Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

I'll wrap up last night's game at George Washington and conclude with a summary of how the 2014 portion of this year went, and preview the upcoming conference slate.

First, last night's game was disappointing because, in a complete reversal of the Virginia Tech game, the effort was there defensively but we simply could not hit the broad side of a barn when we shot the ball. We shot 21 of 71 overall (<30%) and a miserable 8 of 36 from three (22%). QJ in particular had a disastrous shooting night - 3 of 21 from the field and 1 of 11 from range (he also did not get the start, which was peculiar). That .143 mark is his third-lowest single-game shooting percentage when taking at least ten shots (Clemson and Yale last season were the others). His shooting touch has been so off this season in general and it's quite honestly inexplicable. Actually he was solid against Maryland, Navy, and Mercer, but in the past two games QJ is shooting less than 18%. You can attribute this to good defense, but judging by the shots he's taking you can see why he's doing so poorly. I counted at least four three-point attempts from 4ft or more behind the arc. Is it a trend? Probably not. Hopefully not. But it is worrisome when you're point guard can't find a consistent scoring rhythm. Notice that Rodney never had these issues last year. His stroke was always there from Game 1 to 35. That's the difference between this year's team and this one.

Anglade had a solid game with 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting and 7 rebounds. Trey, who scored 8 points and grabbed 7 boards, was the only player on the team that made more than one three pointer (he was 2 for 3). The fact that we had only two double-digit scorers, neither of which scored more than 15 is depressing. Christian Burton once again got decent playing time, and used it wisely. He hit one three, got 2 boards, an assist, and a steal. Another solid effort from the only non-scholarship player on the squad.

We can now only be thankful that this, the most grueling of non-conference schedules perhaps in the Duggar Baucom era, is done. A Military Classic in West Point, seven road games (essentially eight), and only four at Cameron is tough. Plus, four guarantee games and only two non-DI games are an oddity and put us at a net disadvantage in the W-L column. But valuable experience was gained from playing these games and conference play is all that matters. But overall, there were only two games this season in which we severely underperformed: vs UNCW and @ Navy. And I suppose you could add the first half of the Virginia Tech game. We are where we should be: 5-8, 1-1 in the SoCon. But we most certainly aren't where we could be.

Looking ahead, a trip to East Tennessee State tomorrow followed by a home game against Mercer are important. We could come out of that stretch 1-3 or 3-1, based on the erratic play we've seen so far. Ideally you need to split these two games, because after that we have a three-game road trip against SoCon powerhouse Wofford (who beat NC State earlier in the year), Furman, and UNC Greensboro. Shortly after that it's all home cooking: five straight home games from late January to early February, including El Cid, Western Carolina, and Furman. By then we will have played nine league games, so a record of 5-4 would be ideal. 6-3 is great. 4-5 at a minimum. 3-6 is not acceptable.

The good news is that there are four truly bad teams in this league that we could easily take advantage of: El Cid, Western Carolina, Furman, and Samford. These are eight games that if we take care of business we will win 90% of the time. Again, nothing is guaranteed. But if you can get through these teams then you might just have a shot to hang with the big boys. We'll see how it unfolds starting Friday.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: @ Virginia Tech

Effort was the name of the game tonight and for the first twenty minutes it quite simply wasn't there. Virginia Tech held us to 25% shooting in the first half, including 2 of 17 (12%) from three. Add eleven turnovers and 23 points off those turnovers. We simply dug ourselves too big of a hole.

The second half was a different story. We finally started moving the ball, and most of all, hustled on defense. The Keydets forced several steals and limited themselves to only four turnovers in the second half. Unfortunately, we couldn't convert on many of the steals forced in Tech's half of the court, and finished with only 10 fast-break points, as compared with 18 for VT. Though the overall three-point stats look quite pitiful (10-39, 26%), much of that came in the disastrous first half, and we managed to convert on 8 of 22 second half 3P attempts. It just goes to show the contrast between what this team plays like and what it can be.

Individually, QJ had another awful shooting night: 4 of 18 from the field, 0 of 6 from range. He did haul in 8 rebounds and drew several fouls but this team will never elevate itself until he steps up his shooting game. Tim Marshall got another start tonight, and hit 5 of his 13 three point shots for 18 points. Despite being the leading scorer, I'd have to give the game ball to Christian Burton. Yes, the only non-scholarship player on the team leads by example through his hustle, effort, and determination. He didn't score but grabbed five boards and had an assist. If one of the least-used players on the team is showing the scholarship players and starters how the game should be played, you've got some issues to work out.

Craig had 9 points, all of which were three-pointers. Brian Brown had 10 points in 24 minutes, and Phil Anglade was a beast down low, swatting six VT shots and had a near double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds. He certainly did all he could, as compared to Jordan Weethee, who did not score on 0-for-5 shooting, and Trey Chapman, who had as many fouls (4) as points.

An eight-day break looms ahead, and Duggar mentioned in the postgame comments that the guys will come home from Christmas early for a December 26th practice. Rightfully so, Coach Baucom railed in his comments about the lack of effort and focus in the first half, but humbly put the blame upon himself. Is it his fault? Not entirely. There's only so much he can do when players are passing to the wrong team and taking ill-advised shots down low, but it is up to the coach to ensure his team is focused and prepared to play. Tonight, for the most part, we weren't. Only midway in the second half did we realize we had a basketball game to play, and by then it was much too late.

On to George Washington, who is now 7-3 after a 77-49 destruction of Ohio tonight. Their RPI is 39th in DI, far and away better than VT, Maryland, and UNCW. If all goes as expected we will be 5-8 by the New Year, and thankfully done with this grueling non-conference schedule. SoCon play cannot get here soon enough.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Struggles of the Low-Major

While watching the UNC/UNC Greensboro game last night (which was hosted at the Coliseum by the way), I picked up on an interesting conversation between the commentators on the struggles of mid-major and low-major Division I programs. The color man noted the scheduling problems these teams face, particularly with home games.

He noted his disdain for "guarantee" games, i.e. games in which, typically, a major team hosts a low-major team and is not obligated to give them a return game in the future. This is commonplace for teams in the Big South, SoCon, SWAC, and just about every other bottom-tier conference whose institutions, needing money, play several power conference teams every year with no return game. This is simply the cycle of college basketball: major teams, who play in the toughest conferences with a stacked schedule in January and February, look to rack up easy wins and develop players against inferior teams who need the cash. The big guys get wins, the little guys get experience and money, and everyone is happy. Or are they?

There is a reasonable argument to suggest that if a low-major team cannot survive in Division I without loading non-conference schedules with guarantee games, then they shouldn't be in Division I. This idea, while insightful, is a bit anti-opportunistic. Take Texas Southern (who was mentioned in that conversation I mentioned earlier) as an example. The Tigers, who compete in the SWAC, a conference known for its APR penalties and recruiting violations, were found guilty of doing just that in 2012; they used ineligible athletes, exceeded scholarship limits, and committed "booster-related recruiting violations". They were subsequently banned from postseason play that year, but finished with a 16-2 record in the SWAC (and only 17-14 overall....go figure) to be crowned regular season champs. Last season, they followed that up with a 19-15 (12-6 SWAC) record, a conference tournament title, and an NCAA tourney berth, albeit in Dayton. And this year, the Tigers are currently 1-8 overall, and have a grand total of one home non-conference game: Lamar. Of their twelve OOC road games, seven are against Power 5 Conference teams.

This is a common trend for the SWAC and other low conferences. Alcorn State and Grambling State have two OOC home games. Mississippi Valley State has one. Arkansas-Pine Bluff has none. Not surprisingly, the SWAC is 6-74 (.075) in non-conference Division I games thus far. But despite all the losses, the conference champion is nearly guaranteed to have a winning record by March.

Although the SWAC is a bit of an extreme care, there is no doubt that all low-major conference programs face similar issues: the MEAC, WAC, America East, Sun Belt, Big South, Ohio Valley, Summit, Atlantic Sun, and, of course, the SoCon. Even with all the money gained from the guarantee games for lower schools (which might total $700-800k max, and that's only for the schools playing 90% of their OOC games on the road), the revenues aren't even close. As of 2013, Big Ten teams expended an average of $6.22 million for men's basketball. The SoCon? $1.53 million.* If you think that's crazy consider that some SWAC and Southland teams are spending as little as $500k. Larger colleges simply have massive enrollment, massive facilities, and as such they obtain exponentially more revenue from ticket sales, concessions, advertising, and media coverage. It's simply a different world over there.

VMI is playing four guarantee games this season, three of which are/were against Power 5 teams. (although the A10 might have something to say about that). Given that the payday is around $80,000, we should be pocketing upwards of $300k from these games alone. We should be thankful that our athletic budget is not so devoid of funding that we can't have home games before the New Year, but it'd be really nice to see more mid-major and low-major teams schedule in their backyard. Actually, I have no problem with a home-and-home deal between a major and a low-major as we saw last night with UNC and UNCG. Both teams benefit, and the little guy gets some much needed exposure on national television. It is, however, disappointing to see so many fellow low-majors relegated to 1-4 OOC home games/year and still often struggling to make ends meet.

Last week, after a ten-point loss at Florida State, Citadel coach Chuck Driesell was quite frank about his team's goal in coming to Tallahassee. "It gives our school a lot of money," he noted. "That’s probably the No. 1 reason I’m down here, is for the check." And as long as major programs have a fat bank account to draw funds from, it always will be about the check.

*- spending figures accorindg to BB State

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: Marist

We took care of business today with a win over the now 1–9 Marist Red Foxes. The effort was most certainly there, and much improved from last Tuesday's debacle at Navy (although that's not saying much). The performance was not dazzling, but not disappointing either. Regardless, we head into exam break with a 5–6 record, which, in all honesty, is where we should be.

