, in the All-Military Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That game will start at 11:59 pm ET on Friday, November 11, and is being televised by the CBS Sports Network (not to be confused with CBS). The announcers will be Roger Twibell and Pete Gillen. With any luck, Gillen will try to call timeout at least twice.

The Citadel’s home opener against Clemson will be broadcast online, on ESPN3.com, as part of the SoCon’s season package on that platform. It appears this will be the only time the Bulldogs appear on the package.

It is possible (though not likely) that other games will be picked up for TV and/or ESPN3.com at a later date.

– The new tagline for the season is apparently “Pack the Mac”. I hope that venerable McAlister Field House is indeed packed this season (I am sure it will be for the opener). I would like to see an increased cadet presence this year as well.

I’m ready for the season. Very ready.

Bulldog hoops: the most disappointing season

The Citadel’s last victory on the hardwood came at Davidson, on January 26.  As this post is going up on February 20, that is a problem.  The Bulldogs have lost seven straight games, with two regular season road games remaining before the Southern Conference tournament.

It is not out of the question that The Citadel could finish the season on a ten-game losing streak.  The last time the Bulldogs ended a season with a double-digit losing streak was 2005, when Pat Dennis’ team started 12-5 before losing its last eleven contests.

This is not what most people were expecting when the season began.  The Citadel returned many experienced players, including three mainstays (Cameron Wells, Zach Urbanus, and Austin Dahn) in its rotation.  While picked to finish fourth in the South Division of the SoCon in the preseason, many people expected at the very least a winning campaign, and possibly something more than that.

I was one of those people, as I thought The Citadel could win 17 or 18 games.  The Pomeroy Ratings also projected the Bulldogs to win 18 games.

It has been a tough season for new coach Chuck Driesell.  After a four-game winning streak pushed the Bulldogs to a still-not-great 9-13 record, the bottom seemed to fall out of the campaign.  Five of the seven losses in the recent run were at home.  Two of the defeats were particularly awful (Savannah State and the recent loss at Georgia Southern).

Driesell hasn’t had a lot go his way, but I think his decision to shorten his rotation to just seven players, which initially resulted in some impressive victories, ultimately torpedoed the season.

The Citadel has traditionally struggled at the end of basketball seasons, a phenomenon Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier recently called “getting heavy-legged” while speaking on the ‘Citadel Grayline’ radio program.  These end-of-year collapses are generally ascribed to the difficulties of competing in a long sport season while fulfilling the duties associated with being a cadet.

The historical numbers for the Bulldogs bear out the fact that it has been a problem. Just look at the last six years before this one, for example:

– 2010:  finished 16-16 after losing four of their last five games

– 2009:  finished 20-13 after losing three of their last four games (following an 11-game winning streak)

– 2008:  lost 18 of their last 19 games (of course, that team only won six games all year)

– 2007:  lost 12 of their last 13 games (a seven-win team)

– 2006:   lost 18 of their last 22 games (a ten-win team)

– 2005:  as mentioned above, lost 11 straight to finish 12-16

You can find more years like those, even when concentrating on some of the more respectable teams (like 1998, when the Bulldogs lost six of eight to finish 15-13).  The best evidence of “tired legs”, of course, is The Citadel’s stupefying lack of success in the Southern Conference tournament; even though the Bulldogs haven’t had that many good teams over the years, you would have thought The Citadel would have gotten lucky in the league tourney once or twice.  Nope.

Wells, Urbanus, and Dahn have combined to play over 82% of the minutes available to them over the last four years, which is amazing.  What’s not amazing is the rough finishes the team has had, perhaps as a consequence of that.  The trend has continued this season.

In conference play Urbanus has averaged over 38.5 minutes per game, tied for first in the league.  Wells is fourth in the league in minutes, with 36.5 per contest, while Dahn is 14th (32 mpg).  Early foul trouble in a couple of games is the only reason Wells and Dahn haven’t played even more (Urbanus, on the other hand, is one of two players in the entire country averaging less than one foul per forty minutes of play).

