McAlister Musings: nearing the midway point of the SoCon campaign

Previous entries in this occasional series:

The Bulldogs begin SoCon play

Time to #EmbraceThePace as the season begins for The Citadel

My post from last April on the hiring of Duggar Baucom

The Duggar Baucom Show (1/13)

Games played since my last post:

– The Citadel dropped the league opener, losing 84-78 to Chattanooga. The Bulldogs were in good shape until a horrific stretch that came at a bad time — the last four minutes of the game. Zane Najdawi had 15 points in just 23 minutes of action, while fellow freshman Matt Frierson added 4 three-pointers.

– The Bulldogs played very poorly and lost 94-74 at Samford. Duggar Baucom apologized after the game to “anyone who had to watch that”. Apology accepted.

– A third SoCon game resulted in a third loss, 91-80 to Mercer. For the second game in a row, The Citadel fell way behind early and couldn’t recover. Connor Schroeder was a bright spot, making 4 three-pointers en route to a 14-point, 6-rebound afternoon.

– The Citadel lost 86-83 to Wofford to drop to 0-4 in league play. The Bulldogs trailed 72-58 before making a comeback attempt, but ran out of time. Derrick Henry scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half.

– The Bulldogs finally got in the win column in conference action by outlasting Furman, 89-86. Henry and Brian White both scored 16 points for The Citadel; P.J. Boutte added 14 points and 6 assists.

Henry, White, and Boutte were three of thirteen Bulldogs to see action in the contest. One of those thirteen was senior walkon Bobby Duncan, who grabbed two rebounds and had a steal in three minutes on the court.

– The Citadel followed up the victory over the Paladins with another tight win, 92-91 over Western Carolina. Boutte made two free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining to provide the margin of victory for the Bulldogs. Quinton Marshall had 18 points and 5 rebounds.

– In the Bulldogs’ most recent outing, they lost 101-92 in overtime at East Tennessee State in a game that was there for the taking. Quayson Williams shot the ball very well (10-15 FG, including 7 three-pointers) and finished with 29 points, while Warren Sledge just missed on a double-double (12 points, 9 rebounds).

In my previous post, I mentioned some things that The Citadel had done well to that point in the season, and some other things the Bulldogs had not done well. Let’s see how the team is faring in SoCon play in those respective categories:

– The Citadel had an effective FG rate of 52.2% entering SoCon play; in six league games, the Bulldogs have an eFG of 50.6% (eighth in the conference)

– The Bulldogs’ free throw shooting in SoCon action is 72.4%, which is fourth-best in the league, but actually lower than what it was in the non-conference portion of the season (76.5%)

– 2-point FG%: from 57.1% (which at the time was 12th-best in the country) to 49.8% (which is only 8th-best in league play)

– The Citadel’s turnover rate (18.0%) remains acceptable, and is actually third-best in the conference

– Defensive efficiency is still a major weakness for the Bulldogs, though there are actually two teams worse in the category in league play (UNC-Greensboro and VMI)

– The offensive rebounding is still poor (last in the league), and the defensive rebounding isn’t much better (next-to-last). However, the Bulldogs outrebounded two of their last three opponents (and not so coincidentally, won both of those games).

One of the things that has struck me while watching the Bulldogs play is that, while The Citadel remains the national leader in adjusted (and raw) tempo, it really hasn’t had a true “afterburners” series of games. Indeed, in conference play the Bulldogs have played four games with 80 possessions or less, and three with more than 80.

To be honest, I was hoping that The Citadel’s pace of play this season would be even faster. I recall watching Loyola Marymount games in the Paul Westhead era when the contest got so sped up that there were stretches of action that suddenly seemed to be occurring in slow motion, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.

That kind of hardwood commotion would require games that exceed 90 possessions on a routine basis. The Bulldogs have played only two games versus D-1 opposition this season that resulted in 90+ possessions in regulation.

The fact that both of those matchups were blowout losses (against Butler and Charlotte) probably explains why The Citadel is averaging about 82 possessions per contest instead of 90. Duggar Baucom doesn’t yet have the full complement of players needed to go at that speed.

The Citadel is actually only fourth in the nation in fewest seconds per offensive possession (behind Green Bay, Washington, and Marshall; each of those three schools is in the top 5 in adjusted and raw tempo). The Bulldogs are first in fewest seconds per defensive possession, however.

The Bulldogs have two upcoming home games, against UNC-Greensboro (Thursday, January 28) and VMI (Saturday, January 30).

The game against the Keydets (1 pm tip) will be a “Pack the Mac” affair. The full corps of cadets is expected to be in attendance (as opposed to the Stetson game in December). That should be a fun atmosphere.

Once The Citadel has finished this two-game homestand, the league season will be half over. The Bulldogs will begin the second part of the SoCon campaign at Chattanooga on Monday, February 1.

The team has been competitive in most of its league games, which is encouraging. Now it just needs to start winning a higher percentage of them.

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