McAlister Musings: The Citadel (and #EmbraceThePace) begins SoCon play

Links of interest:

Preview of the upcoming league campaign from The Post and Courier

School release

– Game notes from the respective schools for The Citadel versus UNC-Greensboro

Duggar Baucom has the Bulldogs “embracing his pace” in Year 2

Game story for The Citadel-Virginia Tech

– Shooting slump? What shooting slump?

SoCon preseason coach’s poll (The Citadel was picked last)

SoCon preseason media poll (The Citadel was picked next-to-last, ahead of VMI)

SoCon weekly release

Three future Bulldogs sign with The Citadel

Game coverage for UNC-Greensboro versus The Citadel:

ESPN3: Kendall Lewis will handle the play-by-play, while Sadath Jean-Pierre provides the analysis

Radio: Mike Legg, the “voice of the Bulldogs”, will call the game on WQSC 98.5 FM/1340 AM

SoCon play begins on Wednesday night. Records for each team in the league entering conference action:

Team Overall Home Away Neutral Streak kenpom rank
UTC 9-3 5-0 3-2 1-1 W1 70
ETSU 9-3 4-1 3-2 2-0 L1 82
UNCG 9-4 6-2 1-2 2-0 L1 159
Samford 8-4 4-2 4-2 0-0 W1 177
Furman 7-6 3-2 4-4 0-0 L1 153
The Citadel 7-6 6-1 1-5 0-0 L2 313
Mercer 5-7 4-2 0-3 1-2 L3 191
Wofford 5-8 4-0 1-5 0-3 L1 219
WCU 4-8 2-2 2-5 0-1 L1 305
VMI 3-8 3-2 0-6 0-0 L1 323

In the kenpom ratings, the SoCon is currently the 19th-ranked conference (out of 32 leagues). It is ranked between C-USA and the Horizon League. This maintains an upward trend for the league, which finished 19th overall in last year’s kenpom ratings after ranking between 25 and 30 in the previous four seasons.

Let’s take a look at The Citadel’s “Four Factors”. Well, I guess I should first give a quick explanation about the Four Factors for anyone not familiar with them.

Dean Oliver is a well-known basketball statistician who has worked for several NBA teams. He wrote the widely praised and highly influential book Basketball on Paper, which included the concept of the Four Factors. Simply put, these are four statistical categories that correlate strongly to winning and losing. They are effective field goal percentage, turnovers per possession, offensive rebounding percentage, and free throws attempted per field goals attempted.

Effective field goal percentage is basically a statistic which adjusts for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth more than a two-point FG. Turnovers per possession and offensive rebounding possessions are rate stats. FTA/FGA is a way to see how effective a team is at getting to the foul line (and how successful it is at making free throws once it gets there).

Here (courtesy of kenpom.com) are The Citadel’s “Four Factors” as of 12/26/16.

Category Offense Off rank Defense Def rank Nat’l avg
Effective FG%: 50.6 154 59.8 347 50.1
Turnover %: 16.7 52 17.7 253 19.2
Off. Reb. %: 28.3 215 34.5 314 29.8
FTA/FGA: 31.6 250 43.2 298 35.2

 

Note: kenpom statistics do not take into account games against non-D1 teams.

There are 351 teams in Division I, so being ranked 347th in defensive eFG% is not too good. Almost all of the Bulldogs’ defensive statistics are subpar.

Of those stats, the one that is most surprising is probably defensive turnover rate. The Citadel finished last season turning over its opponents on slightly over 19% of possessions, which ranked in the top 100 nationally. This year, that percentage is down to a significant degree (in a related development, the Bulldogs’ steal rate has declined as well).

Of course, last year’s numbers include the entire season, while this year’s statistics to date only reflect ten non-conference games (and none of the three contests against non-D1 opponents).

The Citadel only forced eight turnovers against Iowa State (in a 91-possession game), and didn’t have much luck with Arizona State either. The defensive turnover rate was a little better against Virginia Tech.

In the seven D-1 games the Bulldogs have played against non-power 5 teams, here were the turnover rates for The Citadel’s opponents: 21%, 14%, 18%, 22%, 14%, 28%, and 20%. That’s more like it.

Turnover rate isn’t everything, though. The Citadel actually won both of the above-listed games in which its opponent only had a 14% TO rate (Stetson, USC-Upstate). Meanwhile, Campbell turned the ball over at a 28% clip against the Bulldogs — but the Camels prevailed anyway, 97-91.

I also broke down the rest of the Four Factors for those same seven games versus non-P5 teams (in order, those matchups were: at College of Charleston, at Stetson, Presbyterian, Colgate, USC-Upstate, Campbell, at UMBC). The Citadel was 4-3 in those contests, winning at Stetson and against Presbyterian, Colgate, and USC-Upstate.

I think it is worth examining those games in greater detail because they are a better approximation of the level of competition the Bulldogs will be facing in SoCon action. Admittedly, the league appears to be a bit stronger overall than this particular sample size.

For example, the kenpom rankings (as of 12/27/16) for this “group of seven” are as follows: 89, 226, 241, 290, 301, 311, 347

The current kenpom rankings for The Citadel’s nine SoCon opponents: 70, 82, 153, 159, 177, 191, 219, 305, 323

At any rate, here are The Citadel’s Four Factors stats for the seven games in question:

  • Offensive eFG percentage (national average is 50.1%): 35.1%, 59.3%, 66.7%, 62.9%, 52.0%, 50.8%, 46.6%
  • Offensive rebound percentage (national average is 29.8%): 40%, 25%, 35%, 30%, 33%, 30%, 28%
  • Offensive turnover rate (national average is 19.2%): 27%, 10%, 11%, 16%, 14%, 20%, 15%
  • Offensive FTA/FGA rate (national average is 35.2%): 34.3%, 35.8%, 66.7%, 54.8%, 32.9%, 53.3%, 17.3%
  • Defensive eFG percentage (national average is 50.1%): 45.8%, 58.8%, 54.0%, 63.7%, 57.6%, 67.3%, 51.9%
  • Defensive rebound percentage (national average is 70.2%): 64%, 77%, 63%, 56%, 73%, 72%, 65%
  • Defensive turnover rate (national average is 19.2%): 21%, 14%, 18%, 22%, 14%, 28%, 20%
  • Defensive FTA/FGA rate (national average is 35.2%): 71.2%, 46.0%, 43.5%, 15.1%, 34.9%, 50.9%, 61.2%

I listed the defensive turnover rate statistics again, just to have everything included in the bullet points.

Yes, that is a lot of numbers, and some of them can be headache-inducing, but they do tell a story.

The Citadel’s offensive eFG% was better than the national average in six of the seven games — all but the season opener at College of Charleston. Conversely, that game against CofC is the only one of the group in which the Bulldogs’ defensive eFG% was better than the national average.

As far as rebounding is concerned, The Citadel has been respectable on the offensive end of the court, but needs to improve on the defensive glass. Bulldog opponents are getting too many second-shot opportunities, and that has led to a lot of easy baskets.

The rebounding issues partly explain why teams are converting 2-point field goal attempts against The Citadel at an extremely high rate (59.8%; the national average is 48.8%).

One factor that affects the Bulldogs’ ability to rebound is that The Citadel is not a particularly tall team. In terms of “average height”, a kenpom statistic that attempts to determine the size of a team based on minutes allocated to its players, the Bulldogs rank 349th, a full two inches per player below the national average. The only “shorter” teams in D-1 are Alabama A&M and St. Francis of Brooklyn.

In addition, The Citadel is 331st in “effective height”, which is an average of the center and power forward positions. Ken Pomeroy has written that effective height tends to be associated with success in key defensive categories, which makes plenty of sense.

For instance, UCF leads the nation in defensive eFG%. In a related development, the Knights’ starting center is 7’6″ Tacko Fall.

I’ve already discussed The Citadel’s defensive turnover rate. On offense, the Bulldogs have done a good job protecting the ball, aside from the game at CofC and a minor blip against Campbell.

The Citadel has had a few games this season in which it allowed the opponent to shoot too many free throws. As an illustration, just look at that number versus CofC (71.2%!). In that game, College of Charleston attempted almost as many free throws (42) as it did two-point shots from the field (43).

A key factor in the Bulldogs’ 120-111 loss to UMBC was the free throw disparity. The Citadel was 14-18 from the line, while the Retrievers were 37-49.