The 55 three point attempts we took today was one shy of a Division I school record. Incredibly, 73% of all our field goal attempts were from behind the arc, of which we made 35%. Three of our starters took double-digit 3P attempts, and Marshall (who got his second career start) made 6 of 16, including four in a row early in the second half. Brian made only 3 of 10, and QJ hit 6 of 17. Presumably this is what Duggar wants. The only problem is that after our first half and early-second half three point barrage, Marist's guards (in particular, James Griffin and KJ Lee, who played the entire game) starting defending the arc much better, but our offense was slow to react. Instead of attacking the paint in retaliation, we continue to shoot threes. It didn't cost us against Marist, but it may very well cost us against any team in the upper half of the SoCon. Despite the lack of inside shooting, we do finish with a modest 20 points in the paint. Our lack of an inside game can be nullified only as long as our three point shooting is on point.

As a team, Marist got to the line more, but couldn't shoot well from the charity stripe. Creating contact is another area of the game that guys like Phil Anglade and Jordan Weethee need to work on. To Phil's credit, though, he did have two monster slams early on that got the team going. We also outrebounded Marist, the bulk of which came on the offensive glass; this explains our 18-6 advantage in second-chance points, a must have come conference play. Marist is much taller than us, as are most teams in the country, so it just goes to show that rebounding is 100% effort and hustle.

Phil hustled, and for that reason found himself all over the stat sheet - 6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals. Four fouls too, but that's nothing unexpected. Jarid also hauled in 11 rebounds, but did foul out in 24 minutes.

Trey Chapman, coming off the bench, contributed 10 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists in twenty or so quality minutes. Perhaps he is more comfortable not starting, or it was just his night. Either way, I liked what I saw from Chap. Eleby also came off the bench to score 9 on 3-of-6 shooting. The team turned it over twelve times, but hey, at least we're spreading the wealth: no player had more than two turnovers, which is a positive. It is, however, a disappointment that we allowed 77 points to a team scoring less than 55 PPG, 345th best in DI. Anglade is giving it his all, but he and Watson must remain disciplined when opponents attack the rim, or they will be shooting FT's all game long.

We should keep in mind here that Marist was missing their two leading scorers in Khallid Hart (24.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and Chavaughn Lewis, who did play but only for one minute. Although Hart has played in only two games (against Bucknell and Army, a 14-point loss), Lewis came in averaging 17.9/4.4/2.3, which most certainly would've made an impact, and narrowed out the 15-point spread. Neither player is very tall, so we did hold our own against Marist's big men.

And one other thing: did Duggar Baucom read my blog post from last week's game against Mercer? Both Marshall and Watson started today, as I suggested. They effectively replaced Chapman and Anglade, and, as it turns out, both players gave us quality minutes in their respective roles. I like the three-guard lineup with Watson, the only true center on the roster, down low. Luckily it's still December, and Duggar has plenty of time to tinker with his starting rotations. For now, we wait, and hope that the players' focus on exams translates into focus on the court.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: @ Navy

Right from the opening tip-off this has been a season of ups and downs. The performance, however, has to be considered a new low. There was absolutely no hustle, no effort, and no focus. Navy dominated right from the start with a 7-0 run, and by then the game was over, barring a slight run late in the first half. The Keydets were dominated in every facet of the game, and deservedly got whipped by eighteen points.

There is no doubt that Navy is bad team...very bad. They came into the game with an RPI of 338 (there are only 351 Division I teams in the country). They were 2-7, beating only a Division II school and Binghamton (now 1-9, most recently losing to Caldwell College). Samford and Citadel are right behind the Mids in the RPI category, and yet we stumble and bumble in this game after beating Citadel and demolishing Samford. What gives? Sure, it was a terrible shooting night - 35% overall, 21% from three - but nothing else was even half-decent. Outrebounded 44-29, had seven assists to Navy's eighteen, and two blocks to Navy's five. And once again there was no discipline under the boards or anywhere else; we were called for 25 fouls, some of which were unnecessary and flat-out inexplicable. As bad as Navy is, imagine that we were infinitely worse, at least in this game. I weep for all the VMI fans in attendance.

The threes were all short, the defense was nonexistent, and Navy took advantage. An effort like that would not beat an SoCon team, and maybe not any Division I team. We took twenty-two three-pointers in the second half and made a whopping three. For the first ten minutes of a game, we did not grab a single rebound. There was little ball movement and passing, evidence by the seven assists. No one decided to guard and the Mids knew it. We did not score in the final 4:27 and missed our last eight shots. Free throw shooting was just about the only positive from tonight's debacle, at least percentage-wise (13 of 16). But we still aren't getting to the line enough, and Navy beat us in that category by thirteen. Their sour shooting only added six more points, but the real problem was the foul trouble it caused us. Phil played little time with three PFs (although his inability to finish at the rim makes that less of a big deal), Brian had four, and Trey fouled out after accumulating 4 points and one rebound.

Once again, QJ's shooting is not there, going 8 of 19 from the field and 3 of 10 from distance. But by taking so many shots he gets 23 points, further concealing the truth of his shooting troubles. Marshall took seven threes and made none. Craig was a no-show and so was Brian. Give credit to Weethee for going 7 of 7 from the line and scoring 14 (but only three boards). The best performance (I hesitate to use such a term) was probably from Julian Eleby, who scored 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Other than that it was bad, bad, bad....

In the postgame comments Duggar said that this performance was the worst he's seen in all his coaching experience at VMI. Considering the level of talent on this team, I'd agree. After an encouraging two-game SoCon road swing down south, we go into Annapolis and throw up a brick. If QJ hates losing so much (and I know he does) he should step up, become a leader, and get the team's focus back on track. We are suffering from a serious lack of leadership. In my opinion, Marist is even worse than Navy, but a performance like we saw tonight will not beat a single team in the country. There will be better shooting days, but hustle and effort is a factor that you have 100% control of. Against the Mids there was none of it and for that reason we are 4-6, looking at, at best, a 5-8 record by the New Year.

The struggle is real.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: @ Mercer

For about the sixth time this year, a sloppy second half does us in. Ike Nwamu uses his strenght and physicality to go off for 18 points, and TJ Hallice and Phillip Leonard get to the free throw line early and often. VMI goes 1-1 in the SoCon sneak peek, which, all things considered, is right about where they should be.

In a complete reversal of last Thursday's game, Mercer got to the line 38 times and that proved to be the difference. Their FT shooting was actually quite pitiful (66%) but it didn't matter. We fouled them so much that there were simply too many free throws to be shot, and they beat us by twenty-three in that category. On the glass the Bears dominated with a 47-29 edge, fifteen of which were offensive and led to 23 second-chance points. Looking at the rosters that's what you'd expect, but we've done so well with rebounding against taller teams in the past that it's a bit surprising.

For the second consecutive game the turnovers were much improved. We committed only ten (to Mercer's sixteen) so at this point I think the guys are getting more comfortable with handling the ball, and in particular, QJ, Brian, and Julian. Unfortunately, we forced only three steals, while Mercer had eight. There isn't enough pressure on the ball and when there is we get called for a foul. Incredibly we doubled-up Mercer on total personal fouls, and it'd be easy to blame the refs but such a disparity shows that you a) are not staying disciplined under the basket and b) aren't creating enough contact on the offensive end. We did neither in yesterday's game and it showed. Free throws have decided the outcome of our last two games.

Overall we shot poorly, but were better from long-range - 38.6%, although much of this was early on the game when Brown and QJ had a hot hand, combining for six three-pointers ten minutes into the game. From there it cooled down immensely. Brian would not hit another three the rest of the way, and QJ ended up going 6 for 16. If QJ and Brian are going to take 25 combined threes, they better make at least 40% of them. Otherwise, dish it off to someone else until you find your stroke. Tim Marshall was just about the only consistent spot in the lineup, going 6 of 13 on 3PT and 7 of 17 overall. He also had five rebounds.

Now consider this: we beat Mercer in bench points 29-12. Tim had 20 points, and Jarid was perfect from the field and had 6 pts. My question is: why are they the bench? Is the purpose of choosing a starting lineup not to maximize your ability to win by setting the tone for the game and giving the biggest minutes to your best players? Trey, a starter, had 2 points yesterday and was a no-show in thirteen minutes of playing time. Anglade did not score and only got four rebounds in twenty-six minutes. I can see starting Brown because of his defense and senior leadership (though his shot has been so frustratingly inconsistent), but what about the other guys? To my way of thinking you go with what works. Maybe Jarid over Anglade is a bit too much (he does, however, have three inches on him), but there's no reason why Tim shouldn't be starting. My suggestion would be to replace Tim with the ineffective Trey Chapman, and sub Hinton (or Watson) for the cold-shooting Jordan Weethee. Three guards has typically been the norm under Baucom, and such a lineup gives us an advantage behind the arc and maybe down low.

So a 1-1 SoCon road trip. Not great, but not bad either. It is what it should be. We have a chance of beating Mercer at home, but for now the focus is on a 2-7 Navy team who most recently lost to The Citadel by seven. After an impressive five-point loss to ranked Michigan State, Navy tanked against Notre Dame, Providence, Northeastern, and St. Francis. Their only win was over 1-8 Binghamton by two. If we can beat them, I like our chances against Marist, and will be interested to see what an inept Va. Tech team can do against us.

If it all works out in our favor, a 6-7 record heading into the New Year is not bad at all, considering all that's happened in the past two months.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: @ Samford

Talk about making a statement....