Driesell has tried expanding his rotation as the losing streak has continued, although he’s been hamstrung by Cosmo Morabbi’s injury and the general ineffectiveness of the two transfers he brought in for this season (Morakinyo Williams and Mike Dejworek).

I wish that Driesell had decided to wait a year before fully implementing his system. The current roster is obviously built for Ed Conroy’s slower-tempo style of play.  It has been frustrating to watch a team struggle so when it features seniors like the school’s alltime leading scorer and assist man (Wells), career three-point shooting leader (Urbanus), along with a versatile four-year starter (Dahn) and a handy post defender/offensive garbageman (Bryan Streeter).

Then you have the emergence of sophomore Mike Groselle, who has been a revelation in terms of offensive efficiency.  Yet with all that, the team is 9-20, and not by a fluke, either.  No, this is a team that has never put it together on either side of the court, save for that one four-game run in the middle of the season.

For most of the year, The Citadel has lacked an offensive identity and has been poor defensively.  I suspect the offensive problems have contributed to the defensive woes; that is the nature of the game.

I feel badly for the team’s seniors, who I think deserved to go out on a much better note, but at least they will always have memories of the 2009 season, one of the finest in school history.  I am glad they chose to come to The Citadel; it’s one of the best hoops classes the military college has ever had, if not the best.

As for Chuck Driesell, I certainly haven’t given up on him.  He’s got some work to do, however.  Next year’s recruiting class is supposed to be quite good, and Driesell has a well-deserved reputation as a solid talent evaluator.  Now he has to put that talent together (and keep it, never an easy thing at The Citadel).

Driesell seems to prefer outstanding athletes, which is fine, but he must also find room in his system for players like Groselle, whose eFG% in conference games is currently second in the league.  Groselle has a 66.9 FG% in SoCon play and a 3.7 GPA in Civil Engineering;  The Citadel needs as many players like that as it can get, whether they can jump or not.

Regardless, this season has to go down as the most disappointing season in the modern history of The Citadel’s basketball program.  Admittedly, that’s in part because it was the rare season where expectations were fairly high.  That doesn’t make it any less deflating, though.

Bulldog hoops: whoa, a real live winning streak

Well, in my last post I said it was time for The Citadel to go on a winning streak, and lo and behold the Bulldogs have delivered.  It’s a modest three-game stretch, to be sure, but it’s still two games longer than any previous winning streak the team has had this season.

Chuck Driesell is now employing a seven-man rotation.  He has elected to play mostly zone on defense, with a 1-2-2 as his primary look, although I guess you could call it a 3-2, or even a 2-3, depending on what the “point” defender does.  (In his postgame wrapup with Darren Goldwater after the Western Carolina game, Driesell was amusingly vague about the defense, as if he were concerned a future opponent was listening to the broadcast.)

Bo Holston or Austin Dahn seem to play that point spot the most.  They are both athletic and active, fairly long-armed defenders, so that makes sense.  My concern with the zone is that it tends to give opponents opportunities to create open three-point shots, but so far The Citadel has watched Samford, Appalachian State, and Western Carolina go a combined 15-70 (21.4%) behind the arc.  Donald Sims (of the Mountaineers) and Andy King (of the Birmingham Bulldogs) each went 4-8 from three-land; the rest of their teammates (and Catamounts) shot less than 13% from outside.

One of the things the zone has done, though, is slow the opponents down (well, Appy and WCU — Samford doesn’t need any help to slow things down).  I thought the Mountaineers and Catamounts were both lethargic on offense, especially in the first half.  To have success against the 1-2-2, you have to be patient, but you can’t be static. The players on those teams didn’t move particularly well without the ball, and the passing was less than crisp.

Sims (who was outstanding) was the only reason Appalachian State was not completely embarrassed in the first half.  Western Carolina wasn’t so lucky.

