Will baseball return to the Olympics in 2016?

Last week a delegation from the International Baseball Federation arrived in Lausanne, Switzerland, to present its case for returning the sport of baseball to the Olympic program.  Members of the delegation included IBAF president and longtime sports executive Harvey Schiller and current Detroit Tiger Curtis Granderson.

(Brief digression:  I am duty-bound to note that Harvey Schiller is a 1960 graduate of The Citadel.)

For those unaware, the Beijing games marked the end of baseball and softball as Olympic sports, due to a vote held by the International Olympic Committee in 2005.  They became the first two sports tossed out of the Olympics since 1936, when polo was eliminated.  As to why they were given the heave-ho, there wasn’t really an official reason (at least, not a legitimate one), but the actual reasons were:

1)  For baseball, the IOC was annoyed that MLB wouldn’t stop its season and let its best players compete in the Games.  The honchos that run the Olympics are big on the Games being the #1 goal/event for all sports (with the notable exception of soccer).  That clearly wasn’t the case for baseball (and that is still the case, obviously).

2)  There was also some grumbling about drugs, but that was probably a side issue.  Dick Pound would claim otherwise, but then, he probably thinks baseball is played by savages.

3)  Softball’s problem was that it was perceived as being dominated by Americans, and why give the U.S. an easy gold medal?  “Gimme” golds are reserved for select Euro countries and China.  (There was talk that the modern pentathlon might go, too, but since U.S. athletes have generally not fared well in that event, it was probably never in serious danger of being excised from the Games.)  Of course, the gold medal in softball in Beijing was actually won by the Japanese, which I guess qualifies as irony.

There are two slots open for the 2016 Games, and baseball and softball are competing with several other sports, including rugby, golf, squash, and roller sports (which apparently would not include roller hockey or skateboarding; not including roller hockey would be a dealbreaker for me if I had a vote).

I don’t think baseball is getting back in the Olympics until MLB suspends its season to let its stars participate, and that’s never going to happen.  What is particularly irksome is that soccer, another sport that doesn’t send most of its best players to the Olympics, is allowed to remain in the Games, as essentially an under-23 tournament (with three spots reserved for “overage” players).  I think baseball would be best served by a similar policy.  However, the IOC isn’t going to go for that.  I’m not sure the IBAF is interested in that idea, either.

It’s too bad, really.  I do think softball has a chance to be reinstated, now that the IOC has seen that the U.S. isn’t a mortal lock for the gold every time out.

I’ll close by noting that another sport is trying to bust into the Olympics in 2012.  It may not have a shot to make it to the London games, but perhaps 2016 isn’t out of reach.  I’m talking, of course, about Pole Dancing.

Avoiding trombone music

The Citadel is playing Florida this week.  In football.  This could be a tough game.  My understanding is that the Gators are pretty good.  This Tebow guy, he’s received some press.

The worst loss in football for The Citadel occurred in 1958, when Georgia and quarterback Fran Tarkenton defeated the Bulldogs in Athens, 76-0.  After the last touchdown, the UGA band played “76 Trombones” from The Music Man.  I am hoping that on Saturday, Florida’s band doesn’t have a reason to start playing Nena’s biggest hit…

Also to be avoided:  possible references to country music singer Larry Gatlin (who scored a touchdown in Houston’s 100-6 victory over Tulsa in 1968), Neil Lomax (quarterback for Portland State the night the Vikings beat Delaware State 105-0), and Cumberland College (222-0 ring a bell?).

Ideally, The Citadel will score, not suffer any catastrophic injuries, and keep the game within 50 (which would better South Carolina’s effort from last week).  I would settle for holding the Gators under 70 points, though, to be perfectly honest.

There is no reason to preview Florida, because everyone already knows everything that is necessary to know about the Gators.  Tim Tebow can cure cancer, Percy Harvin is faster than Mercury, and Urban Meyer is an outstanding coach, if seemingly a bit humorless, possibly because his parents named him Urban.