That’s a 23-point differential for made free throws in a game that went to two overtime periods. It was probably the reason why Duggar Baucom’s face turned an unusual shade of red late in the contest.

Do you need a scorecard when you attend a game at McAlister Field House? Yes, you probably do. The Citadel’s rotation includes at least eleven players for most games, including a bunch of freshmen.

# Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Hometown
0 Preston Parks G 6’1″ 175 Fr. Greenville, SC
1 Frankie Johnson G 5’9″ 150 Fr. Darlington, SC
2 Quayson Williams G 5’11” 170 So. Greensboro, NC
3 Matt Frierson G 6’1″ 150 So. Laurel, MD
4 Ezekiel Balogun F 6’6″ 235 Fr. Lagos, Nigeria
5 Warren Sledge G 6’3″ 180 Sr. Keller, TX
10 Leandro Allende G 6’6″ 190 Fr. Caguas, PR
11 Tom Koopman C 6’8″ 210 Sr. Weert, Holland
12 Chris Ross G 6’2″ 170 Fr. Dallas, TX
21 Bobby Duncan F 6’4″ 210 Gr. Fayetteville, NC
23 Kaelon Harris G 6’4″ 225 Fr. Tulsa, OK
24 Tyler Burgess F 6’7″ 195 Fr. Easley, SC
32 Brian White F 6’8″ 205 Sr. Richmond, VA
35 Zane Najdawi F 6’7″ 205 So. Midlothian, VA
50 Griffin Peevey C 6’7″ 220 Fr. Waco, TX

I’ve watched most of The Citadel’s games on ESPN3, as I’ve only been able to attend one game in person (the matchup against USC-Upstate). My initial impressions of some of the freshmen:

– Frankie Johnson is listed at 5’9″, but he is really about 5’6″. It doesn’t matter; he can play. It was easy to see why Duggar Baucom likes Johnson. To borrow a term from Star Wars, the game seems to go into hyperdrive when Johnson is on the hardwood.

Johnson was a fine high school quarterback. Watching him whip passes across the court, I wondered if Johnson could be a good baseball pitcher as well. Fred Jordan, take note!

– Preston Parks is only shooting 29.2% from three-point land, but he is capable of lighting it up at any time. He made four three-pointers against Presbyterian, five versus USC-Upstate, and six at UMBC.

Parks scored 25 points against USC-Upstate, and was the key player down the stretch in the Bulldogs’ victory over the Spartans. He scored or assisted on 10 of The Citadel’s last 12 points in the contest.

– Kaelon Harris is a broad-shouldered Tulsa resident who isn’t afraid to take the ball to the basket. Harris had 30 points against Arizona State, and 26 versus Stetson.

He needs to work on his free throw shooting (59.7%), particularly because with his style of play, he is going to get a lot of chances to score from the foul line.

– Leandro Allende is a 6’6″ guard who can and will shoot from beyond the arc. He is also capable of competing in the paint, and has the kind of rangy length that can pose problems for teams facing the Bulldogs’ full-court press.

During the game against UMBC, John Feinstein (serving as the analyst on ESPN3) suggested that Allende wasn’t really someone the Bulldogs were counting on to shoot from outside, at least long-term. I have to disagree with Feinstein on that one.

– Ezekiel Balogun is a physical forward from Nigeria. He is a more selective three-point shooter than most of the Bulldogs, but he has made 6 of his 13 tries from three-land this season.

Balogun’s biography on the school website states that he has a 6’11” wingspan and a 36-inch vertical. With that in mind, it is no surprise that Balogun currently leads the Bulldogs in blocked shots per minute played, averaging one block for every 13.3 minutes on the court.

The Citadel has six upperclassmen who see action on a regular basis. Veteran observers are familiar with these players, but I’ll list them here anyway.

– Zane Najdawi leads the Bulldogs in many statistical categories, including points per game (17.9) and rebounds per game (8.2). The sophomore has scuffled offensively in his last two outings, but should be the main focus on that side of the court as The Citadel begins SoCon play.

Najdawi is very good at getting to the foul line. He ranks 17th nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

– Quayson Williams has scored in double figures in ten of the Bulldogs’ last eleven games. He is shooting 44.7% from three-land in all games. That percentage drops slightly when non-D1 games aren’t considered, to 43.1%, but that is still excellent.

Outside shooting is Williams’ bread and butter — almost 72% of his field goal attempts are trifecta tries.

– Brian White’s offensive output has been inconsistent. He did not score against Presbyterian, Campbell, or College of Charleston (playing only two minutes versus CofC), and made only one field goal against USC-Upstate. On the other hand, White had a big 23 points in the Bulldogs’ victory at Stetson, 20 points versus Colgate, and 21 points at UMBC.

In two of the three high-scoring games mentioned above (along with a 16-point performance against Toccoa Falls), White was able to take — and make — a bunch of three-pointers. From at or near the top of the key, he is very effective from beyond the arc.

For the season, he is shooting 53.1% from three-land. Fifteen of his seventeen made three-point shots this year have come in just three games.

– Warren Sledge leads the team in minutes played. He got off to a rough start this season with his outside shooting, but has now made 11 of his last 23 three-point shots, a good sign heading into the conference campaign.

Sledge’s value to the team does not necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but he is a key contributor who has started every game this season for the Bulldogs.

– Matt Frierson is a three-point specialist in the truest sense of the term. Of his 83 field goal attempts so far this season, 79 have come from beyond the arc.

His current percentage of 32.9% isn’t terrible, but Frierson has been in a bit of a slump. Not counting a 4-for-7 effort versus Campbell, he has only made 4 of his last 30 three-point attempts.

Frierson shot 34.7% from beyond the arc last season, so there is a decent chance that he could begin to heat up from downtown. The Bulldogs could use the extra scoring punch he is capable of providing.

– Tom Koopman generally plays about 7 to 10 minutes per game as a frontcourt reserve. The senior from Holland is a handy guy to have around, soaking up fouls that otherwise might be charged to Najdawi, and occasionally providing a bucket or two as a bonus.

Against USC-Upstate, Koopman scored eight points in just nine minutes. He had seven points in just seven minutes versus Presbyterian.

So far this season, The Citadel has had five games that weren’t decided until the final minute of regulation (or overtime). Expect that trend to continue as the Bulldogs begin their conference campaign.

From the SoCon’s weekly release:

Southern Conference teams played 90 league games during the 2015-16 regular season. Twenty-one games (23 percent) were decided by one possession or went into overtime. In 2015, the league had 23 of 90 (26 percent) conference games decided by one possession.

In 2014, the league had 17 of 88 (19 percent) conference games decided by one possession. In 2013, the league had 30 of 108 (28 percent) conference games decided by one possession. In 2012, the league had 32 of 108 (30 percent) conference games decided by one possession.

The Citadel will play five league games in an eleven-day stretch (three at home), so the next couple of weeks are going to be big ones for the Bulldogs.

– UNC-Greensboro is 9-4 this season, 6-4 versus D-1 competition. The losses have come against Virginia, High Point, Wake Forest, and Georgetown.

The Spartans are led by 6’8″, 255 lb. senior R.J. White, a preseason all-SoCon selection. After UNCG’s loss to Georgetown, Hoyas head coach John Thompson III said that White might have been the best offensive post player GU had faced to this point in the season.

UNCG guard Dionte Baldwin had two good games versus The Citadel last season, with a combined 38 points and 15 assists in the two contests. Baldwin (6’0″, 191 lbs.) is a senior from Greensboro.

The Spartans play at a pace that is a bit below the national average, so the battle for tempo could be interesting.

According to kenpom.com, The Citadel has a 27% chance of defeating UNC-Greensboro. That site projects a final score of 95-89.

Per one source that deals in such matters, UNCG is a 7.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 184.

– Furman (which hosts the Bulldogs on 12/31) is 7-6 overall, 5-6 against D-1 opponents. None of FU’s losses have been by more than six points. The general consensus among league hoops aficionados seems to be that Furman is better than its record indicates.

Preseason all-league pick Devin Sibley (6’2″, 175 lbs.) leads Furman in scoring, at 15.4 points per game. Daniel Fowler (6’4″, 175 lbs.) is also having a solid season for FU thus far.

As is the case with UNC-Greensboro, the Paladins’ pace of play is below the national average. The Citadel has a 9% chance of winning at Furman, per kenpom.com.

– Wofford and The Citadel play in Spartanburg on January 2. The Terriers are 5-8 (as of 12/26), with just two victories against Division I competition.

