McAlister Musings: are the Bulldogs turning the corner?

Links of interest:

Zane Najdawi is the reigning SoCon player of the week for the second time this season

Bulldogs make huge comeback, beat Furman

On January 21, The Citadel was 6-13 overall, 1-6 in the league, and coming off of a very poor game at VMI. Things were not exactly looking up.

Two weeks later, the Bulldogs are 9-14, 4-7 in the league, with four straight encouraging performances, three of which resulted in victories. Birds are singing, and happy days are here again.

What happened? Well, for one thing, Duggar Baucom challenged his squad after the VMI loss, telling them they were “better than that”.

However, there has also been a tactical shift — at least, according to Furman coach Bob Richey:

It’s a totally different team. They are playing totally different.

…At our place, The Citadel played more zone defense, zone pressure back to a a zone. They were trying to out-score you. This team now is taking more pride in their defense, and they are guarding people now.

They change up their defenses, try to keep people on their heels. They’ve shrunk their rotation down, and are playing harder with a lot more belief. Najdawi is as good as any post in the league, and we couldn’t do anything with him. Frierson’s shooting the ball, Harris is shooting it, Frankie (Johnson) is driving it.

Look, they are good. If you ask any of the four coaches they’ve played in the last four games, they’d agree.

 —
Let’s break down the stats to see what Richey is talking about.

Possessions* PPP – TC PPP – Opp FTA/FGA – TC FT% – TC
WCU 86 0.92 0.94 0.46 0.55
@Furman 83 0.81 1.29 0.29 0.50
@Wofford 90 1.02 1.21 0.44 0.58
Samford 87 1.05 1.23 0.26 0.59
UTC 69 1.39 1.28 0.43 0.81
@UNCG 68 0.85 1.06 0.28 0.60
@VMI 81 1.00 1.09 0.38 0.80
@Mercer 68 1.12 1.09 0.26 0.86
ETSU 77 0.92 0.95 0.50 0.85
Wofford 75 1.07 1.04 0.34 0.82
Furman 69 1.28 1.18 0.49 0.73
First 7 80.57 1.01 1.16 0.37 0.63
Last 4 72.25 1.10 1.07 0.40 0.82

* Overtime possessions not counted (this applies to the home games versus UTC and Furman)

  • TC = The Citadel, obviously
  • PPP = Points per possession
  • FTA/FGA = Free throws attempted/field goals attempted
  • FT% = Free throw percentage

I broke down the numbers by totaling the first seven games (WCU through VMI) and the last four (Mercer through Furman).

Clearly the number of possessions have declined as the league campaign has progressed. It is possible that a trend in that direction began when the Bulldogs played Chattanooga, though A) I think the UTC game may have been an outlier due to the Mocs’ depth issues, and B) The Citadel reverted to an 81-possession contest versus VMI two games later.

The slight dialing down of the pace has benefited the Bulldogs on both sides of the court, at least statistically, but I believe The Citadel’s offense has been helped the most. The Bulldogs were not really scoring at a rate that would give them a chance to win most games, but of late that has markedly improved.

Of course, there is a symbiotic relationship between offense and defense in basketball, so it can be hard to say that one element is clearly the beneficiary of a switch in tempo.

One other major positive development, which I have included in the table above, has been the Bulldogs’ vastly improved free throw shooting. If The Citadel had shot from the foul line in its last four games as it did in its first four contests, the Bulldogs would have gone 0-4 in that stretch instead of 3-1.

The other thing to watch when it comes to the charity stripe is the number of opportunities The Citadel gets over the course of a game. This is generally reflected in FTA/FGA numbers (as opposed to raw totals).

The Bulldogs have done a much better job in this area in league play (the non-conference D-1 slate was not kind to them in that respect). They currently lead the SoCon in the category in league-only games.

Conversely, The Citadel is seventh in the conference in defensive FTA/FGA. The Bulldogs need to keep the opponents off the foul line as much as possible.

A few other stats of note (SoCon games only):

  • If you want to see a blocked shot, go watch a game involving The Citadel. Opponents are blocking 13.2% of the Bulldogs’ field goal attempts, most in the league. That isn’t good, but on the bright side The Citadel is blocking 10.1% of its opponents’ shots (third-best in the conference).
  • 53.9% of The Citadel’s field goal attempts in league play have come from three-point land, most in the conference — and that is really saying something, because teams in the SoCon love to hoist up shots from beyond the arc. No league in the country shoots a higher percentage of three-pointers as a whole.
  • The Citadel leads the conference in assist-to-made field goal rate (61.0%). Again, this is another area in which the league in general excels (second-best rate among all conferences).

What should The Citadel’s goal(s) be for the rest of the season?

I think the Bulldogs should aim for a top-6 seed in the league tournament. If a team finishes in the top six in the conference standings, it avoids having to play a first-round game on the first day of the SoCon tournament (which this year is Friday, March 2, in Asheville).

