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 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, 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

– 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, 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

– 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.’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.

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: Getting ready for The Citadel’s 2014-15 hoops season

Note: this season, I am again participating in a cross-blog/forum exercise known as “Scanning the SoCon”. As part of this, there will be a preview for each league school. I am writing the preview for The Citadel, which you can read below (it is being posted on ‘Mocs Mania!’ as well). Previews for the other conference schools can be found here: Link

  • The Citadel’s 2013-14 record: 7-26, 2-14 in the SoCon (last)
  • Chuck Driesell’s record at The Citadel (four seasons): 31-94 overall, 16-54  in the SoCon
  • Biggest positive from the 2013-14 campaign: the Bulldogs won three of their last four games, including a rare SoCon tournament victory
  • Negatives from 2013-14: a school-record 17-game losing streak, the nation’s fourth-worst defense, an offense that ranked in the bottom 60 nationally, and an incredible ability to give up buzzer-beating shots

It’s hard to identify the low point of The Citadel’s 2013-14 basketball season, a campaign in which the Bulldogs lost 17 games in a row, did not win a league game until February 24, failed to beat any team in the RPI top 300, and finished with no road victories.

Was it the loss to Division II West Alabama, a contest the Bulldogs trailed by 23 at halftime? That’s not a bad candidate, but I think I would vote for the 82-53 loss to Georgia Southern on January 30, a game in which the Bulldogs were at one point outscored 29-0 over 12 minutes of game action.

Some might argue the season nadir was Chuck Driesell’s comment that he needed “to coach up optimism” after an 18-point home setback to Western Carolina. The next game for the Bulldogs was the above-mentioned Georgia Southern debacle, so apparently coaching players in the art of being more hopeful is not a quick fix.

Let’s be honest: when it comes to optimism for The Citadel’s basketball program, it’s in short supply, at least for the fan base. It’s not just about last year, either.

The Bulldogs have had double-digit losing streaks in each of the last three seasons. The Citadel has won fewer than 23% of its conference games over the last four years, and it’s not like the SoCon is on the same level with the ACC.

I hope the players and coaches have a positive outlook for 2014-15. For longtime supporters, though, it’s probably going to be a “show me” kind of season.

Note: the statistics in the next two sections do not include the four games The Citadel played last season against non-D1 opponents. Unless otherwise stated, statistics are per

I mentioned earlier that The Citadel had one of the country’s least-defensive defenses. The Bulldogs were 348th out of 351 Division I teams in adjusted defensive efficiency, ahead of only Maryland-Eastern Shore, Cornell, and Grambling State.

Those three squads combined to win 13 games. The team immediately above the Bulldogs in the defensive ratings, Presbyterian, won six games — but lost to The Citadel.

The Bulldogs did not force many turnovers (bottom 10 nationally in that category) and struggled mightily to keep opponents off the offensive boards (bottom 50 nationally). Opponents shot two-point shots against The Citadel at a 51.1% clip, significantly higher than the D-1 average (48.5%).

The opposition did not go to the foul line that often against the Bulldogs; indeed, The Citadel was actually in the top 100 in preventing free throw attempts. Of course, that could be a double-edged sword, as it arguably suggests a lack of defensive aggression.

For The Citadel to have any chance of success this season, the Bulldogs must get much better on defense. While the team obviously needs to force more turnovers, what I would most like to see is an improvement on the defensive glass.

That has been a constant problem for the past two seasons, and if it isn’t solved, the defense will continue to be well below average. The Citadel simply has to assert itself on the boards.

The Bulldogs were largely ineffective on offense. The numbers weren’t as bad in conference play, but they still weren’t good enough.

Rebounding was a negative (as it was defensively), and The Citadel also couldn’t get to the foul line. The Bulldogs were in the bottom 50 nationally in both offensive rebounding percentage and free throw rate.

The Citadel did improve its offensive turnover rate, which had been an enormous bugaboo over the previous two seasons. While its overall numbers merely suggest a modest step up in that department, the league statistics were actually solid, as the Bulldogs had the second-best offensive turnover rate in conference play.

As far as three-point shooting went, The Citadel was respectable from beyond the arc (its 37.2% shooting from 3-land was third-best in SoCon play). There was a decided lack of efficiency in and around the paint, however, as the Bulldogs’ overall 2-point shooting rate was only 45.1%.

All the above numbers are indicative of a lack of productivity from interior players, and that was in fact a major issue (if not the major issue) for The Citadel in 2013-14. Injuries decimated the frontcourt, leaving Driesell bereft of experienced big men (player attrition from previous seasons did not help). The freshmen tried hard, but they weren’t quite ready.

