Friday, November 27, 2015

Thoughts on Earl & the season

Four games in and the Keydets are 2-2. Exactly where I expected them to be at this point, and exactly where they should be. There have been two disappointments (Tusculum and Virginia Tech) and two encouragements (Penn State and Presbyterian). It's still too early to tell how far this team can really go, but Tuesday's win indicates we are much less likely to tank than some may have originally thought.

VMI thus far has averaged 66.5 points per game while allowing opponents to score 68.8. They have shot nearly 40% from the floor while opponents have hit 43% FG (2nd in SoCon), and only 32% from three (1st) - both numbers are down from last year. Earl stated several times in the offseason that he wanted to play relatively fast, but have a defense-first mentality. We should've expected around 70-75 PPG with this "modified" up-tempo system, but so far, this hasn't been the case. There is, of course, plenty of time to up our offensive output, and I think we will - but our lack of height makes it awfully difficult to penetrate down low, and you can't rely on three point shooting forever.

The stark drop in scoring obviously correlates with our slower style of play. So far we are scoring 97.8 points per 100 possessions, while giving up 101.2. Last season these numbers were 104.0 and 104.5, respectively. So adjusting for pace, our defense is getting better! But the offense is getting worse. The fact that we are shooting three-pointers almost 30% less certainly has something to do with it. But it also takes time to get adjusted to a new offensive system. Players playing under the same coaching philosophy for 2-3 years develop habits, and they need time to gel in a new system before they can get their legs going.

Tim Marshall is a prime example of this. Tim launched almost 9 threes per game last season, connecting on 32% of them. But this season he has taken just 9 total in three games, having been hampered by a hamstring injury he sustained early in the 1st half of the Va. Tech game, which also held him out of the PC game. He has yet to score against a Division I team, and has more fouls (7) than points, rebounds or assists (5). It may be that he has failed to adapt to not having the freedom to shoot he did last season. It's still too small a sample size to draw a conclusion - the next several weeks will be telling.

Of all players Eleby has impressed the most so far. He leads the team in 3PT shooting (a stunning 53%), FT%, and effective FG%. His true shooting %, a statistic that calculates a player's total shooting accuracy, is not surprisingly a team-high 63.8%. He is very smooth with the ball and has a knack for finding teammates when they're open.

Anglade has been good but foul trouble has limited his ability to really get on a roll. Other role players, like Weethee (11 pts, 3-3 3PT vs. PC), Trey, and Fred (5 reb, 3 ORB, 9 pts vs. PC) have impressed. Rich has come onto the scene in his rat year, and been a solid backup to Eleby. QJ got it together against PC after two horrific shooting performances against PSU and VT. He leads the league with 20.8 PPG, but is shooting at a 36.1% clip and has the highest usage percentage in the league, and 9th-highest nationally.

The Campbell game Monday is critical. Not in the grand scheme of things, but for the morale of the team. If we win that one, we go 4-4 into the Navy game on 12/12. If we lose, we go 3-5 into that game. Even in the latter scenario, we could still head into the New Year with a winning record, given wins over Navy, Gardner-Webb, and DIII Bridgewater. Best-case scenario headed into the conference opener at Furman is 7-4; worst case is 4-7. The more likely scenario is 5-6 or 6-5. Navy killed us last season, and GWU's 1-4 record is misleading due to their brutal November schedule. Campbell is the one game we'd really like to win. In three years in the BSC, VMI never beat the Camels on the road. Monday would be a good time to get that first 'W'.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Newcomers, returners, and thoughts on 2015-16

Oh, hey — it's basketball season!

After one of the more eventful offseasons in recent memory, the Keydets enter the 2015-16 campaign with a whole lot of question marks.

Can Dan Earl live up to the legacy of Duggar? Is this a rebuilding year, or will we surpise some teams? How fast will the Keydets play? Will Weethee ever return to his 2012 form? Will Julian Eleby ever amount to anything special? Is QJ more than just a complementary player? How is it that ESPN ranked us 216th out of 351 Division I basketball teams, better than four SoCon schools, yet both the coaches and media thought we would finish no better than last? Are we overlooked, or overrated?

We won't know the answer to these questions for awhile. In the meantime, some good news - VMI inked three early commits last Thursday, and the group has potential.