I won't say that this win is indicative of the way the rest of the season will go. Samford is a respectable squad but coming in had beaten three not-so-quality Division I teams, but they did stay competitive in every game (save for the one @ Purdue). Add the fact that it was a conference opener on the road (eight-hour drive is a killer too), this was a solid, confidence-boosting win.

The pace of the game was as expected. Both teams got off nearly an identical amount of shots, and had nearly identical shooting percentages. So where did the 22-point margin come from? Simple - free throws. We got to the line 35 times, seventeen of which were courtesy of QJ, who, despite scoring 28 points, had another awful shooting night: 5 of 19 from the field, 3 of 9 from distance. The stats sound nice on the surface but if you dig into it, he could've and should've scored 40 if he made just half of his shots. He did pull down six assists and only three turnovers (an improvement).

Contrastingly, Samford got to the line only sixteen times and made ten free throws. This is a tribute to solid pressure from the guards and disciplined rim protection from our big men. Jarid Watson, who generally fouls often when opponents attack the rim, had no fouls last night in seven minutes of play. Weethee had only one, and Phil had three, but hauled down eleven rebounds and five blocks. Speaking of Weethee, Jordan had the first double-double for VMI of the season with 14 points and 11 boards. Our forwards contained the much taller and stronger Michael Bradley and Alex Peters.

Three-point shooting was poor, but the fact that we were able to overcome it and not only win, but win decisively, is very encouraging. We made five more three-pointers than Samford (who took only twelve, and shot miserably from distance as well), so that and the free-throws explain the final score. Biggest stat of the game: only ten turnovers, and forced the Bulldogs into twenty, and ten steals. QJ is starting to figure out his role at the point, and Eleby has gotten it together. Julian also scored 19 points and had five steals, but was most impressively 8 of 11 from the field. Put it together and you have a collection of superb individual performances, on the glass, on defense, and at the line. Deservedly, we are 1-0 in the SoCon.

After a shaky start to the year, with a rough schedule and incohesive play stemming from a lack of leadership, this team is beginning to gel together. Players are becoming more comfortable in their roles. Guys are rebounding aggressively and hustling. When shots don't fall, they stick to the gameplan and run with it. So perhaps the post-UNCW vent was unjust, and a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. There is still much work to be done, no doubt about it. But seeing the steady improvement of the team in the last week or so, there is definitely a bright future ahead.

Monday, December 1, 2014


With last night's performance, VMI is now averaging an astounding 19.8 turnovers per game. This statistic currently ranks third to last in the nation, behind only Louisiana-Lafayette and hapless Savannah State, who was defeated by Louisville 87–26 earlier in the week.

It's not hard to see where they are coming from. QJ is averaging 5 TO/game, Eleby 3.3, Chapman 2.7, and Brown 2.4. The turnover rate for each player was higher than it was last season, a season in which QJ turned it over the most with 2.2 per game. Among those players, only Eleby and Chapman have received significantly more playing time in their sophomore season, so it's clear to say there is a turnover bug that has caught the entire team by storm.

Statistically speaking, the turnover margin might be the difference in the Keydets being 2–4 versus 4–2, or even 5–1. Last season we averaged a mere 10.6 turnovers per game. Using this as a control, if we were currently at that mark this season, we would be, on average, attempting just over nine more shots per game. With a 45.5% field goal percentage, the chances are that we would make just over four of these shots, two of which would be three-pointers. Add it all up and you have ten points every game that you aren't getting. Such a differential would have been enough to win games against Army, and perhaps UNC Wilmington, given that the final seven points of the 110 the Seahawks scored were from the line or easy layups, at which point the team had already given up.

Ten points would have made for a much closer game against West Virginia, and certainly would've given Maryland a scare. This doesn't account for the fatigue and pressure that would be put on opposing teams with a close game, a statistic that is not quantifiable but most certainly in our favor. The turnovers are also negatively effecting our rhythm, which in turn weakens our shooting percentage. Despite the fact that we are averaging 86.3 points/game, our adjusted offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) is a meager 99.0, good for 173rd in Division I. On the top of that list you will find teams like Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Gonzaga - teams that don't necessarily score many points but do take care of the ball and value each possession.

Valuing every possession is not something to consider when running a loot-and-shoot offense such as Baucom's, but taking care of the ball is always a must. Duggar always reinforced the "shoot before you turn it over" mentality, so what can explain the turnovers? Both this season (so far) and last season, we averaged 70 field goal attempts per game, and we're even taking six more three-pointers on average. But the turnovers are decreasing those figures, so it's safe to say we are playing at a faster pace. It's still a small sample size, but consider that since 2007, we averaged anywhere from 11 to 17 TO/game, the 17 coming only in the first year of the run-and-gun system, when we averaged over 101 PPG and had an adjusted tempo of 90.9 (a number that will most likely never come close to being matched). Even if we were to take out the 36-turnover debacle @ WVU, the team would still be averaging 16.6 TO/game, still six more than last season and far too many.

Obviously, these problems stem from the lack of a true point guard, a problem that has been persistent since Day 1, and one that Duggar could do nothing about. Not only did the players on last year's team have the ball less (being that it was always in Rodney's hands), but they made a living in their natural positions and were thus more comfortable. Nevertheless, QJ is turning the ball over left and right, Eleby is tripping over his own feet, and Weethee is passing to the wrong team. This season is a growing process but right now there seems to be a disconnect at the guard position.

Postgame Thoughts: @ Maryland

It was the same old story for the Keydets tonight, although this time, the story was a bit brighter. I think Coach Baucom would take an 18-point loss against a Big Ten team on the road any day of the week, a loss in which VMI was down by four at halftime (though it really should've been tied), and Maryland needed a stellar effort from Richaud Pack and Dion Wiley to pull three.

Not having Brian Brown tonight hurt, though perhaps not so much offensively. Brian struggled mightily against West Virginia (1 for 9 shooting), but his defense was sorely missed. Christian Burton is not much of a defender and didn't put anything on the stat sheet. It's odd that Duggar would have him start over a guy like Tim Marshall or Julian Eleby, and it kind of defeats the purpose when he only plays ten minutes.

Nevertheless, the story of the game was Craig Hinton; 23 points, 8 of 9 overall, and 6 of 6 from long-range. That last stat is a killer. Craig has had a torrid start to the year and is now shooting 72% from deep, easily leading the team and well ahead of Tim Marshall, who scored 14 points tonight but needed seventeen shots to do it. Tim regressed from the WVU game, and connected on only two of his ten three-point attempts. QJ put up 18, and was the team's leading rebounder with nine boards. His three-point shooting touch is still not there, and it needs to be fixed before conference play. It's not so much the overall statistics but rather his inconsistency from beyond the arc. QJ had bad shooting performances against El Cid, Army, and now Maryland, but countered with good effort in the UNCW and WVU games. This wasn't a problem with Glasgow last season, so if he wants to be known as the go-to guy, then the three-point shots must start falling.

Phil Anglade fouled out, but not before collecting seven rebounds and six points. Phil was the only player besides Hinton who shot the ball well, as VMI connected on less than 40% of their FGs and 29% of three's. They are certainly taking as many as they should be, but it's still November and we should expect some cold shooting early on.

We "limited" ourselves to 18 turnovers, much improved from the West Va. game (it's incredible that I even have to type such a sentence). That number still needs to go down, especially for our PGs (Eleby and QJ) who combined to turn it over seven times. QJ is averaging about five turnovers per game, which is unacceptable at that position. Other than that, rebounding was what you'd expect it to be, and VMI did a much better job of pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers than on Wednesday.

I thought we had a sliver of chance late in the first half, but there were a couple things that went awry and turned the tide in MD's favor. First, let them go on an 8-0 run late in the half, but Hinton nailed a three-pointer and a turnover + foul had QJ going to the line for a 1-and-1. QJ misses the first free throw, and on the ensuing rebound, Trey Chapman fouls Jake Layman who hits both FT's with four seconds left, putting Maryland up four at the half. This was essentially a four-point turnaround all stemming from a missed FT and a foul, unfortunate mistakes that need to be corrected. Immediately we come out cold in the second half, and MD eventually takes advantage with a 13-0 run after a Marshall three. Then Eleby turns it over here and there, Branch airballs a three, Layman and Cekovsky have a block party and just like that we lose by 18.

These are things that would not have happened last season, mostly because of Glasgow's ability to take over a game when necessary. He could drive the lane for a soft floater, hit from long-range, or set up Covington and Co. with crisp passing. Obviously, both players are gone now and with that it is upon QJ (and no one else) to put a halt to runs when things fall apart. If he cannot do this then we better hope that Craig, Brian, and others step up when the going gets tough. Otherwise, expect many more second half debacles as we saw here tonight.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: @ West Virginia

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.

Did I mention turnovers?

Honestly, I have not seen such a horrid ball handling performance in all my years of watching VMI basketball. Such a performance is not acceptable at any level of basketball, let alone in Division I. I had no idea that the effects of losing Glasgow would be this bad. There is not a single exceptional ball handler on this team and that's just the unfortunate reality.

Looking at the box score (and ignoring a couple stats) you might think we won the game. Incredibly, despite being far outmatched length-wise and physically, we won the rebounding battle 44-36. It's obvious that the gang-rebounding strategy is working, and the guys are giving full effort in that regard. A +8 advantage against a Big 12 team would lead you to think that we could dominate any SoCon school on the glass. Not to mention that we held WVU to 7 second-chance points, and had 12 of our own. Three-point shooting was solid at 35%, as was free-throw shooting (90%).