However, Wofford is still projected to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Southern Conference. The Terriers are led by preseason all-conference choice Fletcher McGee (6’4″, 194 lbs.).

McGee is averaging 16.1 points per game, and is also shooting 41.4% from three-land. His teammate, Eric Garcia (6’0″, 185 lbs.) is shooting 51.7% from beyond the arc.

Wofford is another SoCon team that likes to dial down the pace. Per kenpom.com, The Citadel has an 18% chance of picking up a road victory.

– On January 5, the Bulldogs host East Tennessee State, one of the two preseason favorites in the SoCon (Chattanooga being the other). ETSU is not afraid to play an uptempo brand of basketball; given that and the Buccaneers’ talent advantage, this could be one of the tougher home games The Citadel will play all season.

T.J. Cromer (6’3″, 195 lbs.) and Hanner Mosquera-Perea (6’9″, 230 lbs.) were both named to the SoCon’s preseason all-league squad.

Cromer had two good games against The Citadel last season, including the Bucs’ 101-92 OT win at McAlister Field House. He is averaging 17.3 points per game this season.

Mosquera-Perea is a transfer from Indiana (where he played for three seasons). The native of Colombia is described on ETSU’s website as “possibly the most highly decorated recruit in program history”.

East Tennessee State also added four new junior-college transfers to its roster. The Citadel has a 12% chance of defeating the Buccaneers, according to kenpom.com.

– Two days after ETSU’s trip to Charleston, VMI will make an appearance at The Citadel. The Keydets are currently 3-8, with only one D-1 victory (against Charleston Southern).

Q.J. Peterson (6’0″, 185 lbs.) is back for one more season in Lexington. The preseason all-SoCon pick led the league in scoring last season, and is averaging 18.5 points per game so far this year.

VMI actually plays at the third-fastest pace in the conference, slightly above the national average. Kenpom.com’s projection gives The Citadel a 69% chance of beating the Keydets, which is nice.

The Citadel certainly faces a challenging start to its league campaign. It would not be shocking if the Bulldogs struggle out of the gate in SoCon play.

That said, I think The Citadel is going to be better this year than last. There is a chance the Bulldogs could be a very tough out for their opponents, particularly as the season progresses.

I would encourage anyone who enjoys basketball to make an effort to see The Citadel in person. The Bulldogs may look fast on TV (or online), but it can be hard to fully grasp the pace of the game they play unless you are in the arena.

It is a fun brand of hoops (especially when The Citadel is making shots).

I look forward to seeing a few more games up close myself. I’m also hopeful the Bulldogs will pull out a few more wins this season.

Schools that have never made the NCAA Tournament — the 2016 edition

Previous entries on this subject:  The 2015 edition The 2014 edition The 2013 edition The 2012 edition  The 2011 edition  The 2010 edition

All season records are through February 28

League tourney time is right around the corner, with the regular season drawing to a close for most of the nation’s conferences. That means it’s time for March Madness, with schools across the country striving to making the promised land, the NCAA Tournament.

Most of them will not succeed. After all, there are 351 institutions that play men’s basketball at the Division I level, and only 68 of them will make the NCAAs. For some of those schools, though, the failure to make the tourney is not just a brief blip in their respective hardwood histories.

There are 33 schools that have been members of D-1 for at least a decade, but have never appeared in the NCAAs. Now, there are other schools in the division that have also never made the Big Dance, but there is a distinction to be made between schools that are recent arrivals in D-1 (like Central Arkansas or Bryant) and longtime no-nos (such as Hartford or UMKC).

Of those schools with 10+ years in Division I but no bids to show for it, 17 of them have been in D-1 for 30 years or more and are still waiting. For fans of schools like Denver, Maryland-Eastern Shore, or Stetson, the annual tradition of watching Selection Sunday with no vested interest has become a numbing experience, if not a depressing one.

History shows that it is hard for these schools to break through. When I started writing about this topic in 2010, I listed the twenty schools with the longest waits for an NCAA tourney bid. Of those twenty, seventeen of them are still waiting. One of the three no longer on the list, Centenary, simply dropped to Division III after 50 years of frustration.

However, there is hope, as the other two schools dropped off the list because they finally made the tournament last season. For UC Irvine, which had been in D-1 since 1978, the dream was realized when it won the Big West tourney title. The program had lost in the conference championship game on four previous occasions.

Meanwhile, Buffalo (a D-1 member for 26 years, and continuously since 1992) won the MAC tourney and earned its first trip to the NCAAs in the process, having come very close several times before but never quite getting over the hump. Both UCI and Buffalo lost close games in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but at least they got there.

Before starting this year’s report on the longtime no-timers, however, there is another list of schools worthy of mention. There are numerous institutions that have made at least one NCAA appearance, but haven’t been back to the tournament in at least 20 years. A few of them have been waiting longer for a return to the NCAAs than the majority of the never-beens.

First (last?) among this group of schools is Dartmouth. The Big Green was the national finalist twice (in 1942 and 1944), and has made five other appearances in the tournament. However, Dartmouth last made the NCAAs in 1959. That streak will continue for at least one more season, as the Big Green has already been eliminated from the Ivy League title race (and that conference has no postseason tournament).

Next up (down?) is another member of the Ivies, Yale, which has not appeared in the NCAAs since 1962, the last of three trips for that program. However, the Elis are currently in first place in the Ivy League, and stand a decent chance to get that long-awaited return trip (after narrowly missing out last season).

Other schools that have made at least one appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but haven’t been back since 1996 (or earlier) while continuously in D-1:

Tennessee Tech (last made the NCAAs in 1963), Columbia (1968), Bowling Green (1968), Rice (1970), VMI (1977), Duquesne (1977), Furman (1980), Toledo (1980), Loyola of Chicago (1985), Brown (1986), Jacksonville (1986), Marshall (1987), Idaho State (1987), Marist (1987), Oregon State (1990), Loyola Marymount (1990), Idaho (1990), Louisiana Tech (1991), Towson (1991), St. Francis-PA (1991), Rutgers (1991), Howard (1992), Georgia Southern (1992), Campbell (1992), Fordham (1992), East Carolina (1993), Rider (1994), Tennessee State (1994), Tulane (1995), Canisius (1996), Colgate (1996), Drexel (1996), Green Bay (1996), Montana State (1996), New Orleans (1996), Northern Illinois (1996), Portland (1996), San Jose State (1996), Santa Clara (1996), ULM (1996), and Western Carolina (1996).

Yes, twelve schools that appeared in the 1996 tournament have not been back since, which is more than a little flukish.

Note: Seattle (a finalist in 1958, but with no NCAA appearances since 1969) and Houston Baptist (made the tourney in 1984) both left D-1 and then later returned, so they haven’t continuously been in the division after making their most recent NCAA tourney appearances.

Last year, Northeastern and SMU both made the NCAAs after long absences. They had last made the field in 1991 and 1993, respectively.

Besides Yale, teams on the above list with a reasonable chance to make it back to the NCAAs this season include Furman, Toledo, Jacksonville, Marshall (still trying to overcome the Curse of Randy Nesbit), Oregon State, Louisiana Tech, Towson, Tennessee State, Green Bay, and Northern Illinois.

Of course, it’s possible none of the above-mentioned schools return to the tournament. Most of them would have to win their conference tourneys to get a bid. An exception to that might be Oregon State, which holds the dubious distinction of suffering from the longest current tournament appearance drought of any power 5 school save Northwestern.

Speaking of the Wildcats, it is time to begin the rundown of the schools that have never made the NCAAs in at least a decade of trying. As always, we start with the Forgotten Five.

The NCAA Tournament began in 1939, with the final that year held in Evanston, Illinois (which must really annoy Northwestern fans). In 1948, the NCAA reorganized into separate divisions (university and college) for its member institutions. Of the schools that since 1948 have continuously been in what is now Division I, there are five which have never made the tournament field.

All five of those schools theoretically could have been in the tournament beginning in 1939, so for them the wait is actually longer than their history as official members of Division I. (This is just one of many crushing items/statistics about these institutions’ basketball histories.)

The five schools are known as “The Forgotten Five”. The class of 1948 (or 1939, if you want to get overly technical):

——-

Northwestern: It is hard to believe a school in a power conference could fail to get an at-large bid in all this time, especially with the expansion of the tournament, but Northwestern has made believers of us all.