That would be ideal for The Citadel as far as the dream scenario is concerned (shocking the world by winning the tourney). Winning three games in three days is clearly easier than having to win four games in four days. It would also be good from a long-term perspective, as it would be tangible proof that the program is on the rise and will be a factor in the SoCon for the next few years to come.

It won’t be easy, although if the tourney were held on February 7, The Citadel would in fact be the sixth seed. Alas, the tournament doesn’t begin on February 7, and the schedule is not going to be particularly favorable for the Bulldogs down the stretch (only three of the remaining seven conference matchups are at McAlister Field House).

According to kenpom, The Citadel is projected to finish seventh in the SoCon with a 6-12 league record, a full three games behind the projected sixth-place finisher (Mercer). That is a reflection of the schedule, and also what the numbers say about the Bulldogs – namely, that The Citadel is still a bottom 50 team nationally according to the website.

The Bulldogs haven’t played like a bottom 50 team over the last two weeks, however. If they continue to improve (or even just maintain their current level of play), I think there is a solid chance The Citadel could indeed wind up as a top-6 seed.

The Citadel is currently only favored in one of its last seven games (the home game against VMI, which incidentally is going to be the day to Pack the Mac). At a minimum, the Bulldogs need to win three of the seven contests to have a shot at the top six. I suspect the Bulldogs will have to win two of their three home games, and at least one road matchup (if not two), to pull it off.

Winning at Chattanooga on Thursday would be a great way to start the stretch run…

I’ll finish off this post with some random statistics, many of them courtesy of Synergy Sports. Do I really understand all the numbers put out by Synergy Sports? No, I do not. Do I look at them anyway? Yes, I do.

These stats include all games — conference games, non-conference games, even the non-D1 matchups. Most are based on points per possessions (PPP).

  • The Citadel ranks 14th nationally in offensive PPP after timeouts (1.036). Boise State leads the nation in this category (1.09). Other teams in the top 10 include Campbell (2nd), Xavier, Kansas, Villanova, and Purdue.
  • The Bulldogs are not very good at making catch-and-shoot jump shots when guarded (bottom 20 nationally). However, opponents that don’t guard in that situation pay for it. The Citadel is 5th in the country in points per possession when shooting unguarded catch/shoot jumpers, just ahead of Kansas. Leading the world in this category: St. Mary’s.
  • The Citadel remains the shortest team in D-1 (per kenpom), with an “average height” of 74.0 inches.
  • Individuals who rank in the 85th percentile or better nationally in various offensive categories: Matt Frierson (overall PPP, transition scoring, shots off screens, and spot-up shooting), Zane Najdawi (post-up play), Alex Reed (spot-up shooting), Tariq Simmons (isolation), Quayson Williams (shots off screens), and Kaelon Harris (offensive rebound put-backs). Harris also ranks in the 92nd percentile in a category called “Miscellaneous”, which sounds like a we-don’t-know-what-he-did-but-he-somehow-scored kind of thing.
  • The Citadel actually ranks 5th in the nation in half court man-to-man defense, which seems more than a little odd. I’m going to guess that most of the Bulldogs’ man-to-man defending has come against its non-D1 opponents (notable exception: The Citadel extensively employed man-to-man against Wofford in the game at McAlister Field House). For the season, the Bulldogs have played man-to-man in the half-court only 28.6% of the time; as a comparison, Virginia has played half-court man-to-man 99.9% of the time. The two teams that have been truly dominant defensively this season, Cincinnati and UVA, rank 1-2 in this category.
  • The Bulldogs are poor defending plays in out-of-bounds situations along the endlines (1.055 PPP), but are very good defending out-of-bounds plays that originate from the sidelines (0.7 PPP). I don’t really understand why that would be the case.

Okay, that’s enough for now.

Go Dogs!

McAlister Musings, 2017-18: Time for some really fast hoops (hopefully with winning involved)

Links of interest:

Season preview, The Post and Courier

Bulldogs add freshmen to mix

School website preview

League preview, The Post and Courier (The Citadel is picked to finish 7th in the SoCon, out of 10 teams)

Preseason league polls and preseason all-SoCon team (The Citadel is tied for 7th in the coaches’ poll and 8th in the media poll)

NBC Sports league preview (The Citadel is picked to finish 9th)

Blue Ribbon yearbook league preview [not online] (The Citadel is picked to finish 8th)

CBS Sports all-Division I preseason rankings (The Citadel is picked 248th out of 351 D-1 teams, 7th in the SoCon)

Kenpom.com preseason rankings (The Citadel is picked 247th out of 351 D-1 teams, 8th in the SoCon)

ESPN “BPI” preseason rankings (The Citadel is picked 243rd out of 351 D-1 teams, 7th in the SoCon)

2017-18 schedule

2017-18 “Quick Facts”

2017-18 “Hype Video”

Box score of exhibition game at Lenoir-Rhyne (The Citadel lost 97-83)

Box score of exhibition game versus Coker (The Citadel won 122-98)

Hey, it’s time for basketball!

 

No, seriously, it is!

This isn’t really a detailed preview. It is more just an acknowledgement that the season is starting.