There is this guy named “Mr. Two-Bits” who does some little number that all the Gator fans like.  He’s been doing it for 60 years, and he’s doing it for the last time at this game.  He actually went to The Citadel for a couple of years, but he’s going to be all-out rooting for Florida anyway, so you will excuse me if I don’t lionize him.

In the event Florida’s team oversleeps en masse and forfeits the game to The Citadel, it would be the first victory for the Bulldogs over an SEC team since that famous (or infamous, if you’re into pig calls) 10-3 victory over Arkansas in 1992.  Jack Crowe, of course, was fired after that game as head coach of the Razorbacks.  It’s not every day a coach is fired after the season opener.

I will say this:  the players and coaches for The Citadel will take this game very seriously, and won’t like some of the snide remarks that have been made about it.  I doubt my saying that I hope the game stays within 70 would go over well with some of them, either.  They are headed to Gainesville to compete, and measure themselves against some of the best players in the country.  I just don’t want them to get embarrassed, but they obviously can’t and won’t think that way – and that’s a good thing.

One final thing…I’m not a huge fan of every article about The Citadel, even ones that are positive, but I thought this article by David Jones was excellent, so if you haven’t read it already, you might give it a look.

(Kenny, I flinch too.)

Bulldog hoopsters unable to maintain lead over mighty Big 10 opponent

The lead was 4-2.  Iowa eventually survived, 70-48.

For The Citadel, the first six possessions went like this:
1) Inside to Demetrius Nelson, he scores
2) Inside to Nelson, he scores again
3) Attempt to transition for an easy hoop leads to challenged layup, no good
4) Ignored the inside, rushed a 3, no good
5) Ignored the inside, one-on-one move leading to long jumper, no good
6) Inside to Nelson, Iowa brings help this time, he kicks it out for an open 3, Daniel Eykyn makes it

Then there was a media timeout.  When action resumed, Nelson had been substituted.

When you are playing a team like Iowa, there aren’t going to be a lot of possessions (the Bulldogs had 54 in this game).  You’ve got to make them count.  If something is working early, like Nelson getting good looks because he’s being played one-on-one by a guy about his size, keep doing it.  Instead The Citadel started rushing things. 

Iowa would pass the ball around, running ball screen after ball screen, waiting for a defender to screw up (which happened way too often).  Then one of the Hawkeyes would take (and 52% of the time, make) an open 3.  It was quite frustrating to watch.  Even more frustrating, though, would be The Citadel’s response, which was seemingly to try to speed the game up by taking quick shots on the offensive end, especially three-pointers, missing most of the outside jumpers (4-17 from 3).  The Citadel’s rushed play also led to 13 turnovers, which doesn’t sound bad, but remember, there were only 54 possessions.  That means that almost one-fourth of every Bulldog possession ended in a turnover.  That’s not a good ratio.

The Citadel also tried to speed the game up by pressing Iowa, but that didn’t work, partly because the Bulldogs aren’t really a pressing team.  Iowa only committed one turnover in the entire first half (five for the game). 

A victory probably wasn’t meant to be for The Citadel, anyway, considering Iowa was fairly sharp and never seemed sluggish, and also given how well Hawkeye guard Anthony Tucker shot the ball (the second three Tucker made was actually very well defended, but Tucker made it anyway). 

Still, the final result is disappointing.  While Iowa is a major conference team, it’s not expected to challenge for the Big 10 title, and perhaps more importantly, the game didn’t feature multiple athletic mismatches like you might expect against a BCS opponent.  In other words, it shouldn’t have been a 22-point loss (which is a bad loss, especially given the pace of play).  The Citadel did manage to get within five points with less than 13 minutes left in the second half, but then Iowa made another run and the Bulldogs seemed to lose their bearings.

Cameron Wells had a good game, finishing with 21 points on 13 shots.  Austin Dahn seemed to pick up a foul every five seconds he was in the game – it just wasn’t his night.  Nelson finished with eight shot attempts (and only one FT attempt) in 28 minutes.  Cosmo Morabbi grabbed six rebounds, not bad at all for a guard, and had three assists.  He was 0-5 from the field, though, missing three three-point shots, at least two of which seemed to not come in the natural flow of the offense.

