A quick glance at minutes for some recent meetings of The Citadel Board of Visitors

When The Citadel Board of Visitors has a meeting, its minutes are eventually published online. I like to peruse the minutes, as it’s just another way to keep up with the goings-on at the military college.

This post is just a short review of the published minutes for the last three meetings — April 1 (a teleconference), April 15-16, and May 3 (also a teleconference). The minutes for the most recent BOV meeting (June 10-11) have not yet been released.

April 1 meeting

It is always dicey to hold a meeting on April Fools’ Day, but the board plunged ahead with its business anyway. Much of the discussion appears to have taken place in executive session.

The board recognized David L. Preston for winning a major award for his book, Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to RevolutionPreston is the Westvaco Professor of National Security Studies at The Citadel. More importantly, he’s a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The Citadel desperately needs to add more Steelers fans to its faculty.

Also honored was a cadet, James McManus, who received a Fulbright scholarship. He will study in Norway. Sadly, McManus will not be able to go speed skating in Oslo with Johann Olav Koss, as Koss now lives in Canada.

It was also noted that the Commission on Higher Education was to meet the following week to consider approving the school’s new nursing program. The commission did indeed make that consideration, and approved the program at a subsequent meeting, subject to State Board of Nursing approval.

The CHE also signed off on The Citadel’s new Center for Cyber, Intelligence, and Security Studies. That led to the school getting a grant from the National Security Agency.

A final tidbit from the minutes: apparently, it’s hip to be a mechanical engineer. There are 161 declared majors from the Class of 2019 in mechanical engineering, the second-most for any discipline.

April 15-16 meeting

After broaching legal matters in executive session, the board discussed tuition and fees for out-of-state students. It was noted that the school’s focus was changing to more need-based scholarship assistance. The importance of ROTC programs was mentioned.

It was reported that the demolition of the school-owned housing units along Hagood Avenue would begin in June. Also of interest: cellular communications equipment on the water tower is being upgraded.

The board decided to cancel a Request for Proposals for the proposed new parking garage. Apparently some technical issues have arisen. Among other things, that does impact varsity athletics (particularly basketball, in my opinion).

Speaking of varsity athletics…

[Director of Athletics Jim Senter] introduced the Athletic Facilities Master Plan. He discussed the details of the purpose/methodology of the plan, comparison schools data, findings, recommendations, projected costs, and way ahead…

…the “Blue and White Auction” netted over $99,000; membership renewals [in the Brigadier Club] are up to 909 through 11 April 2016; and new memberships are at a high of 103 for the same period.

If I read that correctly, as of mid-April there were over 1,000 active members of The Citadel Brigadier Foundation. The minutes also included a report from The Citadel Alumni Association, which stated that as of mid-April there were 11,849 total members in that group.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would like to think that your typical alumni association member also has a stake in the TCBF. However, unless I am reading the numbers wrong (quite possible), that is the case for less than 10% of CAA members.

I’m not saying it should be 100% or anything close to that, but less than 10%?

Other odds and ends from this meeting:

–  John Rosa got a pin for ten years of service to the college. Based on at least one recent news story, I’m guessing he won’t wear it with his uniform.

– “[We] must anticipate less funding from the state.” This is a sentence that could be uttered on an annual basis. I suspect that “we must anticipate no funding from the state” will be a more accurate statement in a few years. I’m not excited about that, but it seems inevitable. That leads to the question, where does the school find more money? Well…

  • “…the Board of Visitors approves the naming opportunity proposed for the space in the future Capers Hall building as the ‘Leidos Center for Diversity and Global Engagement’.”
  • “…the Board of Visitors approves the naming opportunity proposed to designate The Citadel’s Nursing Program as ‘The Swain Nursing Program’ with an option to rename as ‘The Swain Department of Nursing’ in the future.”
  • “…the Board of Visitors approves the proposed donor recognition signage for the Envisioning, Founding, Sponsoring, and Sustaining classes and organizations.”
  • “…the administration is authorized to use $750,000 from unrestricted funds…to support the online revenue growth initiative.”

Incidentally, page 28 of the CHE report on the nursing program indicates the “total signed pledge” to cover some of the startup costs is $4,000,000, so more power to the Swain family. I’m not sure what the issue is concerning the proper name of the program, but I wish it could be finalized before The Citadel has to spend a little extra money making new signs, letterhead, etc., in the event of a name change.

– “[According to a report by The Citadel Foundation]…total funds raised in 2015 exceeded the goal of $34.5 million, with a strong pipeline going into 2016. The total endowment is currently at a record of $271 million…”

– The Citadel Real Estate Foundation, a 501(c)3, has been incorporated. I’m going to assume (always dangerous) that the object of this foundation is to deal with gifts of property to the college.