  • Tyler Creammer, 6'10 C (Miller School) - arguably the most intriguing commit, Creammer is a stud on the court and in the classroom, with a 4.5 GPA. He attracted attention from several schools, including Liberty, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds his junior year. He needs to bulk up a bit, which will come with time, and work on his post play. I can't say that he is the next DJ Covington, but it's a start.
  • Will Miller, 6'8 C (Halifax County HS) - ah, yes, more height! Miller, a first-team All-District and All-Conference selection, is a solid post presence. Coach Earl specifically noted his high basketball IQ, passing ability, and lateral movement. Like a Weethee or Chapman, his length will allow him to defend multiple positions, most probably the 3 and 4.
  • Drew Rackley, 6'2 G (John Glenn HS [Ohio]) - the only guard of the bunch, and one of the few out-of-state players on the roster, Glenn is a versatile guard who was named his District Player of the Year as a junior, helping John Glenn win two state titles. He averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds last season. Given how stacked we are at the guard position, it's doubtful Rackley will see much playing time in his first two seasons, but we'll take all the depth we can get.
As for tomorrow's game, our probable starters are as follows:
  • PG - Julian Eleby. No surprise here. Eleby came on in mid-February after QJ went down to medical hardships. He wowed with a 43 point performance against Western Carolina on the road where he made 8 of 15 three-pointers. While neither of those states is indicative of Julian's true talent, he still managed to average 11 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 36.8% from the floor.
  • SG - QJ Peterson. QJ is back, but better than ever? Not sure. It appears he has regained composure of himself after what happened last season, where he averaged 19.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 18 games. Don't let the stats fool, you, though - his 34% FG percentage and 29% mark from three are major red flags. QJ has yet to prove he is more than just a complentary shooting guard. This is the year he needs to show something.
  • SG - Tim Marshall. No surprise that Coach Earl will continue the three-guard starting five that we used often under Baucom. Timmy stumbled through November and January before an onslaught of three-point shooting during a week-long stretch in February vaulted his numbers. He finished the year with 11.7 points on 36% shooting, 32% from three. I think he will fit well in Earl's modified up-tempo system, given how he has emphasized shot selection as a priority.
  • PF - Trey Chapman. Trey has proven over the course of the past year and a half that he belongs in a starting role over Jordan. Though not as strong or as physical, Trey's long wingspan and athletic ability allow him to finish at the rim in a way that Weethee cannot. Defensively, he's solid - nearly a steal per game last season with 3.6 rebounds and 14 blocks. The 3PT and free-throw shooting need some work, though.
  • C - Phil Anglade. I should put quotations around the "C", because Phil is by no means a traditional big man. He's listed on the roster as 6'5, and legend has it that his real height is 6'3. But with a 39 1/2-inch vertical leap and 210-lb. frame, Anglade is an absolute monster. He was second in the SoCon only to Justin Tuoyo in blocks per game (2.9), but first in the league in blocks per 40 minutes at 5.02. No one else (save Tuoyo) even came close to that number. Most encouragingly, his personal fouls are down too, from 6.48 per 40 sophomore year to 5.8 per 40 last season. He needs to cut down on the TOs (nearly two per game in 2014-15), and though he has gained a reputation as a laughably bad FT shooter, he ended the last five games shooting 67% from the line, better than his career average of 43%.
Weethee, Iruafemi, and the freshman will be first off the bench, but we aren't too deep this year. The coaching staff snagged three walk-ons - Jack McGarry, Clayton Gardner, and Chase Jones - to help bring the roster to 15 players.

VMI's biggest concern should be on defense, where they allowed opponents to score 47% on FGs. Another alarming stat was that they committed 15 turnovers per game, and shot only 32% from three, the worst in the conference. All those numbers should improve this season, as Earl has preached ball control, shot selection, and a defense-first mentality. Will it change immediately? I doubt it. But he has us on the right track. This year is truly a toss-up, but given how Earl (unlike his predecessor) played four years in college as a starter, he knows the game incredibly well. Can he be the defensive mastermind Keydet fans have always yearned for? All we can do is wait and see....

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recruiting Profile: Adrian Rich

In the third and final installment of the 2015-16 recruiting profile, we'll take a look at Adrian Rich, a 6'2 guard from Fishburne Military School. Though Fishburne is located in Waynesboro, Virginia, Rich is a resident of Fuquay Varina, North Carolina. He previously attended Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville where he lettered for three years and earned conference player of the year honors in 2013-14, averaging 21 points and 6 rebounds per game and leading the team to a 17-6 record.

Rich committed to the Institute last May. He is listed as a point guard, and, along with Niles Tate, is one of just two "true" point guards on the roster (though Eleby and QJ saw extended action at that position last season). In his senior year with Fishburne, Rich averaged 15 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. He broke numerous records at Village Christian, including the all-time career record for points and assists as well as the single-game record for points (42).

Rich was selected to the All-conference team three times and was also named to the All-state and All-region teams.

He is very lean (170 lbs), but has great speed, can finish at the rim, and has a smooth three-point stroke. Rich is also not hesitant to attack the basket and draw contact, and is a very quick decision maker. He can create his own shot, which is something that the Keydets will need to have this season.

Depending on how Rich looks in practice, he should see some playing time competing with QJ and Julian for a starting role. Rich, being the only natural point guard among the three, has that advantage, but also lacks the game experience that QJ and Julian, now juniors, have. In any case, Rich provides the depth at guard that VMI did not have last year, especially late in the year with the absense of QJ. If he bulks up a bit, he should find himself in a starting role for years to come.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Recruiting Profile: Austin Vereen

One of two early commits from last season, combo guard Austin Vereen should see significant playing time in his first year on post. Vereen comes to VMI from Maret High School in Washington, D.C., a traditional baskteball powerhouse that went 22-5 last season and won the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) regular season title. Maret has posted three consecutive 20-win seasons, all of which Vereen was a part of.

Vereen is a 6'4 combo guard, but mostly plays the two. He averaged 14.0 PPG, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 assists in his junior year, leading Maret to a regular and postseason championsip. He was named to the 2014 DMVelite All-DC third team and was a Hoop Group Fab Frosh All-Star and MVP. Vereen also played on the Mid-Atlantic Select AAU team. He was actually recruited by Duggar in the early signing period back in August of 2014. Baucom noted his ability to play on and off the ball, and said he was an excellent shooter.

Vereen continue to impress in his senior season at Maret. He was to the DC Athletic Association All-State Team, the 2015 MAC All-Conference Team, and was a 2015 Capital Classic DC All Star. During his career, Maret won three straight MAC championsips and was a state runner-up in 2014. By the time he graduated, Vereen ranked in the top three all-time in Maret history in points, rebounds, and assists.

Even as a sophomore, Vereen averaged 8.8 points before a torn ligament in his wrist ended his season. He received interest from the likes of Xavier, Winthrop, and Gardner-Webb, among others, before he chose VMI.

Vereen's ability to cut to the basketb and make quick passes on a dime is impressive. Though he saw some time as a wing-forward in high school, he should be used primarily as a shooting guard at the college level. Vereen may back up Tim Marshall on the bench, and could be rotated with QJ and Julian for a starting spot. With the graduation of three guards from last year's team, our backcourt will look significantly different from a year ago. No starting spot is safe, save for that of QJ's. I expect Vereen to be one of our better freshman in recent memory.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Recruiting Profile: D'Andre Mahaffey

Over the next several weeks I'll be previewing all three of our incoming Rats - starting with small forward D'Andre Mahaffey.