On the other side of the ball, I thought the Bulldogs played to their strengths.  There weren’t nearly as many contested shots taken early in the possession; the team usually worked the ball around until A) Mike Groselle got position inside; B) Cameron Wells saw an opening and took it; or C) Zach Urbanus got an open look for a three.

The best example of this was Austin Dahn’s game against Western Carolina.  Dahn got to 1000 points in his career at The Citadel in that game, which in my opinion was his best game of the season.  He didn’t take a single bad shot, and as a result scored 13 points on only 6 field goal attempts, an outstanding efficiency rate.

Dahn can be an effective offensive player because while he’s capable of making three-pointers, he has what I call a “semi-slash” type of game overall.  When he doesn’t take shots out of the offense’s natural rhythm, it can be tough for the opposition to account for him, what with it already having to deal with Wells and his driving ability, Groselle’s inside play, and Urbanus’ three-point shooting acumen.

Speaking of efficient play, Groselle’s breakout season has continued.  He was relatively quiet against Samford, but against Appy and WCU he was a combined 16-21 from the field.  Oddly, he only attempted three free throws in those two games, but I suspect he’ll start getting to the line more often if he keeps up his current Southern Conference shooting pace (72% FGA).  Also, Groselle’s teammates are getting better and better at finding him when he gets the little angles and creases that give him the upper hand in the paint.

Cameron Wells in the three victories:  68 points on 41 FGA (15-16 FT), 13 assists, 5 steals.  Alas, he also has 13 turnovers in those three games.  Other than that, he’s been the All-SoCon player we all know and appreciate.

The Bulldogs as a team were on their way to their best offensive performance of the season against WCU, but an alarming flood of second-half turnovers took care of that. The Citadel scored 43 points on 33 first-half possessions, but only scored 25 in the second half on 36 possessions, which is what happens when you have 14 second-half turnovers.  Luckily the Catamounts’ first-half miseries included scoring just 15 points on 33 possessions.

Against Appalachian State, on the other hand, The Citadel scored 81 points on just 64 possessions, the season’s top offensive effort.  This included shooting 62% from the field (Holston was 7-7).  Zach Urbanus was 5-8 from three-land in his best shooting performance to date.

The seven-man rotation does have a downside.  Because Cosmo Morabbi is injured and DeVontae Wright is apparently not quite ready yet for significant action, Wells and Urbanus in particular are having to log heavy minutes in the backcourt, which I think partly explains the turnover problems.  (It’s also a reason to play zone defense, as it helps keep them out of foul trouble.)

I hope Morabbi is able to come back and help out before the season ends, as an experienced guard is definitely a commodity the Bulldogs could use.

The Citadel plays Davidson at Belk Arena on Wednesday night before a break in the schedule.  Since 1961, the Bulldogs have only won at Davidson twice.  Two years ago, The Citadel turned the trick against a Wildcat team missing Stephen Curry, although even with Curry, Davidson arguably may have struggled that night (in a 64-46 Bulldog victory).  The game was the tenth of eleven straight wins for The Citadel that season.

Currently, Davidson is reeling, having lost six of its last seven games, including three in a row, but it’s still the same team that beat The Citadel 68-53 in December at McAlister Field House.  In that game, the Wildcats held the Bulldogs to 33% from the field, as the Cadets only made 13 of their 44 2-point attempts (The Citadel actually shot 43% from beyond the arc).

The Bulldogs also committed 18 turnovers and had no real answer for Davidson big man Jake Cohen, who scored 21 points (on only 8 FGA) while collecting 12 rebounds and blocking 3 shots.  Cohen can also hit the three-pointer (he made two in that game).  In other words, he’s a very difficult matchup.

I think The Citadel is playing much better basketball than it was when it played Davidson.  I also suspect Cameron Wells will score more than two points on Wednesday night (he fouled out after 19 minutes in the first game).  That being said, it’s a road game, the Wildcats are always well-coached, and Davidson usually seems to play at least one game each year against The Citadel where it shoots lights-out from outside the three-point line.