Of the 65 schools in the top five leagues (counting Notre Dame as an ACC member), 52 have made at least one appearance in the NCAA tournament over the past five years. That’s 80% of all power-conference schools.

Of the thirteen that haven’t, only six haven’t made the tourney over the past seven years: South Carolina (last made the NCAAs in 2004), Auburn (2003), TCU (1998), Rutgers (1991), Oregon State (1990), and Northwestern. (It should be noted that TCU and Rutgers haven’t continuously been members of a power conference during that seven-year stretch.)

If you’re wondering how a major-conference school could somehow manage to miss out on the tournament for so long, it’s fairly simple: Northwestern hasn’t had a winning record in Big 10 play since 1968. That may be a more amazing mark of futility than the failure to make the NCAAs.

Northwestern’s struggles in conference action is a tidbit mentioned in John Feinstein’s recent article in The Washington Post on the Wildcats’ hoops program, one of a series of stories on the Forgotten Five over the past few weeks in that newspaper (all authored by Feinstein).

This season, Northwestern is 18-11 overall, but only 6-10 in league play. The Wildcats’ only chance at an NCAA bid this season is to win the Big 10 tourney, and they won’t be able to play Rutgers in every game.

Army: Not only was 1968 the last time Northwestern finished with a winning record in the Big 10, it was also the year Army turned down an NCAA bid and played in the NIT instead. It wasn’t a bizarre decision by any means (as Feinstein relates in his piece on Army hoops).

[Tangent: the last school to turn down an NCAA bid was Marquette, in 1970, a move made by the remarkable Al McGuire, who should be the subject of a major motion picture sooner rather than later. Schools are no longer allowed to decline NCAA bids to play in the NIT, a tournament which is now owned by the NCAA.]

Army went undefeated in 1944 (15-0), but didn’t play in any postseason tourneys; wartime travel restrictions played a role in that. Would the Black Knights have received an NCAA invite in an era in which the tournament only included eight teams? We’ll never know.

As for this year, Army is 18-12 overall, 9-9 in the Patriot League. A run through the league tourney may not be probable, but it is possible.

The Citadel: The Bulldogs have now lost 20+ games in five of the last six seasons, though this year’s campaign (10-21 overall, 3-15 SoCon) has been a little different, given it was the first season in Charleston for Duggar Baucom and the frenetic style of play he employs (as detailed in John Feinstein’s school profile). Regardless, The Citadel will have to wait for at least one more year.

William and Mary: In my opinion, the Tribe is the Forgotten Five program that most deserves to break through and make the NCAAs. The past two seasons have been tortuous, as excellent William and Mary squads have fallen one game short of the Big Dance.

This year, the Tribe is 19-10 overall, 11-7 in the CAA. I wouldn’t be surprised to see William and Mary in the league final for a third consecutive year. The problem is that the Tribe is 0-9 all-time in conference championship games (in three different leagues).

St. Francis College: John Feinstein’s story on the Terriers includes a memorable quote from the school chaplain prior to last season’s NEC title game, which was hosted by St. Francis:

We’ve been in the desert longer than Moses. The end is near.

Moses eventually got out of the desert. St. Francis College, not so much.

There isn’t likely to be any relief for SFC this year, either. After being just one game away from the oasis last season, in 2015-2016 the Terriers are 15-16 overall, 11-7 in the conference.

Perhaps St. Francis can make another tournament run. One gets the sense, though, that the window of opportunity (at least for right now) may have closed.

Next up on the list of the dance-averse are two New England universities still in search of an initial NCAA bid despite being members of D-1 since 1962. As a hardwood tandem, they are known as “The Dour Duo”. Both are members of the America East conference.

New Hampshire: The Wildcats are 18-11 overall, 11-5 in conference play, and have clinched a second consecutive winning season (after not having any winning campaigns in the previous 20 years).

Stony Brook is the league leader (more on the Seawolves later) and will be favored in the conference tourney. However, UNH cannot be completely dismissed. New Hampshire probably has one more opportunity next season to break through with its current group of players, but sometimes it’s easier to arrive a year early. This could be that year.

Maine: On the other hand, it has been another tough season in Orono, as the Black Bears are 8-21 (4-12 in league play). That is better than last season (3-27), to be fair.

Maine will have to wait at least one more year (a sentence that will be repeated, with minor variations, several times in this post).

The rest of the rundown:

– Denver (D-1 from 1948 to 1980, then back to the division in 1999): The Pioneers are 15-14 overall, 7-9 in the Summit League. This season has been better than last year for slow-slower-slowest Denver (only two other Division I teams average fewer possessions per contest), but a surprise run through the league tournament seems unlikely.

– UT-Rio Grande Valley (class of 1969): If you’ve never heard of UT-Rio Grande Valley, don’t feel too badly about it. The school formerly known as UT-Pan American merged with UT-Brownsville to become UT-Rio Grande Valley, and also changed nicknames (from Broncs to Vaqueros).

Recently, the school announced that former Texas head football coach Mack Brown will lead a feasibility study for potentially establishing a new football program. Brown is expected to recommend that UTRGV add the sport, as there are a large number of high school quarterbacks in the region who could be offered scholarships to play free safety.

On the hardwood, the school hasn’t had much success over the years, regardless of its name, and this year is no exception. UTRGV is 8-20 overall, 4-9 in the WAC.

– Stetson (class of 1972): The Hatters are 10-21 overall, 4-10 in the Atlantic Sun, and ineligible for the NCAAs because of a sub-par APR score. Thus, the school’s most notable hoops player will remain the late Ted Cassidy. You rang?

– Grambling State (class of 1978): The bad news is that Grambling State has only won six games this season. The good news is that the Tigers have won more games this season than they did in any of their four previous campaigns (4, 0, 5, and 2 wins).

This isn’t going to be the year.

– Maryland-Eastern Shore (D-1 in 1974-75, then back to the division for good in 1982): UMES had suffered 12 consecutive 20+ loss seasons until last year’s mini-miracle, which resulted in 18 wins.

Alas, this year the Hawks are 9-21 overall (6-9 in the MEAC). Eight of UMES’ nine conference losses have been by single digits. The magic has left the shore, at least for the moment.

– Youngstown State (D-1 in 1948, then returning to the division in 1982): The Penguins are 11-20, 6-12 in the Horizon League. It’s basically a repeat of last year’s 11-21 season. In other words, time to get ready for spring football practice.

– Bethune-Cookman (class of 1981): The Wildcats are only 13-16 overall, but 9-5 in the MEAC. Could they sneak through the league tourney and grab that elusive NCAA tourney bid?

It’s not out of the question. After all, this is the MEAC Tournament, which always has something for everyone, on and off the court. See pages 40-41 of this document for the men’s and women’s tourney brackets (the two tournaments take place over a six-day period at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, VA).

This year’s entertainment at the MEAC tourney includes a tipoff concert by the “Legends of Soul” (featuring Freddie Jackson) and a pair of official after-party events, one of which is hosted by Kid ‘n Play.

– Western Illinois (class of 1982): During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, the Leathernecks won a combined 40 games. However, WIU followed up those fine seasons with 10- and 8-win campaigns, and was 10-17 this year. Western Illinois finished in last place in the Summit League and did not qualify for the conference tournament.

– Chicago State (class of 1985): The Cougars won only eight games last season. This year, Chicago State is 4-26 and has only one Division I victory, which came against…Western Illinois.

Unfortunately, right now Chicago State has much bigger problems than its basketball team’s record.

– Hartford (class of 1985): The Hawks are 9-22, 4-12 in the America East. It looks like this will be another season of torment for WCSC-TV sportscaster Kevin Bilodeau and the rest of Hartford’s faithful fans.

– UMKC (class of 1988): Six of the eight schools in the WAC have never been to the NCAAs. Of the six, the one having the best season (Grand Canyon) is ineligible to participate because it hasn’t completed its probationary period in D-1.

We’ve already seen Chicago State and UT-Rio Grande Valley on this list. As for UMKC, the Kangaroos are 10-18 overall, 3-10 in the WAC. UMKC does have a win over a power conference team this season (Mississippi State), but that’s probably going to be the highlight of its season.

– Sacramento State (class of 1992): Last year was a very good one for the Hornets, which won 21 games. One of those was a CIT triumph over Portland, the first postseason tournament victory in the program’s history.

This year, things haven’t gone nearly as well. Sacramento State is 11-16, 4-12 in the Big Sky. In past years, that would have eliminated the Hornets from league tournament qualification, but this year the conference has expanded its tourney to include all 12 teams.