Of course, there arguably wasn’t a natural flow to the offense.  The Citadel only had five assists in this game on nineteen made field goals, and that despite only picking up two offensive rebounds, so it’s not like the Bulldogs converted a bunch of tap-ins.

Next up, Cincinnati Christian, as part of the Cancun Challenge, with McAlister Field House the site, as opposed to a Mexican beach…

The Iowa Hawkeyes come to town

On Thursday night, the Iowa Hawkeyes will become the first Big 10 team to ever play a game at McAlister Field House.  I’m sure people will be telling their grandchildren some day about the time big bad Todd Lickliter came to town with his band of marauding hoopsters, intent on destruction.  Then again, maybe not.

Let’s delve into some of the history (or lack thereof) between the two schools…

I first want to mention Whitey Piro.  Who is Whitey Piro?  Well, he was once the head basketball coach at The Citadel.  In 1947, Piro’s Bulldogs were 5-11.  That doesn’t seem like much of a record, but keep in mind the four coaches who followed Piro all had worse overall records.  Never has a .313 winning percentage looked so good.  Piro, who was born in Germany, went to high school in New York and graduated from Syracuse in 1941.  At Syracuse he was a star wide receiver and also played one year on the basketball team as a reserve.  He did not score a point that season, which arguably made him an ideal candidate to later coach hoops at The Citadel.

Piro played one year in the NFL, for the Philadelphia Eagles, before joining the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He would eventually have a long career as an assistant coach at Iowa (and was later a pro scout).  His son is Iowa’s executive director of development for intercollegiate athletics.

Piro is still alive and resides in Iowa City.  He is 90 years old.

After that, connections between the two schools dry up a bit.  Ed Conroy, of course, is a native of Davenport, Iowa, as is his assistant Andy Fox.  Assistant Doug Novak was once the head coach at a JC in Council Bluffs.

This will only be the fifth time The Citadel has ever played a Big 10 school in basketball.  Two years ago the Bulldogs played both Iowa and Michigan State (which will be the case this season as well).  In 1974 The Citadel played Indiana in Bloomington, and in 1970 the Bulldogs faced Northwestern in a Christmas tournament in Greenville.  The Citadel lost all of those games.

The last time The Citadel defeated a school currently in a BCS conference was 1989, when the Bulldogs upset South Carolina 88-87 in Columbia.  (At the time, the Gamecocks were members of the Metro Conference.)  Since then The Citadel’s record against current BCS schools is 0-45.  Prior to that 1989 game the Bulldogs had last defeated a major conference opponent in 1979, when they beat Clemson 58-56 in Charleston.  Thus, The Citadel has lost 70 of its last 71 games against schools currently in BCS conferences.

The Big 10 is not the only major conference The Citadel is 0-for-history against; the same is true of the Pac-10.  However, there have been very few games between The Citadel and teams from those two leagues.  That is also the case with the schools making up the Big XII.  The Bulldogs do have a win against a current Big XII school, though, having defeated Texas A&M (then of the Southwest Conference) 62-61 in 1971.

Okay, enough of that.  Let’s talk about this game.  First, a little background on Iowa’s recent hoops history.  It’s not what Iowa fans would like it to be.

Iowa had made three NCAA tournament appearances before 1979.  In 1955, Iowa reached the Final Four (in a 16-team tournament) before losing to Tom Gola and La Salle.  In 1956, the Hawkeyes made it to the title game (playing the regionals in Iowa City; the national semis were in Evanston, Illinois) before running into Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, and San Francisco.  The coach for those two teams was Bucky O’Connor.  Ralph Miller was the coach of the 1970 Iowa team that won the Big 10, the next time the Hawkeyes made an NCAA tournament appearance.