Mahaffey comes from Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Georgia. Standing at around 6'6 and 190 lbs., he is a very versatile forward who can attack the basket and dunk at the rim. He is the first player under head coach Dreco Thomas, who took over in 2011, to sign a letter-of-intent. As a freshman, Mahaffey averaged 9.6 PPG and led Cedar Shoals to Region 8-AAAAA title. He had interest from Divsion II-Valdosta State (also located in Georgia), as well as Elon, Tennessee Tech, and VCU. His coach noted that he has maintained a 3.9 core GPA.

Mahaffey's production increased as a sophomore, averaging 12.8 PPG (2nd on team), 10.4 RPG (1st), and 1.4 SPG (3rd). In his junior season, he peaked with 18.3 points and 7.4 boards per contest, leading Cedar Shoals in both categories, and was named to the 2014 8-AAAAA All-Region Team while landing a spot on the 2014 GACA Junior North All-Star Team.

Coach Baucom, who recruited Mahaffey as an early-signee, noted his athleticism and ability to play multiple positions. He has a very slow but smooth three-point shot, but can use his long wingspan slash to the basket and draw contact.

Given our lack of size, we should see Mahaffey play at the 3 or 4, alongside Trey and Armani. With Hinton's departure, Mahaffey will get significantly more time than previously expected, but will have to earn it. With Anglade at center, Weethee should be the starter at PF along with Iruafemi as his backup.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

2015-16 Hoops Schedule

The first glance at the 2015-16 schedule, per The schedule features 29 games in all, 14 of which will be played at Cameron Hall. The Keydets will visit or host three Big South opponents, and the home opener Nov. 17 againt Division-II Tusculum, the first coaching job of he-who-shall-not-be-named. Like last year, we begin SoCon play with a bevvy of road games before a three-game homestand in late January. Interestingly the SoCon opted not to go with the two early conf. games in December, and instead will play all eighteen league contests in succession. The conference will continue the Thursday-Saturday format, with the occasional Monday matinee.

We'll play The Citadel first on the road on January 30th, after a date with Mercer. The Bulldogs will return the favor on Senior Day (Feb. 27) as Duggar Baucom returns to the venue he called home for ten years. This will also be succeeded by a Thursday game with Mercer, and the SoCon tournament will get started the following Friday, March 4th.

As for the non-conference schedule, VMI will have its home opener on Nov. 17th, against Divsion II (SAC) Tusculum College. We will also do battle with three of our old Big South foe; first, Presbyterian, at home on November 24th; then Campbell on the road during Thanksigiving; and finally, on the road at Gardner-Webb on December 21st. Also, Navy will be giving us their "return game" from last year on Sat., December 12th.

It was reported in mid-March that we will play Ohio State for the first time since 2011, on December 5th. As has been rumored for quite some time, the All-Military Classic will not be continued. VMI faired fairly well in the tournament, going 4-4 in all games with one title (2013), six players named to the All-Tournament team (Okoye, Gabriel, Glasgow 2, Peterson 2), and one tournament MVP (Peterson, 2013).

UPDATE 7/26: The Keydets will travel to Indianapolis on December 7th to play Butler University. The two schools have never met before. Last year, Butler went 23-11 in the Big East last season, and were ranked #23 in the final AP Poll. They fell to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tourney Round of 32. Butler will also play The Citadel to open their regular season.

UPDATE 8/4: It was announced earlier today that VMI will open the year with Dan Earl's alma mater, Penn State, on the road. The contest is set for Saturday, November 14. It will be the first time the Keydets have not opened the season on a Friday since 2005. The game will be played at the 15,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center, the same court where Coach Earl once played after the team moved there from the Rec Hall in '95-96. Earl was the Nitanny Lions' starting PG from 1993-97 and is among the all-time school leaders in scoring and assists. He also coached PSU as an assistant for five seasons from 2006 to 2011.

UPDATE 8/5: Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times confirmed that VMI will be playing Va. Tech this season. The date of the game is yet to be announced, though it is likely to be played in late November, perhaps sometime between Nov. 19th-22nd. It will be the fourth straight year the Keydets and Hokies have met on the hardwood.

UPDATE 8/27: The official schedule was released on the school's athletic website. Added to the schedule were home matchups against Tusculum (Nov. 17), D-III Central Penn (Dec. 2), and a road matinee at former Big South foe Campbell (Nov. 30). The Keydets are 3-0 against Central Penn all-time, with the last meeting coming on Nov. 13, 2012, a 116-81 win. VMI played Campbell five times in the Big South, as the two teams were Northern division opponents for two seasons. VMI went 2-3 against the Camels, with all three losses coming on the road. The Keydets have never played Tusculum before.

Nov. 14 @ Penn State

Tue, Nov. 17 Tusculum

Nov. 21 @ Virginia Tech

Tue, Nov. 24 Presbyterian

Mon, Nov. 30 @ Campbell

Wed, Dec. 2 Central Penn

Sat, Dec. 5 @ Ohio State

Mon, Dec. 7 @ Butler

Sat, Dec. 12 Navy

Mon, Dec. 21 @ Gardner-Webb

Wed, Dec. 30 Bridgewater

Sat, Jan. 2 @ Furman*

Tue, Jan. 5 Wofford*

Sat, Jan. 9 @ Western Carolina*

Mon, Jan. 11 @ ETSU*

Sat, Jan. 16 @ UNCG*

Thu, Jan. 21 Samford*

Sat, Jan. 23 Chattanooga*

Mon, Jan. 25 Furman*

Thu, Jan. 28 @ Mercer*

Sat, Jan. 30 @ The Citadel*

Thu, Feb. 4 ETSU*

Sat, Feb. 6 Western Carolina*

Mon, Feb. 8 @ Wofford*

Thu, Feb. 11 UNCG*

Thu, Feb. 18 @ Chattanooga*

Sat, Feb. 20 @ Samford*

Thu, Feb. 25 Mercer*

Sat, Feb. 27 The Citadel*

Mar. 4-7 @ SoCon Tourney (Asheville, NC)

Home games in bold
*-conference game

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hinton Transferring to App. State

Rising junior forward Craig Hinton will be transferring to Appalachian State, according to Brant Wilkerson-New of the Winston-Salem Journal.