It should be interesting.  That’s a good thing.  It’s about time this season got interesting…

Bulldog hoops: time to go on a winning streak

I haven’t written about The Citadel’s hoops team in a while (then again, I haven’t had a blog post about anything in some time; I need to start cranking stuff out again). Honestly, though, there hasn’t been a good reason to write about Bulldog basketball, at least a good positive reason.

At least The Citadel won on Monday night, beating Samford 61-50 for the Bulldogs’ first road victory of the season.  A sign of things to come?  To be honest, I doubt it.

The Citadel is 6-13 overall, 2-5 in the Southern Conference, with home games against Appalachian State on Thursday and Western Carolina on Saturday.  Prior to the Samford win, the Bulldogs had lost five straight SoCon contests.

What is the difference between this year’s edition of the basketball Bulldogs and, say, last year’s squad?  I won’t compare them to the 2008-09 team that won 20 games, which included Demetrius Nelson and John Brown.  However, I think it is fair to compare the 2009-10 and 2010-11 outfits.

Last season’s team featured a rotation mainstay who is no longer in school, Harrison Dupont.  Dupont had a nice debut campaign (alas, there would be no followup season, at least in Charleston), averaging 14 points per 40 minutes of play and finishing with an eFG of 48.2%, highest of all the regulars and highest on the team overall, with one exception.

That one exception was Mike Groselle, who saw limited action due to injury/illness, but showed signs of being a very effective player when he saw action.  It really shouldn’t be a surprise that Groselle has had a fine sophomore season.  So far this year Groselle is averaging 19 points per 40 minutes of play with an eFG of 58.9%, leading the team (again).  That is good for 11th among Southern Conference players.

He is also averaging almost six rebounds per contest (Dupont was good for four boards per game).  Groselle’s FG% of 58.9 is good for sixth in the SoCon.

Groselle’s development has basically replaced the lost production of Dupont, if not surpassed it.  They aren’t really similar players, so it’s not a true like vs. like comparison (particularly from a defensive perspective), but I think it does make it easier to look at the rest of the team numbers and see where the differences lie.

One difference is the reduced contributions from Cosmo Morabbi, who played in all 33 games last season and averaged over 18 minutes per game.  Morabbi has been injured and has missed several games, but even when he was playing, his minutes had been cut in half.

Morabbi has struggled with his jumper this season.  Actually, struggle doesn’t really describe it; he hasn’t made a three-pointer yet this year (0-8) after shooting 37.9% (25-66) from beyond the arc in 2009-10.  In his previous two seasons for the Bulldogs, Morabbi was a dependable member of the rotation who wasn’t afraid to take big shots; not having his typical production has been a problem.

Then there is post play.  Last season Joe Wolfinger was the transfer hopeful who never quite fit into The Citadel’s offense.   However, Wolfinger’s offensive production compares favorably to that of “Big Mike Squared”, the duo of Williams and Dejworek.

Morakinyo Williams has missed time with injury (he has played fewer minutes than Morabbi), and Mike Dejworek hasn’t been a major factor, either.  The two have combined to score 47 points in 219 minutes of play, which per game is about half of the scoring output by Wolfinger last season.  Neither has been a force on the boards.

A few other odds and ends:

– Last season, 36.5% of The Citadel’s total points came via the three-point shot.  So far this year, that number is 23.2%.

– The Citadel’s eFG of 44.5% is in the bottom 50 nationally; last season, the Bulldogs had an eFG of 48.4% (middle of the pack nationally).

– The Bulldogs are not forcing turnovers this season.  Opponents have a turnover rate of 16%.  That puts The Citadel in the bottom 25 nationally. Last season’s opponent turnover rate was 19%. That’s a significant difference.

–  Defensively, The Citadel ranks in the bottom 50 nationally in defensive FG% and defensive 2FG%.  The Bulldogs have a defensive 3FG of 34.4%, which isn’t that bad, but not nearly as good as last season’s 32.4%, which was 80th-best in the country.