Iowa hoops in the “modern” era (when the tourney began to take on bigger-than-life dimensions) started with Lute Olson and a series of appearances beginning in 1979.  After stubbing its toe a bit that year (Iowa lost in the first round to Toledo in a game, interestingly enough, played in Bloomington), the Hawkeyes made their third (and to date, last) appearance in the Final Four in 1980.  As a five seed, Iowa had to play a first-round game against Virginia Commonwealth (the tourney had 48 teams back then) and then faced fourth-seeded N.C. State, which had received a bye, in Greensboro.  The Hawkeyes won that game, and then crushed the nascent Big East conference by winning back-to-back games in Philadelphia against top-seeded Syracuse and third-seeded Georgetown.  In the national semifinals, Iowa lost to eventual national champion Louisville, and then also lost to fellow Big 10’er Purdue in the consolation game (the next-to-last time the consolation game was played).

After that season, you better believe expectations were raised in Iowa City.  Olson continued to put teams into the field, but without the success he had in 1980.  Iowa lost in the first round in 1981 and the second round in 1982.  In 1983, as a seven seed, Olson’s charges rolled Norm Stewart and Missouri in round two before getting upended by Rollie Massimino and Villanova 55-54 in the Sweet 16.

Olson moved on, and was replaced by George Raveling, who was still one coaching move away from his inevitable job at Nike.  Raveling went to the tournament twice but was one-and-done both times.  His successor, Tom Davis, brought Iowa to the brink of another Final Four in 1987, but the Hawkeyes blew an 18-point lead to UNLV in the West regional final.  The next year, Davis guided Iowa to the Sweet 16, but the Hawkeyes were thumped by old coach Olson and his new team, Arizona.  That established a pattern for Davis, whose teams always won their first round matchup, but seldom their second.  Davis took Iowa to eight NCAA tournaments in twelve seasons.

He was succeeded by Steve Alford, who was the hot name in coaching (besides being an Indiana high school and IU legend).  Alford, though, had a bit of a disappointing run in Iowa City, only making the NCAAs three times in eight seasons.  He also only had three winning seasons in conference play over his tenure as coach.  Alford won one NCAA tournament game as head coach at Iowa, which is one fewer than he had while coaching (Southwest) Missouri State.  Alford jumped at the New Mexico job two years ago in a classic “jump or be pushed” situation.

Now the coach at Iowa is Todd Lickliter, in his second year with the Hawkeyes after a great run at Butler that included two Sweet 16 appearances in six seasons.  He’s a good coach, but he has work to do.  Iowa was 13-19 in his first season (6-12 Big 10).  Iowa lost its share of close games (seven by six points or less), but also played a lot of fairly close games, which can happen when you average just over 60 possessions per game.  Iowa scored 56 points per game, low by even Big 10 standards.  The Hawkeyes scored under 50 points seven times, including once in a game Iowa actually won (a 43-36 victory over Michigan State that drew guffaws from around the country).  Iowa was not a good rebounding team and struggled to force turnovers, while committing a bunch themselves (bottom 15 nationally in turnover rate on offense).  The Hawkeyes had mediocre offensive shooting stats across the board and were not good from the foul line (64.9%).

This season Iowa is 2-0 with home wins over Charleston Southern (by 20 points) and UT-San Antonio (by 6).  One player almost certain to give The Citadel problems is Cyrus Tate, a 6’8″, 255 lb. senior who in two games is averaging 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.  He has also blocked five shots in two games.  He’s the type of post player The Citadel could not compete successfully against last season, and so far this season.  Tate is one of seven Hawkeyes who have played significant minutes so far this year.  Another guy to watch is 6’5″ freshman guard Matt Gatens, who was the high school player of the year in Iowa last season.

Iowa is continuing the deliberate pace it employed last season, averaging 61 possessions in the two games it has played to date.

One more thing — according to Iowa’s game notes, the game against The Citadel will probably be the only Iowa game this season that will not be televised.  All but one of the rest of the Hawkeyes’ games are guaranteed to be on TV.  (Conversely, The Citadel will only be on television three times this season.)