– A potential new haircut policy for freshman was proposed. The suggestion: male and female haircuts would maintain the current fourth class haircut standards until Parents’ Day. After that, the existing upper class haircut standards would apply to freshmen as well. This policy may start during the 2016-17 school year.

May 3 meeting

This was another teleconference situation. A couple of BOV members couldn’t make it. A reporter from The Post and Courier was in attendance (she is described in the minutes as a columnist).

Notes from this meeting:

– “The College has received over 900 deposits from the Class of 2020, with 80 deposits from female students and 193 minorities — the most ever.”

– There were several motions regarding requests from graduating seniors to have a specific person (presumably a family member or friend) present the cadet with his or her diploma. This was also the case for the April 15-16 meeting, and led to a recommendation by BOV vice-chairman Dylan Goff to have a “formal procedure with a specific deadline be formulated to avoid last-minute requests for diploma presentation exceptions being submitted to the Board”.

One of The Citadel’s better traditions is that it allows an alumnus parent to personally present his son/daughter with his/her diploma. The school has been careful about making exceptions to this policy. From what I can determine, the BOV has no issues with, say, an alumnus grandfather doing the honors, or an uncle who is a grad (particularly if the father is deceased). The majority of recent requests were denied by the board, however.

While the minutes for the June 10-11 meeting haven’t been posted yet, we do know one thing that was presumably discussed: tuition. The school announced late last week that tuition and fees would increase by approximately 3% for the 2016-2017 academic year.

What does it all mean?

It means that football season is getting closer…

Wrapping up The Citadel’s 2015-16 year in varsity athletics: one bright light, but not much else

I haven’t posted on the blog in quite some time, for a variety of reasons. I’ve been rather busy, for one thing, and I’ve also had a little bit of “writer’s block”.

Another reason, at least when it comes to athletics at The Citadel, is that there hasn’t been a lot of things lately that seemed worth writing about. (Now, when it comes to discussing other issues and events at the military college, our cup runneth over.)

It hasn’t been an inspiring year for The Citadel’s varsity sports, other than the football team.

Ah yes, the football team. Now that is a different story. The gridiron squad had one of the more memorable seasons in the school’s long football history.

I wrote plenty about the team during the fall, of course. That group gets the highly desired honor of being the 2015-16 TSA “Team of the Year”.

I only wish there had been more competition for that title.

The Citadel competes in 17 varsity sports, counting rifle as one (co-ed) entity. The military college competes in the SoCon in 16 of them (the exception is rifle, though that will change next year when the league resumes sponsorship of that sport).

The Bulldogs finished last in the conference in exactly half of those 16 sports: basketball, baseball, tennis, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s soccer, and volleyball.

Not all of those are alike, of course. Expectations are different. No one is going to be overly critical of the cross country teams, for example (which were also reasonably competitive).

That isn’t quite the case for some of the other teams. I don’t like being harsh about these things, but the fact is that there were some very disappointing campaigns in 2015-16. A few of those teams have now had several consecutive rough seasons.

It isn’t easy to put winning teams on the field (or court) at The Citadel. Everyone knows this. However, I would like to think that varsity athletics can do a lot better than the sum total for this school year.

It is also true that several of the current coaches are relatively new to their positions (including the head coaches for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and soccer). It take time to build programs at The Citadel; perhaps in a year or two the department will be bragging about multiple SoCon team titles.

I hope so. Boasting can be therapeutic.

I’m going to try to get the blog going again over the summer. It is probable that not everything I write will focus on The Citadel.

That doesn’t mean I’m not counting the days until the football opener at Mercer, though…

Twitter postmortem: The Citadel 23, South Carolina 22 — the timeline

Yes, this is well after the fact. On the other hand, The Citadel’s 23-22 victory over South Carolina on November 21, 2015 won’t be forgotten by Bulldog fans anytime soon (or by supporters of the Gamecocks, for that matter).

The idea for this post occurred to me recently when I saw a stray tweet from the day of the game (it was an old re-tweet). I then realized that I had never really paid a lot of attention to the in-the-moment reaction on Twitter to the events unfolding at Williams-Brice Stadium, mainly because I was at the game.

Months later, I took a look back. It was something to behold.

I decided to “curate” a list of tweets related to the game, just for those (like me) largely unaware of what was happening on Twitter. It is by no means a complete list; for one thing, there were plenty of interesting tweets that were a bit too profane for me to include in this set.