As mentioned, Hinton averaged 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in 13 minutes of action last season. He missed the All-Military Classic with a foot injury but played in every subsequent game and started twice (home vs. The Citadel and Western Carolina). Other than that, his only minutes were off the bench. He scored in double figures three times, all in November, including an incredible 23-point performance against Maryland where he shot 6-of-6 from three and 8-of-9 from the field. From there, though, his averages dipped down and his shooting stroke was wildly inconsistent. He shot 3-of-14 and 1-of-11 from three against WCU in January, and shot 2-of-11 the final five games as his minutes and production decreased. He ended up shooting 40% overall and 35% from behind the arc.

In his freshman year Hinton started 8 games and played in 24 but was again hampered by injury early in the year. He averaged 2.6 PPG on 33% shooting in limited action. He was notable for finishing second in the High School Slam Dunk Contest back in 2013.

Hinton, who is listed as a small forward at 6'7, came from East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, NC. The town is only about 90 minutes from Boone, where he will be playing. Hinton was recruited by former VMI assistant Jason Allison, who is now at ASU. We can assume that Allison tried to pick up Hinton, and that Coach Earl found no place for him in his sytem. It should be noted that App State was one of Hinton's top choices as a recruit, but Coach Baucom and staff won him over as he signed in November of 2012.

Per NCAA transfer rules, Hinton will sit out the 2015-16 season but should have two years of eligibility left after that. He will not cost the Mountaineers a scholarship this season, but they can offer him one next year if the coaching staff likes what they see.

As for VMI, Hinton's departure shakes up the depth chart quite a bit. We should see much more of freshman D'Andre Mahaffey at SF, as well as junior Trey Chapman and sophomore Armani Branch. Mahaffey is probably the most athletic of the three, but Trey by far the most experienced, having logged significant minutes his first two seasons as well as 19 starts. Branch played little his freshman year and was suspended the remainder of the year following the home loss to UNC Greensboro on February 3rd. If Coach Earl chooses not to employ three guards as Baucom often did, those three players should receive significant playing time this season. We are also now down to 11 scholarships, two under the NCAA maximum.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Around the Block: June 12

Jun. 8

  • In case you haven't heard the NCAA made several rule changes to both the men's and women's game with the intent of "improving the pace of play" and reducing the "physicality of the sport" (because we need more of that). The bulk of the rule changes:
    • 30-second shot clock. This is the big one and will certainly affect some offenses next season (I'm looking at you, Tony Bennett). The NIT experimented with this and a couple other modifications this season, though the results showed no significant increase in points or pace of play. Does more shots necessarily mean more ball control? At least we'll have five less seconds of false motion and aimless dribbling, but it shouldn't affect most teams and certainly won't affect VMI, even if Earl slows it down a tad.
    • Restricted arc 4 feet from basket. It used to be three feet out, as NCAA officials are now trying to reduce the number of collisions near the basket. Data does show that moving the arc a foot farther out will decrease the number of block/charge plays.
    • No faking fouls. Or "flopping", as the NBA would call it. Refs can penalize players who do so.
    • A timeout called within 30 sec. of scheduled break will change to a media TO. This one is very convenient because it eliminates the old "coach calls a timeout with 16:02 left in the half and the media timeout comes three seconds later so you wait 2 minutes to watch three seconds of basketball" play.
    • Teams carry 3 timeouts into 2nd half. Used to be four. This one was designed with the intent of making the last several minutes of a game shorter, but I don't see it accomplishing that goal. For one, having two timeouts to kill in the first half just encourages coaches to waste them for set plays in the final minute, and second, it would be reasonable to assume that coaches would save at least a couple timeouts for the last two minutes, meaning there are still 4-5 TOs to be called down the stretch, as opposed to 6-7 otherwise. So it doesn't really do anything other than concentrate the timeouts towards the latter part of each half.
    • Coach cannot call a live ball TO. This one makes sense because oftentimes if a player is fighting for a loose ball and has only partial control a coach could jump to the rescue and call a timeout to bail him out. Now, only players can call timeout during live ball situations, putting more pressure on them to know when to do so.
    • There were several other tweaks: players have just 10 seconds total to advance the ball past half-court, hanging on the rim is a one-shot technical (used to be two), no more five-second closely guarded rule on a player dribbling the ball, etc. And you can now dunk during warm-ups (which I never knew was banned, and apparently neither did some of our players).
Jun. 12
  • NJIT has announced their plans to join the Atlantic Sun Conference for all sports, meaning the NCAA now has no independent institutions in Division I basketball. The Highlanders had been independent the last two seasons and gained notoriety by stunning then-ranked Michigan on the road this past season. They went on to win 21 games and reached the semifinals of the CIT (sound familiar?) As we know, Mercer and ETSU left the A-Sun to join the SoCon last year, and with the departure of Northern Kentucky to the Horizon League in July the league is in quite a rut. This was a desperate move for a conference that still has only eight members, some of which have been rumored to be seeking SoCon or Big South membership.
Jun. 11
Jun. 5
  • Chuck Driesell, former Citadel HC, has chosen a new new job as the head coach of Maret High School in Washington, D.C.  Driesell initially signed up to be an assistant at San Jose State following his firing at El Cid but chose to come back east. It makes sense - Driesell has D.C./Maryland roots, SJSU's coach might have one year left, and it's a much safer job. Maret, a very elite and expensive private school, went 22–5 last season and has their 6'8 All-Met start returning as well. Driesell is in a much better position there than with the Spartans.
  • Evan Taylor, Samford's freshman guard who averaged 6.4 PPG last season, will be transferring next season, per Jeff Goodman's NCAA transfer list. He is now the third Bulldog this year to be transferring out, but Samford does have two coming in - 6'9 sophomore Alex Thompson of Auburn and 6'5 junior Iman Johnson of UMES. Both averaged under 4 PPG, but Thompson will be a force to reckon with in the much weaker SoCon.
  • ETSU has picked up Hanner Mosquera-Perea, a 6'9 junior who averaged 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds for Indiana last season. Huge pickup for the Bucs who are in need of some versatility after losing Reshawn Rembert and Jalen Riley to graduation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kreider, Slay named assistants; Thompson out