Iowa is picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 10, along with Northwestern and Indiana.  Due to Iowa’s rebuilding, youth (five of its top seven rotation players are freshmen or sophomores), and style of play, if you were going to pick a Big 10 team that could be beaten in McAlister, this might be the one.  However, I don’t see it happening, at least not tomorrow night.

The best chance The Citadel has is to make more than its fair share of three-pointers while somehow holding its own in the paint.  If Demetrius Nelson and company could neutralize Tate and his friends, and The Citadel could shoot well (while not repeating the somewhat out of character 21-turnover performance against VCU), maybe the Bulldogs have a shot.  The Citadel has yet to prove it can successfully defend inside (or outside, really) against a team at the Division I level, though.

Still, there is a reason they play the games…

How not to vote for NL MVP

I’m glad Albert Pujols won the NL MVP award, because he richly deserved it.  He was far and away the best player in the National League this past season.  While perusing the vote totals, I noticed that Pujols received 18 of 32 possible first-place votes, and was listed no worse than fourth on every other ballot – except one.  Someone’s ballot had Pujols at seventh.  Who, I wondered, thought there were six better players than Pujols in the National League this year?

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that’s who.

Here is his ballot:

1. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia
2. C.C. Sabathia, Milwaukee
3. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles
4. Carlos Delgado, New York
5. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago
6. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
7. Albert Pujols, St. Louis
8. Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis
9. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
10. David Wright, New York

After goggling at that list, I then read his explanation.

[Howard] almost single-handedly carried the Phillies to the playoffs by batting .352 with 11 homers and 32 RBI in September. I like to weight my voting to teams in the playoff hunt because I think that puts more pressure on players and separates the men from the boys. There’s little pressure on players having big years if their teams aren’t playing for anything at the end.

With the Cardinals finishing fourth, I voted Pujols seventh on my ballot. I don’t consider MVP to be “the most outstanding player” award and therefore don’t just go by who had the best stats. I like to credit players for lifting their teams to the post-season or at least keeping them in the race until the very end.

I understand that the Cardinals would not have been even close to the wild-card berth without Pujols, but I still like players who elevate their game in crunch time and lift their teams to new heights. And I thought Ryan Ludwick had just as much to do with keeping the Cards in the hunt as Pujols did. St. Louis did stay in the wild card race until mid-September, but mainly because the Brewers and Mets were gagging at the time.

It’s a subjective vote and every writer has his own preferences. That’s why I voted for Sabathia second and Ramirez third because even though they played in the league only half a season they were primarily responsible for putting their teams in the playoffs…

…This is an inexact science. With 10 names on the ballot, you could move guys around and drive yourself nuts putting them in the spot you feel is best. But that’s the way I voted. In sheer offensive numbers, Pujols certainly is tough to beat, which is why it’s understandable that he got so much support.

Where to begin?

My first question to Haudricourt would be…well, my first question would be whether or not he had been taking some new medication, I think.  I would then ask him things like:

1)  How do you put three first baseman ahead of Pujols on your ballot?

2)  How do you justify putting Carlos Delgado (one of the aforementioned first basemen) ahead of Pujols, when his team didn’t make the playoffs either?  Also, how do you justify putting Delgado on the ballot at all, given that he wasn’t one of the four best players on his own (non-playoff) team?  Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana were all better and more important to the Mets than was Delgado.  He’s the fifth-best player on a team that didn’t make postseason play, and you ranked him sixth in the entire league.

3)  How do you justify voting Ryan Howard first?  Speaking of voting for someone who wasn’t the best player on his own team, Howard was the third-best infielder on the Phillies last year.  Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins didn’t make your ballot (Utley in particular strikes me as a dubious omission), but you ranked Howard first overall.  Now, I will say you weren’t the only writer buffaloed by Howard’s outstanding month of September, so in that you are in line with a lot of the other voters.  I’m not sure how you can say a great final month completely outweighs the rest of his season, though.  He had an OPS of 791 in August, which last I checked is the month before September.  Of course, that was better than his June (726 OPS) or his April (645 OPS).  Were you aware that the August-September “playoff push” stat line for Pujols was significantly better than Howard’s in that time period (and, incidentally, a lot better than Delgado’s)?