But never mind that, because rebounding and three-point shooting ain't the problem. Turnovers are the problem, and the turnovers are derived from a lack of a true point guard. QJ, the natural shooting guard, has been thrust into a foreign position and it's understandable that he would need time to adjust, but his performance tonight was truly unacceptable. Eleven turnovers and five assists is not what you need from a PG. And you might consider Brian to be the man for the job but his shooting is so awfully inconsistent (1 for 9, 3 pts) that you are left with no reliable options. Eleby has been seeing more action, but turned it over six times as well. I might actually prefer a guy like Tim Marshall, who unlike QJ, gives you quality defensive night in and night out, and has a better FG% as well. Who would've thought before the year that the loss of DJ would not be our Achilles' heel? Dare I say, we are doing just fine without him in this regard.

To be fair though I must concede that it is West Virginia, who has one of the most suffocating defenses in the nation with long, tall, and athletic guards who pressure the ball (in pairs) on every possession. But coming into the game, the Mountaineers were forcing "only" 22 turnovers per game. Tonight we had 36...the previous record wasn't even close (25, back in 2008 against Winthrop, the game after we lost Reggie Williams temporarily to injury. Appropriately, we scored 41 points that night).

So the truth of our passing inability cannot be masked by WVU's solid defense. Turning the ball over 36 times will not win you a single game, whether you are playing in major college basketball or for the local rec league middle school team. If I can harp on any positives, I thought that Anglade had a decent game on both sides of the ball, Trey's effort was 100% as always, and Hinton was much improved from the debacle at UNCW, with 10 points, 5 boards, and no turnovers. Christian Burton was impressive in limited action, going 2-for-2 from the field (one three) and five points. Most notably, Tim Marshall came off the bench and scored 8 points with two assists. Perhaps Tim deserves a spot in the starting lineup, because his play has been much more consistent than that of Brian, and more focused than that of QJ. He never turns it over and plays solid defense, which cannot be said of most of those on our team right now. Timmy is averaging 11.2 PPG and shooting 52% from long range (53% overall).

Cut out the turnovers, make smart passes, know your assignments, and everything after that will fall into place. It's still early and QJ is still developing as a point guard, but if progress is not made before conference play, we are in deep trouble.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: UNC Wilmington

This may come off as a knee-jerk reaction but I think we are in for a long struggle this season. Last night's game was one of three realistic chances that VMI had to win a D-1 game and we blew it. It's pretty obvious where we went wrong. When you don't have a real big man you give up 84 points in the paint. When you don't have a real point guard you turn the ball over 23 times.

It would be easy to blame this on Duggar, and to some extent it his fault (not recruiting a big-man in the offseason), but what can he do? His point guard bailed out on him two weeks before the season, along with two other players. Nothing he can do about that. But I can personally testify to the fact that we were outmatched, out-hustled, and out-coached in yesterday's ballgame.

This has to be the first VMI team in quite some time (certainly as long as I've been a fan) that has no dominant player who at any given moment can take over a game. Last year it was Rodney. Year before that it was Stan. Year before that it was any combination of Stan, Keith, or DJ. From what I saw last night QJ is an immature player. He was tapped for a technical foul early in the first (2 pts) and turned the ball over a whopping seven times (8 pts). Not to mention the other 33 points scored by UNCW of our abysmal 23 turnovers, AND the 21 second-chance points. When you give up free shots you lose games, it's fairly simple.

If QJ is not the leader, then who is? Brian Brown is a huge asset defensively but as a scorer is frighteningly inconsistent. Last year he was a role player. So too was Phil Anglade, who, at 6-foot-5, we are now using as a post player. What we have now is a collection of misfit toys who got together and said, "Hey! Let's go play some basketball!" At least that's what it feels like....

Individually, I thought Craig's effort was poor. At a luncheon earlier in the day I heard Coach Baucom say that while Craig's physical health was improving, his mental sharpness is not there. You can see why; he absolutely botched what should've been an easy board and watched the ball roll into the hands of Malik Pugh for an easy two. He finishes with 9 points and three turnovers. Eleby had four turnovers as well, and Iruafemi didn't score in limited action.

If I can grasp at any positives to take away from this game, Tim Marshall played well, scoring 17 points and hitting three treys. On that note, Trey Chapman had 5 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Jarid was 2 of 2 from the floor in the short time that he played, and Phil had six blocks, but only one point.

By the end of Thanksgiving we will be 2-4. We have two SoCon games at Samford and Mercer the following weekend, as well as road games against Navy, Tech, and George Washington. Even an optimist would concede that we are in a deep hole and that this team is in serious need of leadership. I can't guarantee us winning any of these games, and we will be lucky to be 5-8 by New Year's.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Matter of Ethics

I'm no opponent of playing lower-division schools. I mean, you have to do it, right? Get reps for guys that normally don't get playing time, tinker with the lineup, balance out a tough D-I schedule, and walk away with an easy win. Don't do it too much, but once or twice a year (maybe more for some schools) is fine and dandy.

But there is a point at which playing a lower-division school (or non-NCAA, for that matter) becomes unethical and frankly unhelpful for either team. I think we saw this last night. And to put into perspective how much of a bottom feeder Johnson U. athletics really are, consider this list of all organized athletic associations in the United States (in order of superiority):

NCAA – Division I (VMI)
NCAA – Division II
NCAA – Division III
NAIA – Division I
NAIA – Division II
NCCAA – Division I
NCCAA – Division II (Johnson)

These guys aren't even in Division I in their own league. So you can see that their is a massive disparity in terms of talent. How much of a disparity are we talking about? Consider a December 2013 basketball game between D-I Southern University and Champion Baptist, a member of the Association of Christian College Athletics (ACCA). Not the NCCAA, no - even lower (imagine that!). But at that level, the quality of basketball is essentially the same. Southern went on to win that game 116–12, a narrow 104 point margin. The Jaguars bursted out to a 44-0 start (NCAA record) and held Champion Baptist to six points in both halves (and remember that Southern competes in one of the worst conferences in D-1 basketball).

More recently, Duke defeated Presbyterian last Friday by 69 points. So Duke is great, and Presbyterian sucks. Sure. But is it too much to ask that these schools consider at least a slight challenge in the schools they play? Is this what college basketball is coming to? I realize that low-major teams have trouble getting other D-I schools to play in their gym, but there's no reason to schedule the absolute doormat of collegiate basketball. This is one thing that NCAA football gets right: FBS schools cannot (or at least do not) schedule lower-division opponents of any kind, and FCS schools never schedule D-III. It allows for "gimme" games yet at the same time keeps the score within reason.

With all respect to Johnson University, their players are nothing close to what the average fan would consider quality basketball talent. Their average height is 6'1. These are guys that may have barely played in high school and if they did, were probably not any good. This is the nature of athletics at non-NCAA universities: there is no such thing as recruiting, so you invite anyone who wishes to play at your institution, provided that they have some athletic ability (you know, the ability to walk, not deaf or blind).

Last year, Bridgewater (DIII) lost to VMI by a respectable 26. We defeated DII-Bluefield State by 41. Virginia-Lynchburg of the USCAA put up a good showing (110-78 win). In fairly recent memory, VMI put up a school-record 156 points in a game twice - in 2007, against Columbia Union, and in 2006, against Virginia Intermont. Both are NAIA schools. Both games were blowouts, but only because of our ridiculously fast pace, and neither to the extent of last night's game.

I love competitive college basketball. At the same time, I recognize that not every game is going to be competitive. Early in the year, teams of all sizes need to work out the kinks of their roster and schedule inferior teams. I get that. I'm just saying that athletic directors should consider ethics when filling out the calendar for their respective team. I don't like to turn on the TV and see scores of 28-0, 55-8, and 100-20. It's cute for the stats, but makes for a boring contest and disrespects the game of basketball. Sometimes you don't even try to win that big; it just happens. But make it so that it happens less.

I'm not fond of telling anyone that my team won by 82 points last night. Smarten up, AD's.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: Johnson Univ.

Short post tonight.

Not much to say about this game, other than that we dominated. I mean really. Johnson University is a member of the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association (which believe it or not is lower than the NAIA) so it's not like these guys bore any resemblance to the '72 Bruins coming into the game. But the final score did surprise me a bit.

A quiet 19 for QJ tonight in as many minutes. Jordan (17/7) hit 3 of 5 three-pointers and Chap had 14 in limited action. Christian Burton impressed me the most, with 9 points, all off three-pointers. Branch had 12 points and six boards, although his shooting wasn't great. Marshall was money from distance, as was Hinton.

Just about the only disappointing performance was that of Phil, who didn't score in seven minutes of playing time. He did haul in 7 rebounds, though the height of Johnson U tells us that isn't much of an accomplishment. It'll be interesting to see what these guys can do against Charleston Southern later this year.

Overall it was truly a balanced scoring effort. Everyone except Anglade scored, and everyone except Anglade and Eleby had at least six points (Julian made up for it with six assists and four steals). And for much of the game we shot 50%+ from three-point land...ended up at ~46%. That statistic feels even better when looking at the opponent, who shot 14 of 63 overall (22%).

So the warm-up is over, and as I type this, UNC Wilmington is in the process of defeating in-state rival UNCG. Don't want to take them lightly. Hopefully the guys keep their focus the rest of the week and a big crowd in Cameron on Saturday gets them going.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: @ Army

In order to win in the sport of basketball, you must do the little things. This includes making free throws when it counts. And keeping a precious handle of the ball. And not committing five-second violations or lazily jogging back on defense.

Tonight we did not do the little things and you can see why we lost. I know we're a young team but many of these careless errors were the fault of upperclassmen and a general lack of leadership. I can't say that guys like Jordan Weethee and Brian Brown aren't good players, because they are. But they simply aren't leaders. Not everyone is supposed to be a leader but someone has to do it. We're only two games in but what I've seen so far from the guys is not encouraging.