A couple orders of business.

First, it has been known for several days now that the second of two assistants hired to Coach Earl's staff will be Chris Kreider.
Kreider comes from George Mason, where he spent the past four seasons working under head coach Paul Hewitt. Kreider was not retained when Hewitt was fired last March. His connections with Hewitt date even earlier than that, as he spent time with Georgia Tech as a volunteer assistant. Between Tech and Mason, he was an assistant at Georgia Southern for two years, so he has some experience with the Southern Conference. Kreider played college basketball as a small forward for three colleges: Mansfield Univ., Grove City College, and Lebanon Valley College, all in Pennsylvania. He graduated the latter in 2003.

In a surprising turn of events, reported last Monday that Ben Thompson, our other assistant and the only holdover from the Duggar era, will not be retained next season. Instead, according to the report , Coach Earl will hire Jason Slay, who was an assistant at ETSU this past season.

Brief bio on Slay: he was formerly the Director of Basketball Operations at Georgia Southern (making two former Eagles on this staff), and a former assistant coach at Hargrave Military Academy (making two former Tigers on this staff). He played college ball at West Virginia State, and has a deep heritage of basketball in his family.

I was not at all anticipating at all that Thompson would leave; he was a fervent recruiter and seemed to be very active in the VMI community. I cannot tell if it was a mutual decision, or if Thompson decided this wasn't the gig for him. Or, most likely, Coach Earl decided to go full rebuild-mode, which I completely understand. With all three assistants now determined I anticipate an official announcement by the school within the next several days.

It is truly a fresh start for Keydet basketball.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Welcome, Steve Lepore!

Word is now out that coach Dan Earl has hired assistant Steve Lepore to his staff. Lepore comes to VMI from Hargrave Military Academy located in Chatham, Virginia. Lepore was with the Tigers for two seasons, the most recent of which saw Hargrave go 14–11 overall and 8–4 in region play. Previously, they were 14–9 (9–3). The hire was originally reported by and "unofficially officially" confirmed last Tuesday.

Lepore played basketball at Wake Forest and graduated in 2003. Actually he played his freshman and sophomore year at Northwestern before transferring to the Demon Deacons. As a freshman Lepore 10.5 PPG and played in 28 contests. The next season, he averaged 9.2 PPG and started all 30 games for the Wildcats before sitting out the next season due to NCAA transfer rules. In his junior year Lepore averaged just 4.5 points per contest in thirteen minutes/game on a much more competitive Wake Forest team. Injuries derailed his senior season and he saw action in just 18 games, starting none.

Lepore attended St. Edward High School in North Olmsted, Ohio. As a senior he was honorable mention All-American on the team that won the Ohio state championship (in a state filled with elite basketball talent, no less).

No official statement has been made by VMI but I would anticipate one coming soon (wonder what's taking so long?) In any case, Coach Earl has now filled the void of two assistant coaches, with Ben Thompson the only leftover from Duggar's tenure, and now has one more to find. No word on who it might be. As far as the hire goes, I would've preferred we get a guy with some collegiate coaching experience (as a head or assistant), but his credentials seem to fit VMI quite nicely. We will see how it plays out in six months.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Around the Block: May 15

May 6

  • First and foremost, a welcome to the newest member of the VMI basketball family, Adrian Rich. Adrian comes to us from Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, though he attends Fishburne Military Academy in nearby Waynesboro. Previously he attended Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville. He's listed as a point guard and stands at 6'2 (I can't find his weight), though with his freshman counterpart D'Andre Mahaffey competing for playing time, along with Eleby, and the return of QJ (which is confirmed, by the way), I doubt he'll see too much playing time. Though he could prove me wrong - never forget that Julian started the year deep on the bench early in the year, but was a starter by the season's end. Watching whatever film I can muster, he appears very lean but is quick, finishes at the rim well, and has a soft three-point stroke. This is, as far as we can tell, Coach Dan Earl's first recruit in this "modified" fast-paced system, so we'll see how it works out. But I like that we addressed early the dire need for a point guard that Duggar robbed us of. Here are Adrian's highlights:
May 14
  • Unfortunately, a recruit we failed to pick up was Dominic Robb, who yesterday announced his intent to play for Niagara next season. Robb is a 6'8, 215 lb. forward from Pittsburgh with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He noted in the article that Niagara and VMI were his final two choices, and received interest from some other. Certainly we could've used his size and physicality, something we lacked this season (though Anglade possesses the latter, he does not have the former). Still, have faith that Coach Earl knows what he's doing and is as good as a recruiter as his predecessor.
May 12
  • According to the always-reliable Jeff Hartsell, ex-Winthrop guard Derrick Henry will be transferring to The Citadel next season to play for Duggar. Henry averaged 11.4 PPG in 2012-13 before tearing his ACL late in the year. Although he wasn't quite as athletic this season than before the tear, he managed to average 4.4 PPG in limited minutes. He's a good defender and has played against Duggar a couple of times back in the days of the Big South, so they know each other at least moderately well. The Bulldogs' rotation next year will look drastically different from last season's.
  • Though I'm getting tired of mentioning The Citadel, it should be noted that freshman guard Brandon Thompson will be transferring from the team, according to the latest transfer list. Thompson hardly played at all (just ten games and 36 total minutes), so this isn't much of a loss.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Around the Block: April 23

A new segment I will be doing on a weekly basis, Around the Block will feature news, notes, and other info for everything VMI basketball, as well as from around the Southern Conference.