– UT Martin (class of 1993): The Skyhawks are tied for first place in the OVC West, with a 10-6 conference mark (18-13 overall). It’s the second consecutive solid season for UT Martin, which won’t be the favorite at the OVC tourney (that will be Belmont), but would seem to have at least a puncher’s chance.

– Jacksonville State (class of 1996): The Gamecocks are 8-23, 4-12 in the OVC. For the third season in a row, Jacksonville State will not qualify for the league tournament. It’s kind of hard to make the NCAAs in a one-bid league if you can’t make your conference tourney.

– Quinnipiac (class of 1999): At 9-20, 6-14 in the MAAC, Quinnipiac is going backwards. The Bobcats won twenty games in 2013-14 and fifteen games last season.

Perhaps in an election year, it is a bit much to expect Quinnipiac to fully concentrate on hoops when there is so much polling to do.

– Elon (class of 2000): The Phoenix are 16-15 overall, but just 7-11 in CAA play. The league tournament should be one of the nation’s most competitive this year, but it’s difficult to envision Elon winning four games in four days.

– High Point (class of 2000): High Point is due. This is the fourth straight season the Panthers (20-9, 13-5) have won or shared the regular-season title in the Big South. High Point also has the league’s best player in John Brown.

However, Brown missed the regular-season finale with a foot injury. If he is limited (or simply unable to play) in the conference tournament, it could be crushing for HPU.

– Sacred Heart (class of 2000): The Pioneers lost 10 of their first 11 games, but things improved once conference action began. Sacred Heart is 12-17 overall, with a winning record in the NEC (11-7).

The league tourney could be a brawl. Sacred Heart is a potential sleeper.

– Stony Brook (class of 2000): Over the last six seasons, the Seawolves have won 22, 15, 22, 25, 23, and 23 games. Last year, Stony Brook was very close to an NCAA tournament bid. How close? This close.

That had to hurt.

This year, the Seawolves are 23-6 overall, 14-2 in conference play — but with losses in two of their last three games.

Stony Brook will host every game it plays in the league tournament. Will this finally be the year?

UC Riverside (class of 2002): The Highlanders won 14 games last season and are 14-16 this year. UC Riverside is a respectable middle-of-the-pack Big West squad, but winning the conference tournament might be a bit of a stretch.

– IPFW (class of 2002): The Mastodons are 23-8 overall and tied for first place in the Summit League with a 12-4 mark. The conference tournament is in Sioux Falls, which could be an issue (nearby South Dakota State being the other team that tied for first). Still, this should be a good opportunity for IPFW to make the NCAA tourney.

Mastodons may be extinct, but you still can’t count them out.

Gardner-Webb (class of 2003): The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 15-15 overall, 10-8 in the Big South. It wouldn’t be a total shock for Gardner-Webb to be playing for the league tournament title on March 6.

Savannah State (class of 2003): The Tigers are 13-13 overall, 8-6 in the MEAC. Savannah State needs a few breaks to go its way in the MEAC tournament. Hey, it could happen.

– Lipscomb (class of 2004): The Bisons are 11-20, 7-7 in the Atlantic Sun. If North Florida were to be upset in the league tournament, then just about any other team in the top six could win it, including Lipscomb. I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it.

UC Davis (class of 2005): The Aggies won 25 games last season and the Big West regular-season title. This season, UC Davis is 10-17, 5-9 in the league.

Last year could have been the year. This year almost certainly won’t be.

Utah Valley (class of 2005): Utah Valley is 12-16, 6-7 in the WAC. That isn’t great, but it’s better than the three other WAC teams on this list.

Indeed, the Wolverines are 6-0 against UMKC, Chicago State, and UTRGV (the three worst teams in the league). However, they are winless against the three schools expected to compete for the conference tourney title (including the favorite, New Mexico State).

Well, that’s the roll call for this season. Will any of those teams finally get their moment in the sun?

Surprisingly enough, I think so. Last year it was UC Irvine and Buffalo. This year could be the time to shine for Stony Brook, or IPFW, or High Point, or maybe (after all these years) William and Mary.

One other potential first-timer not on the list is Cal State Bakersfield, which has been a full-fledged D-1 member for only six years. The Roadrunners (20-8, 10-3) are having a nice season in the WAC and could definitely challenge for the league tourney title.

As I’ve said many times before, if any of the aforementioned schools qualify for the NCAAs, they better not be dropped into one of the play-in games. The “First Four” chiefly serves to limit the tournament experience of the automatic qualifiers, which is unfair and asinine. If the NCAA has to have play-in games (it doesn’t), make at-large teams play in all of them.

A team that handles the pressure of a one-bid league tournament and survives to garner an NCAA bid should always be in the real tournament — the main draw. Always.

Good luck to all the dreamers out there.

The Citadel 78, VMI 75: a few quick thoughts

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

Photo gallery, The Post and Courier

Video from WCSC-TV, including Duggar Baucom’s postgame thoughts, along with those of Derrick Henry and P.J. Boutte

Video from WCIV-TV

Box score

Very random observations:

– The Citadel had 77 possessions in the game, below its average of 82 per contest. This didn’t have as much to do with actual pace (the game was more than frenetic enough from the Bulldogs’ perspective), but instead was a result of VMI gathering 21 offensive rebounds. The Keydets kept many possessions alive with their work on the boards.

VMI had an offensive rebound rate of 44.7%. The Citadel was very fortunate to win on Saturday while allowing such a rate, especially given that the Bulldogs did not shoot well either (36.2%, including only making 9 of 38 three-point attempts).

– The reason The Citadel came back and won? Turnovers. The Bulldogs forced 20 of them while only committing 11 of their own. That is a significant differential. A lot of VMI’s turnovers were of the “live ball” variety, too, which increased the chances of The Citadel converting those miscues into points. The Bulldogs had a 17-7 edge in points off turnovers.

– Considering VMI’s dominance on the offensive glass, it is borderline amazing that The Citadel had a 19-18 edge in second-chance points. The Keydets missed a lot of opportunities to convert second-chance points, particularly in the first half.

– One thing about the Bulldogs, they may occasionally struggle shooting from beyond the arc, but they’re still going to fire away from outside. Ten different players attempted at least one three-pointer on Saturday.

– I thought the atmosphere at McAlister Field House was really good on Saturday. There wasn’t a large contingent of cadets in attendance, but those there made their presence felt. I noticed a sizable number of football players cheering on their hardwood compatriots, and the baseball team also made an appearance.

The pep band was in very good form. I also thought that, in general (and unlike games at Johnson Hagood Stadium), the band worked well with the in-house DJ. His music selection was solid.

I’m not sure, but I think near the end of the game he played a snippet of “Magic” by Pilot, which would be a case of going deep into the playbook…

– I also enjoyed the halftime activities. First, the “Blitz Kids” were honored with a new banner hanging in the rafters. Seven representatives from that era of Bulldog basketball were at the game. I’ve heard my fair share of stories about those teams.

Then, a local Catholic school had two teams of nine-year-olds (I believe that was the age group) play a quick four-minute fullcourt game. This proved to be a highly entertaining affair. Both squads featured strong defensive play. Good job, Saints.

– I missed the game that was played afterwards between the hoops alumni and the corps of cadets. It appears the participants were inspired by Duggar Baucom and the “Embrace the Pace” movement, given the final score of the contest was 91-74.

– Whenever someone refers to “SoCon Saturday” in basketball, it is often a less-than-flattering comment about officiating. The league has traditionally struggled to provide quality officials for weekend games, due in large part to having to compete with major conferences on Saturdays (when there are many more games played than on weekdays).

This particular Saturday wasn’t so bad for The Citadel and VMI, though. The officiating wasn’t perfect (as Duggar Baucom pointed out to the men in stripes on more than one occasion), but it was acceptable.

I feel compelled to note that after ripping the league’s officials from time to time (with considerable justification, in my opinion).

Incidentally, it helped to have guys officiating who had actually called plenty of high-level games this season. One of the officials for yesterday’s game was working his 27th D-1 game of the season. While that is a far cry from the national leader in that category (as of January 30, David Hall had worked an incredible 63 D-1 games in 2015-16), it is a sign that an official is good enough to get regular work at that level.

There have been times when The Citadel has played a league game on a Saturday in late January in which the three officials assigned to the contest have not worked 27 D-1 games, combined. That matters.