The game ball tonight has to go to Julian Eleby. Twenty points, the leading scorer, and an obvious career high for him. Only 6 of 16 shooting but 3 of 6 from long-range to go along with four rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Phil had a great game as well with 13 points, incredibly on 6 of 7 shooting. Perhaps he read my last blog post and set out to prove me wrong.

Jordan had a solid 8/4/2 line. Marshall chipped in 9, all from distance. Fred got his first two collegiate points. And QJ was QJ (though his shooting touch was a bit off).

I was disappointed with the performance of Brian. I noted before the season began that BB's biggest problem last season and throughout his career was inconsistency. Tonight he was 3 of 9 from the field and laid an egg in the three-point shooting department. A grand total of six points and zero assists is well short of what we need out of him. Same goes to Watson who contributed nearly nothing in 25 minutes.

As a team we shot 44% overall and 38% from behind the arc. Not shabby, but the defensive end is where our struggles lie. It's no wonder why Army (and The Citadel) shot 55% in these two games. We have no legitimate rim protector and essentially any opponent attack at the basket will result in either a foul or a made shot. You can catch a team when they are cold from deep (and we did tonight; Army connected on only 26% of their threes) but you can't fail to execute down low because teams, especially tall teams, will exploit that weakness 100% of the time. Duggar can teach players all about the art of rim protection but he can't teach them how to be tall. Expect this problem to continue throughout the season.

The opening weekend of college basketball is just about over and we sit here at 1-1. We could be 2-0. We should be 0-2. In any case, our guys have some work to do. Secure rebounds, take care of the ball, and make smart shots. We have a game on Tuesday against Johnson Univ. and an opportunity to get some reps and see some young players get playing time. On Saturday we have a tough UNC Wilmington team coming to Cameron, and if the last two games are any indication, we need to get our act together.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Postgame Thoughts: The Citadel

I hate jumping to conclusions one game into the season, so I'll try to keep it low-key....but how about Trey Chapman? The most unlikely of suspects nails a three-pointer to send the Keydets to their third championship appearance in four All-Military Classics.

I'll start with the positives. Or negatives? Nah, positives it is. Our rebounding tonight was superb; 31-22 advantage will win you a lot of games (and we beat them 12-4 on the offensive side, another plus). That's especially impressive considering the fact that Horgan, White, and Koopman are taller than everyone on our team. Clearly the five-man gang-up rebounding strategy is working.

We made 45% of our shots, bested by The Citadel's crisp 55% shooting. The difference? We attempted sixteen more shots, facilitated by our sizable rebounding advantage. Making nine more three-pointers helped too. Not sure why The Citadel didn't try more.

Individually, QJ scored a calm 25. Overall his shooting wasn't bad but from long range it was terrible - 3 of 11 is not what Coach Baucom or anyone on the staff expects out of him. The five assists are encouraging, but 4 PF's is a no-no. And it seemed like he fatigued late in the game. B+ for QJ tonight.

Game ball goes to Brian Brown - 6 of 9 shooting, 4/7 from three, 16 points in all in only twenty-four minutes. And not a single foul. Yeah yeah, Trey made the game-winning three, but Brian made four of them. He is the glue of this team. And speaking of Trey, what are the odds that a guy who shot 21% from deep his freshman year would knock down his only three-point attempt of the game in a do-or-die situation? Statistically speaking, it was a so-so game from Chap. Five points, three boards (all offensive), an assist and steal. A solid effort, but I'd hope for more the rest of the way.

Great game by Weethee. Only 9 points but the eight rebounds were huge. Phil also led in that category with nine of his own, and three blocks too. Defensively Phil's a monster but he needs to work on finishing at the rim. He missed a layup and two short jumpers which could've cost us the game were it not for Trey's heroics. I thought that was a consistent problem throughout the team but it's hard to tell with no video.

Only team negative I can see is in the free throws. Not the percentage, like we're used to seeing, but rather the attempts - only four trips to the line. I can't quite tell if that's a testament to the Bulldogs' defense or an obvious hint at our lack of physical aggressiveness. El Cid went to the line twenty-two times and you can see why the game was this close.

I would also have liked to have seen a better performance from Jarid. Two points + one block in sixteen minutes is poor, but what you'd expect from a guy with minimal game experience. As the season progresses, Jarid should see continued playing time and improve, but with such a lean build and unimposing stature it's hard to see him being reckoned with as a dominant post presence. Armani got a couple of minutes and hit on his only shot, and Eleby hit a three. Nothing from Tim Marshall, which was disappointing. As expected, Tyrell Mason, Fred Iruafemi, and Christian Burton did not see any action. Not sure where Craig was.

So we are now 1-0. Can't say too much about this game other than that fact. And that we have a chance to claim a second AMC title with a win tomorrow. Can we survive without a true point guard? Can we survive without a true post player? Is our bench deep enough to help us win games? At this point I don't know. I do know, however, that Army is currently taking Air Force to the woodshed and if the score holds up, we have some work cut out for us in the title game tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guard Troubles

Whether we like it or not, Jon Elmore (and brother Ot) will not be playing Keydet basketball in 2014-15. Not this year, and maybe not ever. An optimist will always hold out hope that they'll return, and it even makes since given the circumstances. But in the meantime, there are thirteen men who committed to playing basketball for VMI and there is no need to dwell on those who chose a different path.

But if we must, I might start by saying that losing Ot is hardly a big deal. He was redshirted for a reason, and would've had to compete with QJ, Brown, Marshall, and Eleby to get any playing time. He is a third-string bench player and that's that. It's Jon that we should be worried about.

Not often does an athlete who was ranked as the eighth-best player in his state, and received twenty-two scholarships offers, some from the A-10 and ACC, choose VMI over anywhere that might get him fame and publicity. Jon was a unique talent, possibly even better than QJ at his position. And the son of a VMI Hall of Famer? This is a devastating blow for the team.

Herein lies the obvious dilemma for Coach Baucom this season: who starts at the point? It's a bigger deal than you'd think. The point guard has to run the offense. He has to set up his teammates. He must recognize the weaknesses of the defense and utilize the strengths of the offense. He knows when to pass and when to take it himself.

Is QJ the man for the job? Based on last season, I'd say no. Four times last season he scored fewer then ten points, and two of those came in the CIT. His performances against Ohio and Yale were horrid, and he often went for erratic and untimely shots. His assist totals were nothing to gawk at, though admittedly his role did not demand that he be the play-maker.

Eleby? Too tall, speed and dribble-drive skills aren't there. Marshall? Not the guy. His persona doesn't scream "playmaker" and he's chiefly a two guard, nothing more. Burton? Not a chance. Virtually no game experience, and the stats (though of a small sample size) don't indicate that he has the potential to lead this team.

Thus, we are left with Brian Brown. I like his demeanor and it seems like he really wants to win. Obviously, we have no one close to capable of replicating what Glasgow did last year. This would be true even if Elmore stayed. But someone has to step up, and all signs point toward Brian being the guy. His scoring and shooting percentage dipped from last season, but mostly because of Peterson's presence. What didn't drop, however, were the assists: 23 up from his sophomore year in only two more games played. If you're searching for a point guard, that's what you like to see.

There are still underlying problems in this scenario. Last season, Brian was a guy who might drain a couple threes and kick an opponent when they aren't looking, but for much of the year, his game was off. BB scored 10+ points in only ten games, and sometimes it seemed as though he was nonexistent. And if there's one thing a coach needs out of a PG, it's consistency, first and foremost.

In any case, Coach Baucom and staff are going to have a whale of a time figuring out our lineup in the little time they have to prepare for the All-Military Classic. The bottom line is that someone needs to step up and lead the team. I think it'll happen, but as for who I can't say. Nevertheless, a decision must be made and we will see that decision on Friday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Starting Lineup Projections

I haven't posted in quite some time so I figured it'd be worthwhile to give my take on the starting lineup for the All-Military Classic at West Point this November. It's been a pretty quick off-season (at least for me), given the success of last year's team...and the fact that they played all the way into April added another month to what would've been a crushing Big South tourney loss.

It would be quite an understatement to say replacing Rodney Glasgow and D.J. Covington will be difficult. In fact it will be impossible. There is no one on this team, as far as I know, who is capable of producing what those two produced this past season at their respective positions. That is not to say the future looks bleak. Let's take a look.

PG: Jon Elmore, Freshman

From what I've heard around town it seems this guy is the real deal. Amazing right, for a guy that's never played a single collegiate game? Nevertheless, Jon averaged 19.5 points per game in his senior year for Christ School, and was also first in steals and assists on that team. It's very rare that a Rat would find himself in the Starting 5 beginning the season, but Jon will more than likely find himself in that position,

SG: QJ Peterson

Obvious choice here. QJ easily matched and surpassed his preseason expectations last year, averaging 19.0 PPG for the season along with 5.6 rebounds and a 32% shooting mark from beyond the arc. He faded a bit as the season progressed, especially in the Ohio and Yale games where he chucked up bricks off forced and unbalanced shots. But last season is done and the future looks very bright for him.

SG: Brian Brown

Throughout most of his career Duggar has generally gone with a three-guard lineup, save for late-game situations when he needs the height. Brian (aka B.B.) will fit the bill quite nicely. Last season he averaged 6.8 PPG (tops among our non-"Big 3" players) and shot 33% from three. His main problem was inconsistency, as there were many games where he had absolutely nothing going (Citadel, AFA, Bridgewater,VUL, LwU, HPU, and a couple others). On the upside Brian kept us in a lot games with the three-ball: he hit 4+ against Wright State, GWU, CSU, and CCU. If he can get that percentage up to a Glasgow-like 39%, Brian will be a critical asset to a team that needs all the scoring they can get.