4)  Explain this line – “St. Louis did stay in the wild card race until mid-September, but mainly because the Brewers and Mets were gagging at the time” – how do you then justify putting five players from those two teams on your ballot, including three of them ahead of Pujols?  And wasn’t this gagging also helping Howard’s Phllies?

5)  Do you really think Ryan Ludwick “had as much to do with keeping the Cards in the hunt” as did Pujols?  Seriously?

6)  Did you know that Manny Ramirez’s offensive explosion in August and September, great as it was, wasn’t really much different than that of Pujols?  (For the record, Ramirez had an OPS of 1232 in those two months, Pujols 1186.)  Now, Manny did have to play his home games at Dodger Stadium, but on the other hand Pujols is the best defensive first baseman in the league, while Ramirez is arguably the worst defender at any position in the majors.  Then there is the fact that Ramirez’s MVP case in the National League for the period before August is {empty set}.  Pujols, of course, was raking in the NL all season long.

At least Pujols did win the award.  Still, imagine if it had been very close, and this guy’s seventh-place vote for Pujols had been the difference…

The weekend split

There isn’t a whole lot to say about either the football win over UT-Chattanooga or the hoops loss to Virginia Commonwealth, but I’ll say something anyway:

Escaping Chattanooga

Okay, that was a little closer than I would have liked.   Make that a LOT closer than I would have liked.  Quite frankly, The Citadel should have beaten the Mocs easily, but the TD off the blocked field goal seemed to completely change the tenor of the game.   The woeful Mocs seemed to suddenly realize that instead of being whipped like they had been in their previous eight games, they had a chance to actually win, and they played that way.  Conversely, The Citadel played like a team that didn’t know how to win.  Fumbling inside the five-yard line, throwing a pick in the end zone (immediately following a Chattanooga turnover) – it was looking like one of the more demoralizing Homecoming losses ever.

Thankfully, Andre Roberts wouldn’t let that happen.  The best player The Citadel has had in the last 15 years (if not longer) returned a punt for a TD with less than 2 minutes to play, and the Bulldogs hung on for a much-needed victory.

At least The Citadel won’t be overconfident when it plays Florida this Saturday…

VCU is good

Losing 82-59 was about what I expected.  Thirteen Bulldogs saw action in this game, with ten of them playing for at least eight minutes, and six getting seventeen minutes or more.  Last season the Rams were the best team in the country defending the three, and thus it’s not surprising they managed to hold The Citadel to 29% shooting behind the arc.  The Citadel committed an unacceptable 21 turnovers (in a higher than normal 72 possessions).  VCU had 12 steals in the game and blocked 5 shots.  The Bulldogs’ defense was lacking again, as VCU shot 53% from the field, including 47% from 3-land.  The Rams scored 82 points on 71 possessions and had four players score in double figures.

Positives:  The Citadel was outrebounded by six, which wasn’t that bad (although VCU had 11 offensive boards).  The Citadel also had a good night from the foul line, both in terms of shooting percentage (87%) and getting to the line in the first place (a FTM/FGA of 25%). 

John Brown didn’t play, which I thought was curious, considering he started against Grace Bible College. 

Next up:  a home game against Iowa.

Room for improvement

The Citadel basketball 2007-08, statistics and rankings/ratings of note:

RPI:  334 (fifth consecutive season finishing with an RPI of 296 or lower)
Conference wins:  1
Division I wins:  2
Points allowed per possession:  1.145 (last in Division I)
Points scored via the FT line per possession:  0.098 (last in Division I)
Opponents effective FG%:  51.3% (last in Division I)

Uh, ouch.  Other things The Citadel didn’t do particular well included shooting from inside the arc (41.0%, which was in the bottom 10 nationally), defending opponents shooting from inside the arc (57.5%, bottom 3 nationally), defending opponents shooting from beyond the arc (40.0%, bottom 12 nationally), rebounding (25.3 per game, bottom 10 nationally), and blocking shots (1.2 per game, bottom 3 nationally).