Another one of the officials from Saturday’s matchup had only worked 14 D-1 games, but I noticed that in addition to calling NCAA contests he was also an NBA D-League official. The other arbiter on hand at McAlister Field House had only refereed 10 D-1 games, but at least he was in double digits.

I took a few pictures. They aren’t very good. One thing I need to do is concentrate less on action photos (which I’m really bad at taking anyway) and instead focus on things that someone watching on ESPN3 might not be able to see. I’ll try to remember that next time.

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.

McAlister Musings: SoCon play begins for The Citadel

Previous entries in this (sort of) series:

Time to #EmbraceThePace as the season begins for The Citadel

My post from last April on the hiring of Duggar Baucom

Links of interest:

The Duggar Baucom Show [December 17 edition]

Game notes for the game versus Chattanooga

Article from Fox Sports on the “Pacemaker”

The Citadel enters league play with a 7-6 overall record, 4-6 versus Division I competition. The non-conference slate was manageable, for the most part (well, maybe not the Butler game), and that helped in the win-loss department.

It should be noted, however, that the Bulldogs’ four non-conference victories over D1 squads matched the total number of such wins The Citadel had in the previous three seasons — combined.

Two of those triumphs (Bethune-Cookman and USC-Upstate) came on the road, and a third (Georgia Southern) took place at a neutral site. Considering that just two years ago the Bulldogs went an entire season without a road victory, those wins are most welcome, regardless of the level of competition.

The pace of play has been largely as advertised. The Citadel has an adjusted tempo (per kenpom.com) of 82.5 possessions per game, which currently leads the nation. If that statistic were to hold up over the course of the season, it would be the fastest pace for a Duggar Baucom team since his 2006-07 VMI squad averaged 90.1 possessions (adjusted) per contest. (That Keydet team remains the only D1 outfit since at least 2002 to average more than 90 possessions per game.)

Things the Bulldogs have done well so far this season (stats from the 3 games against non-D1 teams are not included):

  • Effective FG rate: at 52.2%, The Citadel currently ranks 74th nationally (2nd in the SoCon)
  • Free throw shooting: the Bulldogs are shooting 76.5% from the charity stripe, 13th-best in Division I
  • 2-point FG%: The Citadel is 12th nationally in this category (57.1%)
  • Turnover rate: actually, the Bulldogs are perfectly average in turnover rate, but considering how terrible The Citadel has been in turnover prevention in recent seasons, that’s a dramatic improvement

Things the Bulldogs have not done well so far this season:

  • Defensive efficiency, which is 4th-worst in all of Division I; one of the three teams worse than the Bulldogs is Stetson, one of the four D1 teams The Citadel has beaten
  • Reasons for the poor defensive efficiency include: effective FG rate (2nd-worst in D1); 2-point FG% (worst in D1); defensive rebounding (bottom 50 nationally); opponents’ free throw rate (bottom 25 nationally)
  • The offensive rebounding hasn’t been good either (bottom 50 nationally), and neither has the offensive free throw rate (bottom 25 nationally)
  • Somewhat disconcertingly, the Bulldogs have allowed opponents a higher-than-expected steal rate (bottom 100 nationally)

Some of the issues that The Citadel has had were expected. The Bulldogs are collectively one of the shorter teams in Division I, and so rebounding was always going to be a problem. Also, Duggar Baucom’s system does not lend itself to good rebounding numbers in general (particularly on the defensive side of the ball).

The number that sticks out the most as unacceptable, at least to me, is the opponents’ free throw rate.

Regardless of the style of play a team employs, getting to the line matters — and so does preventing the opponent from doing likewise. I can remember watching games on TV involving Indiana, and Billy Packer always having the statistic at the ready that Bob Knight’s Hoosiers would have “made more free throws than their opponents had attempted”.

Well, The Citadel is on the wrong side of that statistic. Against D1 teams, the Bulldogs have attempted 188 free throws, while their opponents have made 213 shots from the foul line.

In other words, the average team The Citadel has played this season has basically gone to the foul line on a per-possession basis as much as the elite IU teams from the 1970s and 1980s. That isn’t good.

It hurts the Bulldogs in another way, too. All those free throws result in constant stoppages in play, and that runs counter to The Citadel’s “embrace the pace” philosophy. It’s hard to run the other team out of the gym if it gets to rest every minute or so, and score points with the clock stopped.

In The Citadel’s last two games (both losses), Bulldog opponents combined to shoot 74 free throws.

Going back through Duggar Baucom’s career, opponents’ free throw rate has rarely been a serious problem. The current rate would be by far the highest allowed by one of his teams since he became a head coach. That is something that must be fixed as The Citadel begins its conference campaign.

Speaking of the SoCon, the Bulldogs’ first opponent is the favorite to win the league, and has had some impressive non-conference results. Chattanooga is 11-2, with victories over Georgia, Illinois, and Dayton. All three of those wins under first-year head coach Matt McCall came away from home.

Per kenpom.com, Chattanooga has an 82% probability of winning the game against The Citadel (with a projected scoreline of 93-81).

Preseason SoCon player of the year pick Casey Jones has missed the last five games for the Mocs due to an ankle injury, but UTC managed to beat Dayton without him. Justin Tuoyo was a major force for the Mocs in last year’s game at McAlister Field House (14 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks); I would expect the 6’10” junior to be a problem for the Bulldogs again on Saturday.

The contest will be streamed on ESPN3 and will also be broadcast in Charleston on WQNT-AM 1450 radio (1 pm ET tip time).

After the game against Chattanooga, The Citadel will travel to Alabama to face Samford on Tuesday night before returning home for a Saturday afternoon matchup with Mercer.

The “real” season starts now.

McAlister Musings: Time to #EmbraceThePace as the season begins for The Citadel

This is just a (very) short preview post for The Citadel’s 2015-16 basketball season. I’ll post more about the Bulldogs of the hardwood as the season progresses.

There has been a lot of interest (if not downright curiosity) in the upcoming campaign, as new coach Duggar Baucom prepares to unleash his specific brand of hoops mayhem.

I’m going to use this post to link to a bunch of stuff, including what I wrote when Baucom was hired by The Citadel in the spring:

Duggar Baucom is The Citadel’s new hoops coach. Is he the right choice?

Other links of interest:

– Season preview from The Post and Courier

– “All access” with Duggar Baucom

Story from The Post and Courier on the new style of play

– The Citadel picked to finish next-to-last in the SoCon by the coaches and media

The Citadel shoots 67 three-pointers in exhibition victory over Erksine

Box score from the Erskine game

The Duggar Baucom Show (11/12 episode)

Bulldogs ink pair of new recruits

– Game notes for The Citadel and Butler

Butler coach Chris Holtmann talks about the game versus The Citadel

Preview of The Citadel-Butler from The Indianapolis Star (includes the oft-repeated salt shakers story)

The Citadel’s 2015-16 roster

Let’s talk about that recent game The Citadel played against Erskine…

Sure, it was just an exhibition game against a largely overmatched Division II opponent, but still. The Citadel attempted 67 three-pointers. 67.

The Bulldogs only made 21 of them, though (31.3%). On the bright side, The Citadel collected 22 offensive rebounds (off 57 opportunities from missed FGs/FTs).

According to Duggar Baucom on his coach’s show, taking that many shots from beyond the arc won’t be commonplace (“that was…not by design, for sure”) but he also said The Citadel would probably shoot more three-pointers than any team in the country.

That is easy to believe. Baucom’s VMI team last year led the nation in three-point attempts, averaging almost 36 shots from 3-land per game. No other D1 squad averaged as many as 28 three-point attempts per contest.

The pace of the game against Erskine was as advertised. In the first half, the Bulldogs had 50 possessions. In the second half, things got a little slower; The Citadel only had 44 possessions in that frame.

It is unlikely that the Bulldogs will play a 94-possession game against a D1 opponent this season, at least in a regulation 40 minutes (VMI had a 94-possession game versus Western Carolina last season, but that one went 2OT). However, if The Citadel were to routinely average 85 possessions per game, it would almost certainly lead D1 in that category.

Do I think the Bulldogs will average 85 possessions per game? No. I could see 80, though.

Butler may be the best team The Citadel will play in 2015-16, though there is just a dash of faint praise in that statement. After all, the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule includes no teams from power 5 conferences (possibly the only D1 school for which that will be the case this season), not to mention 3 non-D1 squads.