This year, there are four returning post players with significant experience. If they can stay healthy, the Bulldogs should improve their rebounding and defensive work in the paint.

Four players from last year’s team did not return.

Nate Bowser, a 6’9″ forward/center, appeared in twelve games his freshman season for a total of 81 minutes. He only played in one contest after January 2. Bowser is no longer enrolled at The Citadel, and is currently a student at Oklahoma.

– After playing in 19 games during his freshman campaign, 6’3″ guard Raemond Robinson appeared in 26 games last season for the Bulldogs. He shot 35% from three-point range in 2013-14 while averaging 2.9 points per game. This summer, Robinson announced that he was transferring to Charleston Southern.

Dylen Setzekorn graduated from The Citadel in May with two years of hoops eligibility remaining. Setzekorn, a 6’7″ guard/forward, played in 42 games for the Bulldogs over two seasons. He is now playing at North Georgia, where he is in graduate school.

Matt Van Scyoc averaged 14.3 points per game for The Citadel in 2013-14, which led the team. The 6’6″ sophomore swingman transferred to Indiana State after the season.

Van Scyoc shot 43.5% from the field, 36.5% from beyond the arc, and 86% from the charity stripe. His offensive production will be sorely missed. Someone will have to replace his scoring punch — perhaps multiple someones.

The Citadel does have three seniors (and a redshirt junior) returning for this season, along with several other players who will be key contributors.

– Marshall Harris III is a 6’1″ pass-first senior point guard, with an assist rate of 29.8% and a 2-to-1 assist/turnover ratio last year. Harris had a 28.9% turnover rate, which was too high. He was also bothered by foot problems during the season.

His overall shooting percentages were decent, though in SoCon play he did not fare as well from beyond the arc. He wasn’t a volume shooter by any means, but Harris took his fair share of free throws, with the highest FT rate on the team.

– Ashton Moore was named to the ten-man preseason All-SoCon team by the league’s coaches. The 6’0″ senior averaged 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game last season, both marks second-best on the team. He led the squad in minutes played.

Moore can be a streaky offensive player. He was excellent down the stretch for the Bulldogs last year, scoring 22+ points in five of the last seven games. That included a 35-point effort against Davidson (on just 19 shots) and outstanding performances versus Samford and UNC-Greensboro.

He only averaged 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes last season. That was actually a higher percentage of fouls than Moore had committed the previous year, when he had the sixth-fewest fouls per 40 minutes in the country.

– At 6’3″, sophomore Warren Sledge is a bigger guard than Harris and Moore, which could be helpful from a defensive perspective. Sledge was injured at the beginning of last season, but showed some promise when he started playing for the Bulldogs.

He needs to cut down on turnovers, and Sledge only averaged one steal every 77 minutes of play; he should do a little better than that. His assist rate was solid, and his shooting from beyond the arc, while limited, was good.

Quinton Marshall is a 6’5″ guard/forward who is one of the better athletes in the SoCon, as Samford found out late in the year. To become a better offensive performer, the junior needs to limit his turnovers and improve his free throw shooting (only 52% last season).

He averaged just over five rebounds per 40 minutes of play. Ideally, Marshall would be more of a force on the boards.

Last season, The Citadel entered the season without P.J. Horgan or C.J. Bray. For the Bulldogs to be successful in 2014-15, both must be healthy and ready to play from the opening tip.

– Bray is a 6’7″ product of James Island High School. When not hampered by ankle or shoulder problems, the redshirt junior is a post player with an interesting skill set.

He has a nice touch from outside, and enough strength to hold his own in the paint (Bray was a fine high school football player).

As a freshman, Bray was a dependable presence on the defensive glass. That was three years and several injuries ago. If he can return to that form, it will be a big lift for the Bulldogs.

– Now a senior, Horgan was believed to be through with basketball after suffering a lower back injury. In fact, it was announced in October of 2013 that his career was over.

However, the 6’9″ forward/center returned to the team and by January of 2014, he was playing. It was a bit rough at times (in his first game, he fouled out after 15 minutes of action).

By February, he was healthy enough to log 35 minutes in a lopsided loss to Davidson. He had 10 points and 9 rebounds in a late-season victory over Georgia Southern.

With Horgan and Bray out of action (or not ready to contribute major minutes), the frontcourt was primarily left to two freshmen, Brian White and Tom Koopman. That wasn’t really fair to either one of them, but at least they got a lot of experience.