A few quick points:

– The Citadel isn’t picked last in the league in any preseason poll, and is generally slotted in the 7-8 range (out of 10 SoCon teams). That’s a step up from recent seasons.

– While the team will still be quite young (no seniors), and a lot of freshmen are on the scene (six), there is actually a lot of returning experience.

When taking into account last year’s numbers, here is what The Citadel has coming back in terms of the various statistical categories, by percentage:

  • Starts: 70.3%
  • Minutes: 69.5%
  • Field goal attempts: 75.6%
  • 3-point field goal attempts: 79.0%
  • Free throw attempts: 75.3%
  • Offensive rebounds: 75.7%
  • Defensive rebounds: 68.6%
  • Total rebounds: 71.2%
  • Fouls: 68.4%
  • Assists: 71.8%
  • Blocks: 64.7%
  • Steals: 73.9%
  • Points: 74.8%

From the school preview release:

Last season, the Bulldogs played at a fast pace and scored in bunches, leading the nation in points per game and ranking in the top-10 in the nation in six other statistical categories. This year, head coach Duggar Baucom wants his young squad to move even faster and score even more.

“We’re going to try to play a little bit faster than we did last season. Last year, we isolated players a little bit more, forcing them to create their own shots, but this year we’re hoping that the offense will create shots for the players,” Baucom said. “The players are getting used to it. It’s a little bit of a style change for the guys who were here last year, but hopefully it will help us play faster and score some more points.”

If The Citadel is really going to play faster this season, that is going to be noteworthy.

Last year, the Bulldogs were second nationally in both adjusted and raw tempo, averaging a shade over 80 possessions per game. I don’t know what Baucom has in mind in terms of a possessions per game average, but he hasn’t had a team with an adjusted tempo significantly higher than last season’s outfit since 2010 (when his VMI team averaged 85 possessions per game).

Baucom’s 2007 squad at VMI is the last Division I team to average over 90 possessions per game against D-1 opponents. That team lost 19 games but also got to the final of the Big South tournament, after the coach “dialed down” the pace during the conference tourney.

If The Citadel could come even close to replicating the pace of the 2007 Keydets with the current talent on the Bulldog roster, that might really be something to watch.

It could be wildly exciting. It could also be a train wreck.

Early-season schedule (first three games)…

Oglethorpe, November 10 at McAlister Field House, 3:00 pm (SoCon Digital Network)

Oglethorpe is a Division III school located in north Atlanta that went 10-16 last season. The team nickname is the Stormy Petrels, a truly excellent moniker.

While it is a regular season game for The Citadel, it is actually considered an exhibition matchup for Oglethorpe. Yes, that is a bit confusing, but not particularly unusual.

The Stormy Petrels did not play a D-1 school last season, and last faced a team in that division during the 2015-16 campaign, when they played Georgia State (another example of a regular season game for the D-1 team, but an exhibition for Oglethorpe). Georgia State won that contest 85-34.

During the 2012-13 season, Oglethorpe (which was 17-10 that year) played Mercer and lost 70-25 in another regular season/exhibition matchup.

Virginia Tech, November 12 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, VA, 7:00 pm (ACC Digital Network)

The Hokies defeated The Citadel 113-71 last season in Blacksburg, one of the 22 wins Virginia Tech had en route to an NCAA tournament appearance. Buzz Williams should have another good team again this season, despite losing the two top scorers off that squad.

Most outlets believe the Hokies will finish in the top half of the ACC. The Blue Ribbon yearbook gave VT a #25 preseason national ranking.

While Virginia Tech’s adjusted tempo in 2016-17 hovered around the national average, the Hokies were more than happy to run with the Bulldogs in last year’s matchup. Virginia Tech had 89 possessions in the contest, the most it had in any game.

The Hokies open this season on Friday with a home game versus Detroit. As for the contest against The Citadel, Kenpom projects Virginia Tech to win 100-80, with the Bulldogs given a 4% chance of pulling the upset.

North Carolina A&T, November 15 at Corbett Sports Center in Greensboro, NC, 7:00 pm

Simply put, the Aggies were one of the worst teams in Division I last season. North Carolina A&T won just three games all year (only one versus a D-1 opponent) and finished with an RPI of 350, next-to-last in the division.

However, this game won’t necessarily be easy for the Bulldogs. For one thing, the Aggies’ only D-1 win actually came against a very solid North Carolina Central squad that won the MEAC regular-season and tournament titles. Based on that result alone, there is clearly some talent on the roster.

Also, North Carolina A&T had three players sit out last season as transfers. All of them will be eligible to play this season, as will a graduate transfer from Georgia Southern, combo guard Devante Boykins.

On the other hand, last year’s leading scorer for the Aggies transferred to North Carolina State.

Before hosting The Citadel, North Carolina A&T will play at Clemson on November 12. It opens the season with a non-D1 game against Greensboro College.

Kenpom projects The Citadel to prevail by an 88-80 score, with a win probability of 77%.

This could be a fun year for the Bulldogs. I’m ready for some hoops.

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.

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.