– In SoCon play, the Bulldogs currently rank last or next-to-last in defensive 2FG%, defensive turnover rate, and points allowed per possession.  The sample size is a little small, admittedly.

As noted by Jeff Hartsell, Zach Urbanus and Cameron Wells have been logging some serious minutes lately, thanks to a slender bench (Morabbi being unavailable really hurts there).

After a loss to Coastal Carolina earlier in the season, Chuck Driesell mentioned on his postgame radio show that he was worried about fatigue affecting the Bulldogs’ play.

In the SoCon teleconference this week, however, Driesell sang a slightly different tune.  He noted that the loss of Morabbi had impacted his ability to substitute players who had experience, and he also mentioned that a way to address concerns about too much game action for individual players would be to monitor (and presumably lessen) their work during practice.

However, Driesell stated during the teleconference that he saw “no signs of fatigue” and that Wells and Urbanus are “young guys [who] should be able to handle” increased minutes.

We’ll see.

– Six weeks ago, I wrote that the Bulldogs seem to lack an offensive identity.  Here is, to my mind at least, one example of that:

Last season, Zach Urbanus and Austin Dahn each averaged about one three-point attempt every five and a half minutes of playing time (5.7 for Urbanus, 5.6 for Dahn). This season, with an increased number of possessions per game (about five more), Dahn is averaging a three-point attempt every 5.1 minutes he is on the court.  And Urbanus?

He’s only averaging one three-point try every 7.5 minutes of play.

With the increase in tempo, Urbanus is averaging more total shots per contest this season than last year on a per-minute basis, as is Dahn.  Dahn, however, is taking more three-pointers than Urbanus (25 more, even while playing almost 100 minutes fewer than Zach).  Neither is shooting as well from beyond the arc as they did last season (Urbanus is at 36.7% after shooting 41.1% from three last year; Dahn is down from 34.7% to 28.6%).

That may be reflective of how other teams are playing them defensively, or it may be due to a lack of offensive cohesion, or perhaps it’s a combination of both. Regardless, it seems to me that the leading three-point shooter in The Citadel’s history needs to be leading the team in three-point attempts.

This has been a tough year so far for Chuck Driesell.  He’s learned that being the coach of The Citadel’s basketball team is not easy.  He knew that going in, obviously, but there is still a lot of on-the-job training at the military college.  He has to know that a lot of fans are disappointed in the way the season has gone.  There were high expectations for this team, and to date they haven’t been met.

It probably doesn’t help matters that his predecessor, Ed Conroy, is having a nice start to his tenure at Tulane, and recently was featured in a local article describing his salesmanship of the program.  Conroy has benefited from a relatively soft early schedule, but it’s also true that he’s already won two conference games in C-USA, only one fewer than the Green Wave won all of last season.

Tangent: in that article, the writer describes how Conroy somehow talked 80 Marquette students (in New Orleans as part of a volunteer group) into attending a weeknight game between Tulane and UTEP.  How many cadets will attend the Saturday game at McAlister Field House against Western Carolina?

There is still time, of course.  Maybe the win over Samford will be the start of something special.  The two upcoming home games are both winnable.

If Wells and Urbanus are going to play 38-40 minutes every night, it might be best for The Citadel to revert to its slow, slower, slowest style of play from the last two seasons.  Lowering the amount of possessions might serve to reduce the chances of either getting in foul trouble, and also could keep them from running out of gas, either in individual games or over the course of the season.

It also would have the potential of settling down the offense.  I don’t think it would hurt Groselle and Urbanus, in particular, if the tempo were decreased.  Wells (who had a “Cameron Wells game” against Samford, taking over the last 10 minutes of that contest) is capable of thriving in any offensive system.

Slowing the game down also increases the value of offensive rebounds and other possession-changing plays, which is to the advantage of players like Bryan Streeter and Daniel Eykyn.

I’m ready to see a long Bulldog winning streak.  How about eleven straight?  It’s happened before…

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