Apr. 22

  • As has been rumored since shortly after Duggar left for The Citadel, and been "semi-official" for several weeks, VMI assistants Daniel Willis and Ryan Mattocks will be joining their head coach in Charleston. Willis was the only one of Duggar's assistants that had been with him since his hiring as head coach back in 2005, and Mattocks had finished up his third season on post. Willis will continue to fulfill the role of associate head coach. He took over HC duties for 7 games back in 2005-06, with Duggar ailing from heart problems. Mattocks, who started with VMI as a video coordinator, did great work with our guys late in the season on three-point shooting, as the team went through a four-game stretch of 44.2% (69 for 156) from behind the arc in mid-February. We will retain Ben Thompson, the only other assistant, so Coach Earl has some work to do in the upcoming weeks.
Apr. 20
  • Much to my disappointment, Duggar has managed to snag Quayson Williams '19 to play for him at The Citadel. Quayson is a 6-2 guard who initially committed to VMI last February, but decided this week to follow in the footsteps of the man who recruited him. Big loss for us - and by the way, his earlier commit, 6-7 wingman Connor Schroeder, had also committed to play for VMI before Duggar departed. The man is snatching away our coaches and players left and right...
Apr. 13
  • Speaking of Citadel assistants - Duggar also hired Willie Bell, former VMI standout and most recently the head coach of Warwick High School in Newport News. Bell was the captain of our '08-09 team that went 24-8 and reached the Big South Conference championship game, and is ninth on the all-time VMI steals list.

Apr. 12
  • Chattanooga has hired Florida assistant Matt McCall, replacing the departed Will Wade who left for VCU. With four seasons under the tutelage of head coach Billy Donovan, the Mocs are primed to compete for a SoCon crown once again, with Casey Jones, Tre McLean, and Justin Tuoyo all returning.
Apr. 11
  • Possibly good news for Keydets fans: Mercer forward Ike Nwamu will be transferring from the school. He led the Bears with 15.1 PPG on 43% FG shooting. It is the second time that Nwamu has transferred, having gone from Cleveland State to Mercer following the 2011-12 season.
  • Additionally, sophomore forward Nnamdi Enechionyia of Samford will be transferring after this season, as will 6-10 freshman center Tucker Thompson of Western Carolina.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Duggar is out

I am wholly disgruntled.

 Now of course, this info is coming from anonymous sources. Neither school has made an official announcement, and ADs and coaches won't return phone calls until probably Monday. But we pretty much know Duggar is out and his ten-year career at VMI is done.

I'm not sure if this should come as a surprise, because Duggar was woefully underpaid, but you'd have to wonder why he chose to sign two contract extensions the past two seasons if he was so content on leaving in the first place. Did our record this past season have anything to do with it? Maybe. But remember that Duggar was in nearly the exact same spot five years ago - after a 10–19 season he chose to interview with The Citadel and ultimately turned down the job. This time it's a different story.

There's no point in speculating Duggar's internal motives - perhaps he was dissatisfied with something/someone in the administration, didn't think we had a chance to compete in the future, or simply wanted a change of scenery. Whatever the reason, he's gone, and now we'll have to look for a successor. We could bump up Daniel Willis, who's been here as long as Duggar has, and who knows the system just as well. Or we could reach out to Jason Allison, who was an assistant at App State this season and may love to have a head coaching job. Then there's Ramon Williams, who just finished his second season as a VT assistant. He is very knowledgeable about the game of basketball, and having a coach of color might serve as a recruiting advantage.

Ideally you'd try to hire someone that is committed to the run-and-gun system we currently employ, because if we try rebuilding now into some slow, grind-it-out, Princeton offense (a la The Citadel), we might even be worse than we were this year. And for those that say the up-tempo style isn't sustainable - you're wrong. The previous seventy years of VMI basketball clearly indicate that we cannot compete with a traditional offense - just ask El Cid, who was dead last in Division I in defensive efficiency, and has never been to the NCAA tournament in 68 years. Neither has Army in that same time span. This is a problem that all military schools face - the inability to recruit solid athletes and defensive specialists, and the general wearing out of players as the season progresses.

Duggar leaves VMI with 151 wins in just ten seasons, two of which were 20-win seasons and one that resulted in the first national postseason tournament appearance in 37 years. We made the conference tournament title game three times in his tenure - we did so only twice between 1978 and 2006. Duggar was by no means perfect but he did more to revitalize a dormant basketball program than any other coach at a military school in decades. I can't imagine how our players will take it.

It will be very interesting to see how Coach B is received when his Bulldogs visit Lexington next season.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Duggar Leaving?

There's been some murmur lately online that The Citadel may be looking to hire Duggar, according to Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post & Courier. I initially speculated that the idea of Duggar leaving was just a baseless internet rumor, but new reports do have some substance to them. He will in fact be interviewing with Citadel AD Jim Senter "soon", but no additional details from either Senter, Dave Diles, or Baucom himself were given. This comes as no surprise.