I also decided to mostly skip over tweets that referenced things the majority of fans of The Citadel know all about, like Mike Houston’s postgame interview with Paul Finebaum (and the subsequent presser with the rest of the media). For a more thorough overview, the “links of interest” section in my game review might be worthwhile for some readers.

What follows are tweets from media members, fans, former players (on both sides), and a few other observers. The tweets start from around 2:53 pm ET on that Saturday, the moment Tyler Renew scored the go-ahead touchdown for The Citadel in the fourth quarter. The series concludes almost eight hours later.

Note: it takes a few seconds for all the twitter links to download. Patience is a virtue.

Riley Report: taking stock before SoCon play begins

This isn’t going to be a long post. Just some observations…

Team record as of March 23, 2016: 9-12 (8-8 at Riley Park, 1-4 on the road)

  • Batting average: .226
  • On-base percentage: .318
  • Slugging: .307
  • Number of players with 10+ at bats who are hitting .300 or better: 0
  • Number of players with 10+ at bats and an OBP greater than .350: 3
  • Number of players with 10+ at bats who are slugging .400 or better: 1 (Mike Deese)
  • Stolen bases: 8 (caught 5 times, picked off 4 times)
  • Number of pitchers used so far this season: 16
  • ERA: 5.25
  • K/9: 8.03
  • BB/9: 4.77
  • Unearned runs/game: 0.62
  • BAA: .278
  • Defensive efficiency: 66.55%
  • Current RPI: 193 (out of exactly 300 D-1 teams)

It’s not the prettiest of pictures, to be sure. The Bulldogs have struggled across the board, but particularly on offense.

There are 300 Division I baseball programs this season. The Citadel’s team OPS of .625 ranks 270th.

That number looks even worse when compared to other SoCon schools. UNCG is ranked first nationally in OPS (with a .982 mark); three other league teams (VMI, Mercer, Samford) are also in the top 15 in that category, with two others (ETSU and Western Carolina) in the top 50. Furman’s ranking of 146 is next-to-last in the conference, but still more than 120 spots ahead of the Bulldogs.

Now, park effects have something to do with that, and The Citadel has played most of its games in a pitcher’s park. Still, there is a big difference between an OPS of .625 and one of .761, which was what the Bulldogs finished with last season (and which was also last in the league).

There is hope, though. In 2015, The Citadel had a higher OPS in conference play (.784) than overall, so perhaps that could also be the case this year. For the Bulldogs to be successful in league play, it will have to be — but the improvement must be considerably more dramatic.

Also, the Diamond Dogs also have to get better at baserunning.

As far as pitching/defense goes, the numbers are mediocre. The Bulldogs have had some really ugly performances, including four games in which they have allowed 12+ runs. However, not all of the pitching has been bad.

From my (admittedly distant) vantage point, it seems to me that Fred Jordan and Britt Reames have thrown a lot of guys into the mix on purpose, to see exactly what they’ve got. It’s one way to figure out who may be useful — if not in the rotation, then in the bullpen.

While The Citadel is only 9-12, the pitching staff has done a fair job of holding leads. The Bulldogs are 4-1 with a lead after six innings, 7-1 after seven innings, and 8-0 after eight innings. The Citadel is 2-1 when tied after the 6th.

Conversely, the Bulldogs are not exactly the comeback kids, at least not yet. That’s not a surprise given the offensive struggles. The Citadel is 3-10 when trailing after six innings.

I wish the Bulldogs had a little more depth in its starting rotation; for one thing, it would be nice to have a better record in midweek games (1-5). There is also always the possibility of one of the weekend starters going down with an injury or losing effectiveness.

On several occasions this season, The Citadel has pieced together a start with what amounts to a “bullpen game” (to borrow a phrase from Tony La Russa). The problem with having seven or eight guys throw an inning or two each is that at least one of them is bound to not have his good stuff that day. That can be true of a normal starting situation as well, of course.

That DER of 66.55% I mentioned in the stat-pack above is in line with recent defensive numbers for The Citadel. It’s not great, but it could be worse. It’s also a little early in the season to get a true statistical marker for defensive play. Just watching the games, the defense appears to be respectable (at least to me). Opponents are 15-26 on stolen base attempts, which is a good percentage as far as the Bulldogs are concerned.

I’m not going to sugarcoat things. Early returns for this season have not been very promising. However, things may not be quite as bad as they seem on the surface.

The overall record is not good, but it is worth noting that the opposition has been very solid. The Bulldogs have played nine different opponents, and those teams have a combined record of 106-79.

There is room for improvement on the pitching staff, and the offense really, really needs to get going. We’ll see if they can get something started this weekend at VMI.

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.

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