F: Jordan Weethee

I'm going on a hunch here because Weethee wasn't in the starting lineup in any game past November last year, but he's 6'6 and a senior so, might as well. Actually he averaged 6.7/3.7/0.9 which is decent for a guy who gets fair playing time. Of course he absolutely dominated the Military Classic and did some other things too, but after that he just kinda faded away. I'd like to see him play like I know he can.

F: Phillip Anglade

Honestly Anglade isn't even listed as a center on the roster so I won't call him a center, but for all intents and purposes, he's a center. It was interesting last season that Anglade was a starter basically all of the second half of the season, yet Duggar tended to take him out fairly quickly. Phil averaged slightly over 15 minutes/game, and scored 3.4 PPG in that time. He is used mostly for his physicality, but needs to clean up the fouling: 87 person fouls last season (second only to Covington). Expect him to rotate around with Craig Hinton, Armani Branch, Trey Chapman, and Jarid Watson.

Primary Bench: Branch, Chapman, Hinton, Watson, Tim Marshall
Secondary Bench: Ot Elmore, Fred Iruafemi, Tyrell Mason, Julian Eleby, Christian Burton

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NCAA Logo Tournament Challenge

For anyone who hasn't heard through social media, the Connecticut-based website has been hosting an NCAA Tournament-style logo challenge, where fans vote for the best team logos in the country.

It is formatted so that the team with the most votes from each of the 32 conferences will be given an "automatic bid" to the Round of 64, and the 32 highest vote-getting schools after that, regardless of conference affiliation, will receive an "at-large" bid.

Teams from FCS conferences and other small conferences have been doing quite well in this contest: from the old Big South, UNC Asheville, Winthrop, Longwood, and Campbell made it past the conference stage; not to mention The Citadel, Wofford, Western Carolina, and of course VMI, who passed with a modest 123,000 votes.... it would be an understatement to say our fans came out in full force (you can see the overwhelming results here).

Now the First Round of the tournament is upon us, and we are up against the Texas Longhorns, the logo of whom is one of the most recognizable cattle in the country. They also have the largest athletic budget in the country at over $210M, though luckily, that won't help them out here. At this point we are winning with ease (perhaps thanks to some Aggies and Red Raiders), and barring some unforeseen Longhorn infestation, we should cruise through this round. This support comes despite a rather unfavorable view from the pollsters, who criticized the logo for its blandness and lack of creativeness (which, from a distance is fair, but they may have forgotten to realize the militaristic origins of the logo).

But voting doesn't end for this round until September 5th, and in the meantime, I encourage everyone to support your Keydets:

You can vote as many times as you wish, by simply clicking the "Return to Poll" button in the bottom right-hand of the voting box.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hoops Schedule Finalized

The 2014-15 Keydet basketball schedule has finally been released, and, in our first season back in our true home, it is certainly no cupcake.

Released today, the schedule features three match-ups with teams from Power Five Conferences (Virginia Tech of the ACC, West Virginia* of the Big 12, and Big Ten newcomer Maryland). We'll also be playing at George Washington just before New Year's, an Atlantic 10 school which, all things considered, may well be the best mid-major conference in the NCAA. The schedule is most unforgiving within the first two+ months, as only five of our first eighteen games will be played in Cameron. At least 11 of those games will be on the road, depending on who wins the semifinal game between Army and Air Force at this year's Military Classic in West Point (Nov 14-15).

The home opener will take place on November 18 against Johnson University (non-NCAA), followed by a Saturday night (7pm) matchup with UNC Wilmington, a return game from five years ago...we will likely reveal our CIT banner that night, if we do at all. The only other non-Division I game will be against Mid-Atlantic Christian University (USCAA), and another return game from Marist will round out the home slat in 2014. And I should mention we have a game at Navy, the first since 2004, on December 9 in Annapolis.

The conference home opener will against the Mercer Bears on January 5. The format will feature a full round-robin schedule, 18 games w/ two per team. Six of the first seven conference games will be on the road, two of which will be in early December on that awful Georgia/Alabama road trip. Luckily, the schedule brightens up in February: eight of the final eleven games are at home, including a long five-game homestand (something that would have never happened in the Big South), including weekend matinees with The Citadel and Wofford. The season ends on February 28 at home versus Samford, and we should get plenty of rest for the SoCon Tournament in Asheville. But getting the first-round bye will be crucial, seeing as it would very rigorous to play on four straight nights, as the tournament format demands. The championship game should be on some ESPN network, with the prior rounds on ESPN3.

Full Schedule

*-game with WVU will be played in Charleston, WV at the Charleston Civic Center.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reggie Williams Signs 1-year Deal with Miami Heat

After a hectic 2013–14 season, NBA small forward and VMI alumnus Reggie Williams is returning to basketball in the U.S. Williams inked a one-year deal with the Miami Heat last Thursday, worth the league's minimum of slightly under $1 million. Since May of this year, he had been playing with the San Miguel Beermen of the Philippine Basketball Association. In parts of five NBA seasons, Williams has played for three teams, as well as two international stints in Spain and France.

Williams had an incredible career as a Keydet from 2004 to 2008, scoring 2,556 career points which was the most in history by any VMI player, and tops among all Virginia college basketball players. He led the NCAA in scoring twice in his career, peaking in his junior season with 28.1 points per game. He is fifth all-time on the school's rebounding list, and seventh in assists.

Following his graduation from VMI, Williams continued his basketball career with JDA Dijon (France), and in 2009 he signed a contract with the NBA D-League's Sioux Falls Skyforce. He averaged over 26.4 PPG with Sioux Falls, and was selected as a D-League All-Star. Williams was picked up by the Golden State Warriors in March of 2010, and after being signed to several 10-day contracts, Williams was signed for the remainder of the year as well as the next season. In 24 games, Williams averaged 15.2 PPG for the Warriors that season.

In December of 2011, Williams was picked up by the Charlotte Bobcats before the start of the lockout-shortened NBA season, a deal worth $5 million for two years. His numbers declined heavily, and he appeared in only 73 games in that span. During training camp prior to the 2013-14 season, Williams was signed by the Houston Rockets to a multi-year deal, but was waived later in October. After returning to the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers, the Oklahoma City Thunder called him up on another 10-day contract, and Williams lingered with the team for the remainder of the year. He averaged 3.7 points in three games with the Thunder this past season.

Now, with the departure of All-Star and face of of the league LeBron James from Miami, as well as James Jones and possibly Ray Allen leaving the team, Williams will have a chance to compete for a roster spot this preseason. He will likely compete with Danny Granger and James Ennis for a backup role, and with a largely undefined Heat roster, Williams may have what it takes to find himself on the court again this winter.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 1

Hometown: Prince George, VA
High School: Prince George HS
Years at VMI: 2004–08
Position: Forward
-All-time VMI point scoring leader
-2007 & 2008 NCAA Scoring Champion
-5th all-time leading rebounder
-7th all-time assists leader

Seriously, were you expecting anyone else? Surely I couldn't have put anyone that wasn't the single most prolific scorer, a 50% shooter, and a top-ten all-time rebounder and passer at the top of this list. But that's Reggie Williams.

Reggie was born in Prince George County, VA, and attended Prince George High School. Duggar picked him up in 2004, and in his Rat year Reggie made an immediate impression, leading the team with 15.5 points per game on 43% field goal shooting. The team failed to qualify for the Big South Tournament, and did so again in 2005–06, achieving a pitiful 7–20 record. Reggie, however, was one of the few bright spots, and averaged 19 points. Were it not for Matt Murrer shooting 65% from the field (third-best in the nation), Reggie would have led the team in shooting again.

But it was in 2006 where Reggie and his company were put on the map. Following a situation in which two players were kicked off the team and expelled from the school for an honor violation, the team was left with no player taller than 6'7 (Murrer) and had to adjust. Duggar then installed a face-paced, run-and-gun system that continues to live with us today, but in its first year, it was simply chaos on steroids.

Averaging over 101 points per game as a team, and setting the NCAA record for steals in a season (490), VMI put up points by the hundreds and found its way to the 2007 Big South Championship Game, despite a 12–18 regular season, 5–9 in the Big South. The Keydets did this by abruptly changing to a 2-3 scheme, and used a box-and-one to confuse and befuddle the legendary Larry Blair and his Liberty Flames in the quarterfinal round. VMI won 79–78, one of their lowest offensive outputs of the season, as Reggie scored 23 points and hauled in 9 rebounds.

VMI did the same in the semifinals against High Point, as Reggie played every minute of a shocking 91–81 win, while scoring 28 points. But Winthrop, who ended the season 29–5, fought off a scare from VMI as Reggie missed a game-tying three at the buzzer in an 83–80 loss at the Winthrop Coliseum. The Eagles went on to stun Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament as the #11 seed.

Reggie averaged 28.1 PPG that year, leading the nation. In April, he initially decided to forego his senior season and head for the NBA Draft, but thought better of it and chose to return to VMI. He averaged 27.8 points in his final year, just enough to win the scoring title once again. The Keydets were eliminated in the quarterfinals, however, by Liberty, ending a 14–15 season.

Reggie went on to play professionally in France following his graduation, and then excelled in the NBA D-League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He made the Golden State Warriors' roster in 2009, where he played for two seasons. He recently played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but is currently back overseas playing in the Philippines.