– White actually had an fine freshman campaign for The Citadel. He impressed many observers with his efficient play and made the SoCon’s all-freshman team.

He had the best eFG rate (53.6%) on the team, blocked a shot every now and then, and had a respectable turnover rate. White (now listed at 6’8″) can improve in some facets of his game; he had just one double-digit rebounding game against a Division I team, and had only ten assists all season.

Regardless, White was clearly a bright spot for the Bulldogs last year, and is expected to be even better in 2014-15.

– Koopman is a 6’8″ native of the Netherlands who was overwhelmed at times last year (according to Blue Ribbon, he also suffered significant weight loss during the campaign). He did show flashes of what he could become, though, including solid performances against Nebraska and (later in the season) Georgia Southern.

With more help in the frontcourt, and having completed his freshman year at The Citadel, there is a reasonable chance Koopman could be The Citadel’s most improved player this season.

Four freshmen join the Bulldogs this year.

Jake Wright is a 6’4″ guard from Hopkins, Minnesota. He may be the freshman most ready to contribute for The Citadel, assuming he brings his shooting touch from high school to McAlister Field House.

Wright played at a high school that includes among its alums current NBA player Kris Humphries. Thus, there are only three degrees of separation between Wright and Kanye West.

Brandon Thompson, like Wright, is also a shooting guard. One difference between the two: Thompson is only 5’11”.

Thompson is from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He played at Covenant Life School, a small private school that is a member of the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference, and averaged 18.3 points per game his senior season.

Tim Broom is also a guard, but he is more of a lead guard than a pure shooter. The 6’2″ Jacksonville native was a high school football safety, too.

Some of the adjectives used to describe Broom in print include “rugged” and “sturdily built”. If that translates into being a quality defender, he could see action early and often.

– Nadi Beceri is a 6’7″ post player who went to Bergen Catholic High School in Maywood, New Jersey. He could get some minutes in the frontcourt rotation, with the amount possibly dependent on how much Horgan and Bray are able to play.

Chuck Driesell called Beceri “a blue-collar player” who is “not afraid to mix it up”.

The Citadel’s non-conference slate includes games against three power conference schools, as the Bulldogs will face Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Michigan State (all on the road). The Bulldogs also play at College of Charleston.

As has been the case for the past three seasons, The Citadel will compete in the All-Military Classic, which is being held this year in West Point, New York. The Bulldogs open that tournament against VMI (which will be a non-conference game) and play either Air Force or Army the next day.

At home, The Citadel plays Navy and Bethune-Cookman, along with three non-Division I schools — Toccoa Falls, Bob Jones University, and Warren Wilson College.

Last year, the Bulldogs played four non-D1 squads, so three is a minor improvement. Ideally, the military college would not play more than two, but filling out a home schedule can be difficult for a low-major.

The conference as a whole has 20 scheduled matchups with non-Division I schools, which is down from last season’s 32. It’s not an exact comparison, of course, due to the turnover in SoCon schools over the past year.

Incidentally, The Citadel eschewed exhibition games this year in favor of two so-called “secret scrimmages” against Stetson and North Florida.

The Citadel was picked to finish last in the SoCon by the league media vote and next-to-last by the coaches. NBC Sports also predicted the Bulldogs will finish next-to-last, as did The Sports Network, while SB Nation thinks The Citadel will be the worst team in the league.

Considering the team’s record last season, and the fact the Bulldogs lost their leading scorer from that squad, those are understandable placements.

In all honesty, I would have ranked the Bulldogs a little higher. Blue Ribbon had The Citadel in seventh, and I think that’s about right in terms of a preseason projection. There are other schools in the league that had many more personnel defections (hello, Samford) and weren’t exactly dominating on the hardwood in the first place.

It appears that The Citadel’s new director of athletics, Jim Senter, is interested in improving the gameday atmosphere at McAlister Field House, and is taking steps along those lines. Such action is most welcome, as it is long overdue.

I generally do not make predictions about how a season will turn out. I won’t this time, either. However, I do have expectations.

For this season to be considered a success, the team must finish with an overall winning record, and a winning record in conference play. Nothing less will be acceptable.

That may seem unrealistic for a program that has lost 94 games in the last four seasons, never winning more than ten games during any of those years. It doesn’t matter.

This is Chuck Driesell’s fifth year as the head basketball coach of The Citadel, and it’s time to see some positive results. Otherwise, the school should (and likely will) move in a different direction.

I’m ready for the season to start. I’m also ready to celebrate a bunch of victories.