Of course, the Bulldogs are looking to replace the recently fired Chuck Driesell, who had a distasteful 42–113 record at El Cid in five seasons, including 22–66 (.250) in conference play. Four of those five seasons featured 20+ losses, and Driesell never won more than six conference games in any given year. Of course, you can't fault him entirely - he came in with absolutely zero DI college coaching experience, and didn't quite know what he was doing the first two or three years. After that, they picked it up a bit and I thought this season (11–19, 6–12 SoCon) was the best the 'Dogs had ever been under Driesell. But it wasn't enough, and with an expiring contract Senter had no choice but to part ways.

Could Duggar really leave Lexington to take this job? Apparently he likes the Charleston SC area, but you'd have to question why he would give up everything he has at VMI to go rebuild some 400 miles away at a school that really isn't going anywhere in basketball. And the playing styles of the two schools could not be more different - the Keydets have been running up and down the court and jacking up three's for the better part of nine years, six of which have resulted in leading the nation in scoring (although 3 of the last 4 seasons we have failed to do so, mainly due to the lack of quality shooters).

At The Citadel, it's a different story. The Bulldogs basically run a Princeton offense (though not very well, clearly), predicated on pick and rolls, setting screens, backdoor cuts, and working the clock to find the right shot. You can sell that methodical style at Kentucky or Virginia - not so much at military school.

Citadel's defense, too was awful. Among 351 Division I schools, they ranked dead last in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. VMI, by comparison, was 261st in that category - not good by any stretch, but not nearly as awful as everyone makes it out to be. The only reason we gave up so many points is because we played so fast, averaging 77.1 possessions per 40 minutes, tops in the country. All told, The Citadel simply does not have the athletes to compete with other teams.

And then there are recruiting advantages for basketball in Virginia compared to South Carolina. The only SC schools with an RPI in the top 100 this season were Wofford and Clemson. But in the Commonwealth, there was UVA, VCU, Richmond, Old Dominion, and William & Mary. Among ESPN Top 100 Recruits, four come from Virginia; only two hail from South Carolina. Football is the big deal down there, and you can see why El Cid has never made the Big Dance in sixty-eight years and probably won't for a long, long time.

So would Citadel be any better with Duggar, and should Bulldog fans want him? I'd say yes to both. If you compare his record against those coaches of all other Division I military schools, it's no contest. Duggar is far and away the most successful.

Duggar Baucom
Record at VMI: 151–159 (.487), 10 seasons
Winning seasons: 4
Conference reg. season/tourney titles: 0
Postseason appearances: 1

Chuck Driesell
Record at Citadel: 42–113 (.271), 5 seasons
Winning seasons: 0
Conference reg. season/tourney titles: 0
Postseason appearances: 0

Zach Spiker
Record at Army: 83–98 (.459), 6 seasons
Winning seasons: 1
Conference reg. season/tourney titles: 0
Postseason appearances: 0

Ed DeChellis
Record at Navy: 33–89 (.270), 4 seasons
Winning seasons: 0
Conference reg. season/tourney titles: 0
Postseason appearances: 0

Dave Pilipovich
Record at Air Force: 46–55 (.455), 3+ seasons
Winning seasons: 1
Conference reg. season/tourney titles: 0
Postseason appearances: 1

So given all this, why on earth would Duggar decide to leave Lex?

Well, because money talks.

Baucom currently makes a base salary of around $134k. Diles, who extended his contract last July through the 2018–19 season, did not, for whatever reason, give him a pay raise. Driesell, on the other hand, made $189k per year, a solid 41% more than Duggar. Was Driesell massively overpaid, or Duggar severely underpaid? Probably a little bit of both. Needless to say, I doubt VMI is willing to buy out Duggar's contract.

Other potential candidates for The Citadel include Doug Novak, a former Citadel assistant currently and current head coach at Bethel University, Patrick Beilein, a Utah Jazz assistant, and Earl Grant (College of Charleston HC) has had his name thrown around a couple times. It looks like Duggar is the front runner, and if he says no, I think they'll go with Novak.

As of right now, I'd give Duggar's chances of leaving around 20%. Remember, he was interested for the same job back in 2010 (after that disastrous season), but turned it down. He's still got four years left on his current deal and I think he loves VMI. But the man deserves a bigger paycheck and if we don't give it to him in the foreseeable future, it shouldn't surprise anyone if Duggar decides to bolt.

Monday, March 9, 2015

2014–15: Season in Review, Part II

Yesterday I began the Season in Review by assessing our upperclassmen. Today I will follow up with the underclassmen, plus the walk-ons, and give an overview of the season behind us and the season ahead.

Trey Chapman. Trey, like Jordan, had an inconsistent year and I thought he could've been better. His highlight of the season came very early on, with a forced five-second call and a late game-winning three pointer to give us a win over The Citadel in the All-Military Classic semis, 66-65. After that, Trey bounced up and down. He committed 9 of our 36 turnovers at West Virginia, and scored fewer than five points nine times while averaging 21 minutes/game. Nonetheless, he had two memorable games against ETSU, scoring 14 on the road and a season-high 16 at home, eight of those points coming from the free throw line, where he was a 67% shooter. He's very effective when he gets to the line but rarely gets there to begin with. He's never been much of a three-point shooter (28% this year), but we don't need him to be. At 6'7 he will be depended upon for scoring down low next year, so he needs to bulk up a bit. His footwork was also poor, averaging 2.2 turnovers per game, second only to Eleby. I'd like to see him get to the next level, but he has a lot of work to do.