Reggie scored 2,556 points at VMI, the most by any player in VMI, Big South, and Virginia state history. He grabbed 820 rebounds, fifth all-time, and dished out 368 assists, seventh all-time. Putting it together, there is little debate going against Reggie as the greatest player to ever don a Keydet basketball uniform.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 2

Well after today, it should be quite clear, if you're anything more than a casual VMI basketball fan, who the number one player on this list is. But of course I won't give it away, and in the meantime, here's #2 on the list.

Hometown: Charleston, WV
High School: South Charleston HS
Years at VMI: 1983–87
Position: Small forward
-1986 & 1987 SoCon Player of the Year
-1985 SoCon Tournament MVP
-2nd all-time VMI point scoring leader

For nearly 21 years, VMI forward Gay Elmore was at the top of basketball's most important statistic: scoring. Elmore mastered the art of shooting the basketball in his four years as a Keydet, and until as recent as six years ago found himself found himself as the leader of virtually every point-scoring related category.

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Elmore played high school ball at South Charleston HS, just west of the city in the Spring Hill neighborhood. As a Rat at VMI, Elmore averaged 18.3 points per game, easily leading the team, as well as 5.7 rebounds.

In his sophomore season, Elmore led VMI on a surprising run to the Southern Conference championship game, with narrow upsets of Western Carolina (65–63) and powerhouse Chattanooga (71–69), who had gone 14–2 and 24–7 to that point in the regular season. Both games went into overtime. The Keydets failed to overcome Marshall, however, and lost by a close 65–70 margin, despite Elmore's 17 points. The tournament performance earned him SoCon Tournament MVP honors, incredibly rare for a losing player to accomplish. VMI that year had its first winning season since 1978 and the days of Ron Carter, not two seasons removed from a disastrous two-year stretch in which the team won three out of fifty games.

Elmore averaged an even 20 PPG that year, and continued to improve. By his senior year he was scoring over 25 per game, at which point he earned his second SoCon Player of the Year Award, becoming just the tenth player in league history to earn the award multiple times at that point. The team, however, struggled in his final two seasons, and never made it beyond the tournament quarterfinals.

Elmore ended his career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,422 points, an achievement surpassed 21 years later by you-know-who. He is currently second all-time in most field goals made and second in career 30+ point games with 15. Elmore was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 6th round of the 1987 draft, and currently owns a law firm (Elmore & Elmore) in his hometown of Charleston.

He now has two sons, Jon and Ot, currently on the VMI basketball team, and if those two are anything like their father, it should be quite a sight to see.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 3

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
High School: Perry Traditional Academy
Years at VMI: 1974–78
Position: Forward
-VMI Sports Hall of Fame Inductee
-1977 & 1978 SoCon Player of the Year
-3rd all-time VMI point scoring leader
-6th all-time rebounding leader

There was almost nothing in a VMI uniform that Ron Carter did not accomplish. A scrawny but dynamic 6'5 forward from Pittsburgh, Carter is among the most decorated Keydet basketball players, and certainly the most successful. In his four-year career from 1974 to 1978, Carter's teams won a total of 82 games while losing a mere 34. No other class in VMI history can say the same, and only this year's class of Rodney Glasgow, D.J. Covington, and Drew Absher broke 70.

Carter was born in Pittsburgh and attended high school at the Perry Traditional Academy. In his Rat year, the Keydets went a modest 13–13, 6–6 in the Southern Conference. They did, however, advance to the SoCon tournament semifinals, giving the team their first postseason win since 1964 (a team that went on to win the title). It was only a sign of things to come.

The following season, Carter, alongside forward Will Bynum and center Dave Montgomery, led the Keydets to a 22–10 (9–3) record, which included a 12–1 mark inside the "The Pit" (less commonly referred to as Cormack Field House). It was the program's first ever 20-win season, and almost never happened. The Keydets squeaked by Davidson in the quarterfinal round 71–69, hosted in Lexington. VMI then reeled off wins over Appalachian State and Richmond to head to the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte and a date with Tennessee.

Overcoming a 36-point performance from All-American Ernie Grunfeld and his Volunteers, Carter scored 19 points alongside Bynum's 20 and John Krovic's 17 to upset Tennessee, 81–75. VMI then held off DePaul in overtime at the Greensboro Coliseum to vanquish the Blue Demons 71–66. Carter chipped in 21 points to complement Bynum's 22. The run ended in the East Regional semifinals as Rutgers finished off the weary Keydets handily, despite Bynum's 34 points. Carter's four fouls limited him, but he still managed to score 15.

The Keydets continued their dominant run into 1977, going 26–4, once again breezing (mostly) through the SoCon tournament, once again proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Big Dance. After defeating Duquesne in the opening round, the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats eliminated VMI from the scene in nearly identical fashion to the game at Rutgers. Carter contributed 28 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

Another 20-win season followed the next year, and at the end of his cadetship Carter found himself as the school's all-time leading scorer (he is now third), and second all-time in rebounding (now fifth). He has four children and is now working as the city manager of Benton Harbor, Michigan. To end with a quote:

"I like VMI," he said. "I get a little tired of fans on the road yelling 'Hup, two, three, four' at us like we're a bunch of soldiers. But it's O.K. We were always killing their team at the time."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 4

Hometown: Charlotte, NC
High School: Vance HS/Christ School
Years at VMI: 2005–09
Position: Guard
-2009 First Team All-Big South
-5th all-time VMI point scoring leader
-3rd all-time in 3P FG made
-2nd all-time steals leader

It's going be difficult to write an article about Chavis Holmes without repeating almost everything I said about his twin counterpart Travis. That being said, there were some differences in their game, unlike another pair of VMI twins, Ramon and Damon Williams. So I'll give it a shot.

Chavis was born in Charlotte, NC, three minutes before his brother on May 9, 1986. He attended Vance High School with his brother for two years. The twins led Vance to a 2003 North Carolina State Championship before transferring to Christ School in Arden, NC (near Asheville). As a senior, Chavis scored 17.5 points and 4.3 rebounds as Christ School posted a 32–1 record en route to another state championship. Chavis received All-State honors as well as a spot on the All-Western North Carolina first team.

After being recruited to VMI 2005, Chavis put up mediocre numbers in his freshman year as the team struggled. But much like his brother, he broke out in 2006–07 with the run-and-gun offense, averaging 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game. He led the Big South in three-pointers made and was fourth in the nation in steals. He continued the trend his junior year, with 18.3 PPG and 2.4 steals. But his senior year was the most notable. Following the graduation of Reggie Williams, Chavis scored 22 PPG while leading the country in steals with 105 of those. He shot 44% from beyond the arc, and earned a spot on the All-Big South First Team as well as being named to the Richmond Times-Dispatch All-State Team. And in a game against High Point in January of 2009, Chavis and his brother became the highest scoring pair of twins in NCAA history.

Like most twins, Chavis and Travis were incredibly similar in their appearance and personality. But they had their own distinctions like everyone else; Chavis likes ribs, Travis likes chicken tenders. Chavis likes action movies, Travis likes comedy. And on the court, Travis was longer and more athletic, while Chavis was a better shooter and scorer (at least, according to Chavis himself). But what is certain is that they were both 6'4 shooting guards, and among the most prolific scorers in VMI history.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 5

Hometown: Roanoke, VA
High School: William Fleming High School
Years at VMI: 1986–90
Position: Guard
-VMI Sports Hall of Fame Inductees

-9th all-time VMI point scoring leader
-All-time leader in 3P FG percentage
-10th all-time VMI point scoring leader
-2nd all-time in 3P FG percentage

I guess I'm cheating here. Yes, there are actually eleven guys to appear on this list. And I could've done the same thing for Chavis and Travis Holmes, which would've allowed me to fit another person in. But when you look at how freakishly similar Ramon and Damon Williams' stats are, I just had to include them together.

The Williams brothers were born and raised in Roanoke and attended William Fleming High School. They were the youngest of five children to Odessa and Joe Williams. They were recruited to the school by then-VMI head coach Joe Cantafio, and much like the Holmes twins, VMI was the only DI school to offer both players scholarships. Ramon received more playing time as a freshman, but by their sophomore both brothers quickly made their mark. After leading VMI on an upset run to the SoCon finals against Chattanooga, Ramon and Damon were selected to the tournament's first team. Damon, in his junior year, made the league's Second Team, and Ramon did the same in 1990, their senior year. But looking at the stats, it is absurd how identical they were.

In their junior season, both brothers attempted exactly 406 shots. Ramon made 194, while Damon made 193. Ramon reached the 1,000-point mark with a 31-point game in February of that year. Not but several games later, Damon reached the same milestone...with a 31-point game.

After three years, Ramon and Damon had identical career point totals. By the end of their career, Ramon beat his brother out by all of eight points. Need I also mention that the twins were separated in three-point shooting percentage by .008 points (and Ramon's incredible .427 mark from three is most all-time).

And they loved to play a prank every now and then. Flashback to 1989, where the twins are getting interviewed individually by a TV reporter. The reporter talks to Damon, then turns around, while Damon walks away to where Ramon is standing. Damon then returns, with the reporter thinking he is talking to Ramon, and lets the reporter in on the prank 45 seconds into the interview. Classic.

Both brothers were inducted into the VMI Hall of Fame in 2001, and were given the "Keys to the City" by Roanoke mayor Noel C. Taylor. They went on to coach at various colleges as assistants, and Damon did some work as an NCAA referee. And nineteen years after their graduation, Chavis and Travis Holmes broke the NCAA record for most career points scored by a pair of twins; a record previously held by none other than Ramon and Damon Williams.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 6

I could've used a picture of Chavis
here and no one would know.
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
High School: Vance HS/Christ School
Years at VMI: 2005-09
Position: Guard
-2009 Second Team All-Big South
-All-time VMI steals leader
-8th all-time point scoring leader
-8th all-time assists leader

Following the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, the feeling amongst Keydet basketball fans for next year was not a good one. Having just lost the school's greatest point scorer in Reggie Williams, there was seemingly no way the team would do any better than the 14–15 mark they put on the court the previous year. And with a schedule that opened at Kentucky and Virginia in a two-day span, you were looking at an 0-2 start right out of the gates.