Regardless, the Indianapolis Bulldogs should be very good, with preseason rankings of #22 (USA Today Coaches’ Poll) and #24 (AP Poll). Butler was picked to finish third in the Big East preseason voting (behind Villanova and Georgetown).

Butler has several excellent players, particularly Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, both preseason all-Big East selections. Last year, BU advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament, beating Texas before losing to Notre Dame.

In 2015-16, Chris Holtmann’s squad was one of the best defensive teams in the nation (7th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com). Butler was very good at preventing offensive rebounds and defending the perimeter (opponents only shot 30.7% from beyond the arc).

On offense, BU was a good offensive rebounding team that took care of the basketball, and did a decent job at getting to the foul line.

According to kenpom.com, Butler has a 99% probability of defeating The Citadel on Saturday, with a projected score of 91-62 (and a possessions estimate of 74).

The game will be televised on Fox Sports 2 (7:30 pm ET), with Alex Faust handling play-by-play and Dickey Simpkins supplying the analysis.

If you’re driving back from Chattanooga and want to listen to the game on the radio, it will be on 1450 AM. Ted Byrne will call the game from Indianapolis for the Bulldogs (since Mike Legg will be at the football game).

I don’t expect The Citadel to have a winning season in 2015-16, or to even be in the vicinity of a .500 record. This is a year for implementing Duggar Baucom’s system, and generating just a little bit of buzz.

Normally I would complain about a couple of things, like the Charmin-soft schedule and some aspects of the roster turnover, but I also understand what is behind both of those issues, and am willing to be patient.

I am glad to see a renewed emphasis on basketball at the military college. That includes three “Pack the Mac” events this season, the first of which is the home opener next week against Stetson.

Things should be entertaining at McAlister Field House this winter, and you can see the action unfold even if you can’t make it to campus. All of the home games will be on ESPN3.

I’m ready for a little roundball.

Duggar Baucom is The Citadel’s new hoops coach. Is he the right choice?

Links of interest:

School release

Article on Duggar Baucom’s hiring from The Post and Courier

Video report from WCIV-TV (with additional interview of Duggar Baucom)

Video report from WCSC-TV (with additional interviews of Duggar Baucom, Jim Senter, and Quinton Marshall)

On Monday, The Citadel hired Duggar Baucom as its new head basketball coach. Baucom is 54 years old, and a bit of a late bloomer in the coaching profession.

His story has been chronicled many times. To sum it up as succinctly as possible:

Baucom was a police officer, then a state trooper. He suffered a heart attack at age 30 that caused him to change careers, eventually going back to school and graduating from UNC Charlotte. Baucom worked as an assistant basketball coach at various colleges (starting as a GA under Bob McKillop at Davidson).

He got his first college head coaching gig at D-2 Tusculum, winning 37 games in two years there and parlaying that into the VMI job. In his second year in Lexington, Baucom decided (by necessity, he would say) to operate the dramatically uptempo style that would give him national notoriety.

After a decade at VMI, he is now in Charleston, charged with improving the hardwood fortunes of another military school. Baucom is a surfer and golf aficionado who is about to enjoy life on the coast, and with a little more cash in his pocket (an increase in salary of over $40,000 per year).

More than twenty years ago, I was talking to an assistant basketball coach at The Citadel when the subject of Loyola Marymount’s 1990 hoops squad came up. That was the year the Lions advanced to the Elite Eight after the death of star player Hank Gathers, a run that included a mesmerizing 149-115 obliteration of defending national champion Michigan.

LMU was coached at the time by Paul Westhead, who employed a run-and-gun style called “The System”. The result was an incredible scoring machine of a team, one that in 1990 averaged 122.4 points per contest, still the all-time Division I record. Earlier that same season, the Lions had lost an overtime game in Baton Rouge to LSU by a final score of 148-141 (the game was tied at 134 at the end of regulation), a simply astonishing game that had to be seen to be believed.

Those were fun games to watch. I asked the coach whether or not he thought that style would become more prevalent.

“I hope it doesn’t,” he said. “I think it reduces the importance of coaching.”

Duggar Baucom, it is safe to say, has a different point of view. From an article written two years ago:

“Coaches are a lot more control freaks than they’ve ever been,” says Baucom, which is not a complaint you hear very often from a coach at a school [VMI] that claims to foster “punctuality, order, discipline, courtesy, and respect for authority.”

“I call ‘em joystick coaches,” Baucom tells me. “They try to orchestrate every movement instead of letting ‘em play. It becomes kind of like a wrestling match. There’s teams in [the Big South] that run 20 seconds of false motion to get the shot clock down, and then run a set. I watch some teams play and it looks like the kids are in jail.”

Under Baucom, VMI led the nation in scoring in six of the last nine seasons. The Keydets were the last D-1 team to average over 100 points per game over a full season, doing so during the 2006-2007 campaign.

Can he recreate that kind of offense at The Citadel? More importantly, can he consistently win at The Citadel?

The answers to those two questions, in my opinion:

1) He might be able to produce an explosive offensive team, but it depends in part on the overall point-scoring climate of D-1 hoops, something which he obviously doesn’t control. Right now, averaging over 100 points per game over the course of a season is almost impossible due to the current state of the college game.

2) Baucom can consistently win games at The Citadel, but only if his teams’ historic defensive statistics significantly improve.

My statistical look at Baucom’s career at VMI encompasses his last nine seasons with the Keydets. I chose not to include the 2005-06 campaign, his first year as head coach. That season (in which VMI went 7-20), he had not yet installed the “loot and shoot” offense (that happened the following year). Baucom also missed 12 games in 2005-06 after complications arose during an operation to replace his pacemaker.

Year W-L LG Adj. O Adj. D Poss/gm Nat’l avg
2007 10-19 5-9 110 331 90.9 66.9
2008 10-15 6-8 126 331 79.2 67.0
2009 20-8 13-5 107 280 80.9 66.5
2010 6-19 5-13 195 346 84.2 67.3
2011 14-13 10-8 50 340 75.6 66.7
2012 14-16 8-10 180 311 73.6 66.1
2013 11-17 8-8 172 331 71.1 65.9
2014 18-13 11-5 90 306 74.7 66.4
2015 9-19 7-11 295 260 77.1 64.8

The win-loss column reflects Division I games only. “LG” refers to league games, all in the Big South with the exception of the 2014-15 season, VMI’s first in its return to the SoCon.

The “Adj. O” and “Adj. D” columns represent VMI’s national rank in adjusted offense and adjusted defense, per kenpom.com. “Poss/gm” refers to possessions per game, with “Nat’l avg” the national average in possessions per game for that particular season.

One of the things that interested me when I reviewed these numbers was that the “frenzied style” used by VMI wasn’t really quite as frenzied as advertised, at least when compared to years past. It is an indictment of the way the game is played today that 77.1 possessions per game would be enough to lead the nation in that category, but that’s exactly what the Keydets did last season.

In 1989-1990, 16% of the teams ranked in the final AP poll averaged more than 80 possessions per contest. That’s just the ranked teams, mind you — there were many other squads playing at that pace (though none matched Loyola Marymount’s 103 possessions per game, then and now a staggering total).

These numbers don’t include non-D1 games, a non-conference scheduling staple of Baucom’s tenure at VMI (as they are for many other low-major programs, of course). VMI regularly played three or four NAIA/D2 schools each season.

Looking at the results of those matchups, I wondered if Baucom scheduled some of the teams in part because they were willing to run up and down the court with the Keydets. There weren’t any Wimp Sanderson types opposing VMI in these games, that’s for sure.

VMI had a 116-possession game during the 2007-2008 season against Southern Virginia, a 144-127 Keydet victory that must have been fascinating to watch, if only from an academic perspective. Incidentally, that’s the same number of possessions (in regulation) that occurred during the famed LMU-LSU game in 1990 I referenced above.

Starting in the 2006-2007 season, here are the points scored by VMI against non-D1 foes: 156, 144, 135, 125, 135, 156, 112, 123, 118, 133, 113, 113, 111, 108, 99, 99, 106, 120, 94, 151, 101, 109, 122, 116, 102, 110, 121, 112, 110, 128, 124, and 133.

That is one reason why I didn’t concentrate on yearly scoring averages when reviewing the overall statistical record.