You get the idea.  Defending the post was not a strength.  The problems in the paint were exacerbated when Demetrius Nelson was lost for the season early in the campaign, which meant that the post players were exclusively freshmen, who were generally overmatched and overwhelmed by the opposition (especially physically).  This had a carryover effect to the terrible 3-point defense numbers, because the perimeter guys had to constantly help on the inside, leaving outside shooters open on a regular basis.

As a result, The Citadel was the worst defensive team in the country.

The lack of inside play also meant that the Bulldogs got very few easy baskets from in close, and had a decided lack of free throw opportunities.  This resulted in The Citadel being one of the nation’s least efficient offensive teams as well.  The shame of this was that it hid a couple of things that the team actually did fairly well, like taking care of the basketball (18.7% turnover rate, top 60 nationally) and shooting threes (38.2%, top 50 nationally).

The Citadel had one player, Phillip Pandak, who had 101 field goal attempts but only  4 (!) free throw attempts.  I doubt that there was another player in the country who took over 100 shots but only made two free throws.  Pandak’s line was an extreme example, but it was a teamwide problem, and one The Citadel needs to address.  The Citadel made only 238 free throws last season; its opponents converted 366.

The Citadel’s possessions per game rate of 65.5 was on the low side, and the team’s pace of play slowed down as the season progressed, which I think was a good thing.  I would expect more of the same this year.

On to this season.  In both the one exhibition game and the regular season opener (against non-Division I Grace Bible College), Ed Conroy played a lot of guys (12 in each game), so it’s hard to tell what his regular rotation is going to look like.  Obviously he’s going to rely on Cameron Wells, Demetrius Nelson, Zach Urbanus, and Austin Dahn.  The other players are all going to have a chance to make a positive impression (like Daniel Eykyn did against GBC).  The most interesting name (literally and figuratively) among the newcomers is Cosmo Morabbi, who got 19 minutes against Grace Bible College.  In the exhibition game the Bulldogs seemed to make a concerted effort to get the ball inside, with only 19% of its field goal attempts from beyond the arc, but against Grace The Citadel reverted to last season’s bombs-away philosophy, with 49% of its shots from outside (last year 44% of the Bulldogs’ FGAs were from 3-land).

The defense against Grace was not good, as Conroy noted in The Post and Courier‘s game article.  It was disturbing to see a non-Division I team like GBC, playing its first game ever against a Division I opponent, shoot better than 50% from the field.  The Citadel did outrebound the Tigers, but the Bulldogs won’t play a team with as little size as Grace for the rest of the season.  I also noticed the pace was a little faster than The Citadel may have liked (69 possessions), but that’s probably a one-game blip.

The Citadel goes on the road on Sunday to play its second regular season game, and Virginia Commonwealth will be a formidable opponent.  VCU played in the NIT last season and the NCAA tourney two years ago, when it upset Duke in the first round.  The Rams were an outstanding defensive team last season, leading the CAA in defensive FG%, steals, and blocked shots.  VCU led the nation in 3FG% defense; in one three-game stretch Rams opponents missed 28 consecutive three-point attempts.

Eight of VCU’s top nine players from last year return, including outstanding guard Eric Maynor (who two years ago bedeviled the aforementioned Blue Devils).  VCU, which will be playing its season opener, is favored to repeat as regular-season champions of the CAA.  The game is part of the Cancun Challenge, which has a format I am still trying to understand.  The bottom line is that The Citadel will play one game in Richmond, one game in Charleston, and two games in Mexico, all against pre-determined opposition.

I’m not expecting a win over Virginia Commonwealth.  I’m just looking for signs of development and improvement.  It may be tough to demonstrate that such advances have been made, however, against a team like VCU.