Clearly, Travis Holmes and his twin brother had other things in mind.

Looking back on it, there were few more nimble and agile than Travis Holmes. The same could be said of his twin Chavis, who was probably a better scorer, but Travis gets a slight nod on the defensive side; he is VMI's all-time steals leader with 309 of those, five more than his brother. If you want lockdown defense, put either of those two guys on the floor.

Travis was born in Charlotte, North Carolina (as were many other Big South players) and originally attended Vance High School, with Chavis of course. The twins led Vance to a 2003 North Carolina State Championship. They then transferred to the Christ School in Arden, NC (also where Jon Elmore played) for the final two years of high school. In his senior year, Travis averaged 19.7 points, six rebounds, and three steals per game, earning him the Piedmont Athletic Conference of Independent Schools MVP. And once again, their team won the state championship.

Duggar managed to recruit both brothers to VMI when they toured it in 2005. I believe one of them said it looked like a prison (how typical). Believe it or not, VMI was the only Division I school that gave scholarship offers to both brothers. The rest wanted one or the other. For Travis, his freshman year was one to forget (that whole season was a disaster - Duggar missed twelve games with heart problems and they won all of seven games, four of which came over non-DI's). But in '06-07, the run-and-gun in place, Travis broke out for 15 points/game and averaged 3.4 steals, which led the country. He once had 11 (!!) steals in a game against Bridgewater, which got him on a very fancy list.

Of course all this time he was overshadowed by Reggie and his scoring prowess, but Travis quietly averaged 15.6 points in his junior year, though his assists and steals dropped slightly. Following Reggie's graduation, Travis, Chavis, and their senior counterpart Willie Bell broke out in '08-09, leading VMI to an unprecedented and unforeseen 24–8 record and another Big South final appearance. Travis continued to grow his scoring average, with 19.1 PPG as well as 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.2 steals. All this effort culminated with a spot on the Big South...second team all-conference. Yup, a guy who led the league in steals and was among the top scorers got that. But hey, it's the Big South; did we really expect anything less?

But no matter the Big South, Travis ended his career eighth on VMI's all-time scoring list and first in steals, not to mention eight in total assists. After being overshadowed by the most prolific scorer the program has ever known, it turns out Travis' real talents had yet to be discovered.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 7

Stan the Man at work
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
High School: Knightdale
Years at VMI: 2009-13
Position: Forward
-2012-13 Big South Player of the Year
-4th all-time leading point scorer
-2nd all-time leading rebounder
-5th all-time leading shot blocker

If there is any VMI basketball statistic that has ever existed, you are more than likely to find Stan Okoye near or at the top of it. A powerful 6 foot, 6 inch "small forward", there was hardly a position on the floor that Stan the Man could not play. He could post up, attack the lane, pull up for a three, and play smothering defense. A native of Raleigh, a popular Big South recruiting pool, Stan somehow received only two Division I scholarships; VMI and Big South rival Campbell. Inexplicably, the Camels withdrew their offer only a day after making it, leaving Stan no choice but to attend VMI if he wanted to play scholarship ball at the highest level.

Stan attended Knightdale High School where he was a basketball standout and led the Knights (appropriately named) to 73 wins from 2005 to 2009. He scored over 1,300 points and hauled in 550 rebounds, both school records. In a Class 4A playoff game, Okoye dropped a single-game record 42 points. The fact that he received little attention from mid-major colleges only added to his motivation.

Were it not for support from teammates, Stan may never have appeared in a VMI uniform at all. The Ratline broke him down physically and mentally, but he managed to hang tough. "I stuck it out because of the other guys," he said. "I figured if they could take it, I could too." As it turns out, it was the best decision he could have made.

Stan made an impression early on, averaging 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds culminating in a spot on the Big South All-Freshman Team. His sophomore year, Stan led the conference in field goal percentage and upped his averages with 16.8 PPG and eight rebounds. In 2011–12, Okoye (along with Jordan Weethee's absurd three-point shooting) led VMI to a Big South championship game appearance before succumbing to UNC Asheville on their home floor. Asheville would lose to the #1 seed Syracuse on a pair of awfully blown calls.

Stan had a breakout senior season, averaging 21.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists en route to a Big South Player of the Year award. He became one of only five Keydets to reach the 2,000-point plateau, and is the school's second all-time leading rebounder behind Dave "Mongo" Montgomery. Might I add that he is tied for fifth in blocks and sixth in 30+ point scoring games, with nine of them.

An Honor Court member, a winner of the prestigious Three Legged Stool award, and VMI's first Big South Player of the Year; there may be a small few better than him, but none are more decorated than Stan Okoye.

Stan's Full Stats

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 8

Mostly forgotten among the legacy of the late 1970's teams is the much overlooked 1963–64 VMI basketball squad which captured the school's first Southern Conference tournament title, and from that the first NCAA tournament appearance. The team was led by Charlie Schmaus, Jeff Gausepohl, Joe Kruszewski, Bobby Watson, and captained by Bill Blair, #8 on this list.

Blair as seen in the 1964 Bomb
Hometown: Whitesburg, KY
High School: Randolph-Macon Academy
-1964 SoCon Tournament Champion
-VMI 1,000-point club
-9th all-time leading avg. point scorer

Bill Blair was not a player that blew away the stat sheets. As an underclassman he was overshadowed by Norm Halberstadt, who led the team in scoring on three separate occasions, twice with over 20 points per game. Halberstadt is third on the all-time point scoring average list and scored 30+ points in a game ten times (fourth most), becoming one of the most prolific scorers in the Institute's history.

But by the time Blair was a junior he filled Halberstadt's shoes quite nicely, averaging a team-leading 19.9 PPG, just shy of twenty. In his first three years at VMI, the team was, naturally, quite bad; twenty wins in that span. It looked to continue that way in Blair's senior year after the Keydets got off to an 0–3 start. Their first win came over George Washington (a conference rival at the time, who they would later play and beat in the SoCon tournament), and after starting 6–9, the team reeled off six wins out of eight games en route to the conference title.

The most memorable game of this run was a massive upset of Lefty Driesell's Davidson Wildcats, 22–3 and nationally ranked at the time. The Keydets escaped with an 82–81 victory in Charlotte after beating Furman by four the previous night. VMI took care of business in the championship game and won their first conference title in any league. Blair, the captain of the team, paced VMI that season with 18 PPG while Gausepohl had a team-best .556 field goal percentage.

The Keydets were promptly booted from the tournament by Princeton, 86–60, a game in which Blair scored 20 points. But it was trivial, because the thrill and accomplishment of winning the Southern Conference for the first time was more than enough. Blair would later become VMI's head coach in the mid-1970's and lead the team to an NCAA Elite 8 appearance with the likes of Ron Carter, Will Bynum, and Dave Montgomery. He later worked a failed stint as an NBA coach with the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, lasting less than two full seasons.

His legacy at VMI, though, is not to be forgotten, and Blair will always be notable for putting the Institute on the map.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 9

Let me be the first to say, I hated leaving D.J. Covington off this list. There is little doubt he is the best big man, statistically, in the program's history. This year he slithered past Dave Montgomery to take hold of VMI's all-time highest career field goal percentage (.582). With 106 blocks in his senior year, D.J. blew away the record books and became the all-time leading shot blocker by a differential of 70. But as I said before I started this list, I am factoring in not only stats but overall contributions to VMI basketball. This also includes the success of the team as a player.

And for that reason you will find none other than Dave Montgomery at #9 on the list.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Years at VMI: 1974-78
Position: Center
-VMI Sports Hall of Fame Inductee
-1977 SoCon Tournament MVP
-All-time VMI leader in rebounds
-2nd all-time in FG percentage

Depending on your point of view, Dave Montgomery is either the first or second best big-man the Institute has ever seen. During his career from 1974 to 1978, there was not a year in which Montgomery did not lead the team in rebounding. In fact, he is on the top ten all-time single-season rebounding list four times. But he also did plenty of work on the offensive side, leading the team three times in shooting percentage, his last year getting beaten out by Ron Carter (who you may or may not also see on this list).

Montgomery peaked in his junior year of 1976-77, hauling down 267 rebounds and shooting an absurd .652 from the field, a VMI record only Matt Murrer and Montgomery himself come close to. He led the Southern Conference in that category multiple times, and was top ten in the nation at the time of a Sports Illustrated article written about the '77 team. That article said Dave came to VMI because "his Baltimore high school was on strike most of his senior year and recruiters forgot about him." At the time he was probably the tallest player the team had ever had.

Montgomery was critical during the tournament runs of 1976 and '77. The first year (in which the Keydets went to the Elite 8), he dropped 12 points on DePaul in the Sweet 16. Will Bynum and Ron Carter both scored over 20 points as well in that game. The following season, after winning the SoCon tournament of which Montgomery was named MVP, Dave hung 17 on Duquesne in the first round of the East Regional. He followed that up by scoring 18 (with help from Carter who had a 28/10) in a losing effort against defending national champion Kentucky.

After it was all said and done, Montgomery would finish as the school's 18th all-time point scoring leader, but more importantly, he revitalized the role of the center in a way VMI had never seen before. He obtained an 82–34 record at the Institute, a key member of the winningest class in school history.