The 2006-2007 season may have been Baucom’s Platonic ideal in terms of pace of play. VMI averaged over 90 possessions per game (the only D-1 team to do that over the course of an entire season since at least 2002). Beginning on January 10, 2007, VMI embarked on a 13-game stretch against Division I competition in which its point totals were as follows: 104, 116, 97, 102, 103, 117, 96, 99, 105, 102, 107, 108, and 92.

Alas, the Keydets only won five of those thirteen games.

That last loss, 109-92 to High Point, was the final game of the regular season. Then a funny thing happened. VMI dialed down its pace of play to more “normal” levels, started playing a sagging zone defense, and promptly won consecutive games in the Big South tournament, beating two teams (Liberty and High Point) that had swept the Keydets during the regular season.

In the conference title game, VMI continued to slow things down, and wound up narrowly losing to Winthrop (84-81).

Maybe that led to a slight adjustment by Baucom in the years to follow. I don’t know.

It’s possible, though, that he infused his philosophical approach to hoops with a dose of practicality. VMI didn’t approach the 90-possession plateau after that season, with its highest per-game rate since then being 84.2 in 2009-2010, a year in which the Keydets only won six D-1 contests.

The success in that 2007 Big South tournament was not a fluke. While VMI never won the tourney under Baucom, the Keydets generally fared well in the event during his time in Lexington (making the final three times), a marked contrast to The Citadel’s continued struggles in the SoCon tournament.

With a little luck, Baucom may well have led VMI to the tourney title at least once. He had a very good record in tournament play when the Keydets hosted a game or were playing at a neutral site. Most of the time, VMI only lost in the Big South tournament when it had to play on an opponent’s home floor.

VMI’s record in the Big South tournament, 2007-2014

  • Home (3-0)
  • Neutral (6-1)
  • Road (1-7)

The Keydets lost the aforementioned 2007 Big South final to Winthrop in Rock Hill; lost the following year to Liberty in Lynchburg; lost at Radford in the 2009 Big South title game; lost games in Conway to Coastal Carolina in 2010, 2011, and 2014; and lost the 2012 final to UNC-Asheville at Kimmel Arena in Asheville.

Since it appears the Southern Conference tournament is going to remain in Asheville for the next few years, The Citadel needs to make sure UNC-Asheville is not allowed to join the league.

In 2007, VMI finished 331st nationally in adjusted defense. Only six teams in all of D-1 were worse on defense (in terms of points per possession, and further adjusted for schedule) than the Keydets.

That began a pattern under Baucom. He produced high-scoring teams generally better-than-average in terms of offensive efficiency, but saddled with defenses that were not very good, even taking into account pace of play.

Two years later, the Keydets won 20 D-1 games, including a memorable 111-103 victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Surprisingly, VMI’s successful campaign occurred despite having a below-average defense (280th out of 344 D-1 squads).

The win over Kentucky (which came in the season opener) was a 93-possession game, the most possessions in any of VMI’s games that season against D-1 opponents. The Wildcats decided they could run with the Keydets. That was a mistake.

The following season, VMI was the second-worst defensive outfit in the country, and the record reflected it. The Keydets would continue to be a bottom-50 team in adjusted defense every year until last season, when the team finished a slightly more respectable 260th (out of 351 D-1 teams).

In case you were wondering, The Citadel’s defensive efficiency was better than VMI’s in five of those nine seasons. This past season, of course, the Bulldogs were the worst defensive squad in the country.

While the Keydets were never a good defensive rebounding team under Baucom, they also struggled for several years on the offensive glass. However, in the last three seasons, there was a distinct improvement in offensive rebounding percentage.

  • VMI’s national rank in offensive rebounding percentage by year, 2007-2012: 232, 254, 320, 326, 264, 303
  • VMI’s national rank in offensive rebounding percentage by year, 2013-2015: 150, 136, 131

I don’t know if there was a concerted effort to get better in that area, or if the increased offensive rebounding totals are simply a product of changing personnel.

I tend to agree with those who believe that for The Citadel to be successful in hoops, it needs to be different. The Bulldogs either need to use a patterned, deliberate style (such as the “Princeton offense”), or do the exact opposite and run-and-gun for forty minutes. Pick an extreme, and gravitate to it.

While I’ve been critical of the current state of college hoops, with its clutching and grabbing and incessant timeouts, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a slower-paced game, especially when it is of high quality. I was a big fan of Ed Conroy’s teams. This past season, I enjoyed watching Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad, which played a muscular-but-skillful brand of basketball.

If anything, I thought The Citadel would be best served “going slow”. Clearly, Jim Senter had other ideas.

Part of his reasoning, I’m sure, is about the box office. He wants more people in the seats, and probably figures that a perpetual scoreboard explosion is a good way to attract curious onlookers to McAlister Field House.

With that in mind, Baucom will have more on his plate than just coaching the team. He has to sell his program to the local community, and to the corps of cadets as well.

As far as the local scene is concerned, this may not be a bad time to make a renewed effort to attract fans, with College of Charleston scuffling a bit, still trying to find its way with a relatively new coach and league. There is plenty of room for both of the college basketball teams in the city, but becoming the lead hoops story in town wouldn’t hurt any.

Regarding the corps, I was encouraged by this season’s cadet presence. It can still get better, and I think it will. There is momentum on that front.

Baucom might also consider reaching out to some of the more recent graduates from the basketball program. Several of them were hoping that former assistant coach Doug Novak would get the job, and were understandably disappointed when that didn’t happen.

I’ve seen a couple of criticisms of Baucom’s preferred style of play that I wanted to quickly discuss, mainly because I think both are misguided.

1) This style of basketball is just a “roll the balls out” type of coaching, or non-coaching

I think an actual “roll the balls out” coach would be a very static, middle-of-the-road operator. He certainly wouldn’t be interested in pressing, trapping defense, or approaching the game from a mathematical point of view:

“Its basketball inflation,” Baucom said. “The more possessions we can create the less value they have. We’re trying to get more shots than the other team, force more turnovers, get offensive boards. The key is passing and catching and spacing.”

2) This style of basketball is at odds with The Citadel’s institutional history

Honestly, I don’t get this at all. I guess the argument is that it is undisciplined basketball, but I don’t think that’s true. At its very core, it seems to me that it requires a great deal of discipline. To be conditioned well enough to play this way takes discipline. To never take a play off while on the court takes discipline. To get in the proper defensive position while pressing takes discipline.

The best argument against Baucom’s style of play, in my opinion, is that it may be difficult to recruit players who can flourish in his system.

I think it’s possible that one reason Baucom’s teams never approached the 90-possession days of 2006-2007 in subsequent seasons was that the coach realized he didn’t “have the horses” to run quite that fast and still win games. If so, I believe that presents a potential issue.

That’s because I believe the best chance for this system to work at The Citadel is if it is stretched to its natural limit. In other words, if the team is going to play this way, it needs to strive for 90+ possessions per game on a regular basis.

Instead of having a possession differential when compared to the rest of the country of between six and twelve possessions per game (as was the case for VMI over the last five seasons), The Citadel should have a possession differential of between fifteen and twenty possessions per game. That’s the best way, employing this system, for the program to become an upper-echelon Southern Conference outfit. It’s the best way, employing this system, for the Bulldogs to win the league.

To do that, though, The Citadel has to bring in players capable of handling that pace and doing the things that have to be done to win games. Rebounding, three-point shooting, superior point guard play, the ability to defend — those elements are requirements if the team is going to be successful.

Of course, that’s true regardless of how fast or slow a team plays. It seems to me, though, that a higher level of athleticism is needed to play at a supercharged pace.

I think back to that 1989-1990 Loyola Marymount squad. LMU wasn’t exactly the “little engine that could”. It may have been an upstart program from the West Coast Conference, but the Lions had two NBA-caliber players, Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. Both were transfers, having been originally recruited to play for Southern Cal by George Raveling, one of the great basketball talent evaluators of his era.

Also on that LMU team: an elite college jump shooter (Jeff Fryer) and a better-than-you-realized rebounder/post defender (Per Stumer, who played professionally in Europe for over a decade). Backup point guard Terrell Lowery later played major league baseball. Yes, that team had some great athletes.

Can the Bulldogs’ new coach bring in the talent necessary to win this way? That’s the big question. One thing is for certain, he’s not wasting any time. On the day Baucom was introduced at The Citadel, he got a commitment from a 6’7″ sharpshooter from Virginia.

I don’t know if The Citadel can win playing racehorse basketball, but we’re about to find out.

I’ll be watching with interest when next season rolls around. We all will…