Julian Eleby. Like QJ, Julian was thrust into a new position this year, moving from a two-guard to a PG following Peterson's departure. Notable games including 19 points in the conference-opening win at Samford, 16 against Navy, 25 against Chattanooga, and of course that 43-point majesty against Western Carolina in double-overtime. Eleby is definitely not an 8-15 3PT shooter, so I view that game as more of an aberration than anything. But we know he can shoot, and for much of the year he did. Julian hit 37% of his three-pointers and 78% of his FTs. He ended up averaging 11.1 PPG and led the team with 2.8 APG (excluding QJ). It will be very interesting to see if he manages to maintain his starting spot in the next two years, whether as a natural SG or a PG. I doubt it, given our talented freshman coming in, but he has shown great potential and is worthy of consideration.

Craig Hinton. Craig was probably the most frustrating player this season. With his 6'7 stature and promising athletic ability, it seemed to me like Craig was never in the right mental state and it showed with the turnovers. Despite playing only 13 minutes/game he managed to turn the ball over 28 times, good for over three per 40 minutes. His 23-point performance against Maryland where he went 6 of 6 from three was about his only highlight of the year. Overall he averaged 5 PPG on 35% three-point shooting, but if you take out that Maryland game, those numbers drop to 4.4 and 30%. I'd suggest Craig spend his time in the film room more than anywhere else.

QJ Peterson. Obviously QJ was away from the school for the final twelve games of the season, and in the time that he did play, he averaged 19.6 PPG and 4.9 APG. The scoring totals sound nice but not when you look at the shooting percentages - 34% overall and a horrid 28% from behind the arc, compared to 32% last season. And he needed more than 17 shots per game to do it. It must be noted, however, he was uncomfortable as a point guard and had a mere three weeks at best to learn the system. He desperately wanted to win but towards the end of his time with the team I thought he was detrimental to our play and was not in the right mental state like his sophomore counterpart Hinton. Luckily, QJ will be back next season and hopefully better than ever. The shooting will undoubtedly come back. I'm more worried about how he handles himself on and off the court. Hopefully he matures and will thrive with a natural PG by his side.

Fred Iruafemi. Fred did not score much this year but did play in all but two games. Remarkably, his only two double-digit scoring games came against East Tennessee State, where he scored 10 on the road, and 16 at home on 8 of 12 shooting to lead us to a comeback win (I give him all the credit in the world for helping us win that game). There must be something about the Bucs he likes. Alas, those were his highest outputs of the season. Fred scored 7 against Western Carolina and 6 against Johnson Univ., but in no more games had more than five points. He averaged 2.5 RPG and 2.8 PPG on 46% shooting in just about 12 minutes. We'll certainly see more of him in 2017 and 2018 but I doubt he'll get significant playing time next season.

Armani Branch. Unlike Fred, we did not see Armani much at all this year. He scored a season-high 14 points against MACU and 12 (plus 6 boards) against Johnson, certainly nothing to brag about. Those were his only double-digit scoring games. He scored two against UNCG and hit a three against Marist; not much else. Armani played in just 13 Division I games for an average of 3.5 minutes. His three-point shooting was bad, very bad - just 13% - but he only took 23 attempts. And of course shortly following the 29-point home loss to UNCG, Branch was suspended, apparently for the remainder of the season, for undisclosed reasons (though we can always speculate). He should come back next year, but we never know. Armani has a long way to go if he wants to contribute, mentally and physically.

Tyrell Mason. Tyrell was on the squad in October, but was taken off the roster before a game was played. From what I've heard the team later asked him to come back due to the dismissal of QJ so they would have enough practice players. He returned before the road Chattanooga game, where he scored his only two points of the year. With a full roster next season, we may have seen the last of Tyrell as a Keydet.

Niles Tate. Niles, a freshman and fan-favorite, scored 2 points against MACU and Furman, with a nice put-back layup in garbage time of a 34-point win in the latter. He played in four games and was a very high-spirited young player. His fellow freshman walk-on Conrad Jenne scored two against MACU as well. Good luck in the future to both of those players.

We struggled this year largely because we couldn't shoot. Why couldn't we shoot? Because we had no facilitator in the offense. 32% three-point shooting isn't going to get it done. If you take that out from our overall 40% mark (last in the SoCon), we shot a shade under 49% on two-point field goals, good for fifth in the league. But compare that to least year, where we shot 52% on two-pointers, second in the Big South behind only Radford. The loss of Covington stung badly, but it was the loss of Jon Elmore that really hurt the most.

Interestingly, Anglade (59.9%) shot the ball slightly better this season than DJ (58.1%) did last season. Their FT shooting certainly distinguished the two, but our problems lied behind the arc. Last year, Glasgow hit 38.7% on threes, which barely cracked the top twenty in the league. Brown was more accurate (38.9%) this year, but he didn't take quite as many. Glasgow was much better at shooting off the dribble, whereas we needed someone to feed Brian on the 3PT line, which we couldn't do as much of. And while Weethee's shooting was better, QJ was much worse, as was Tim Marshall. If we aren't hitting threes, we aren't going to win. It's as simple as that.

Unlike last year, where our six conference losses (tournament included) came by an average of 3.7 points, we did not struggle to win close games this year. Although, this statistic doesn't mean too much, given we lost by 15 points or more six times this season (and that's not including our four guarantee games - WVU, Maryland, Tech, and GWU - three of which qualified). We were also 2-3 in games decided by five points or less. Once the threes didn't fall, we got down early, and we never play well when we get down early.

Looking ahead now. Of our four graduating seniors, only two (Brian and Jarid) had scholarships. Three of our four current commits - Quayson Williams, Austin Vereen, and D'Andre Mahaffey - will have scholarships (Trey Johnson does not). Add in three juniors, four sophomores, and two freshman, and that totals to 12 of our allotted 13 scholarships. This is, of course, assuming that all our current players return (Armani is the only one I have doubts about). So we have one scholarship remaining at a minimum and have still not recruited a big-man, which is concerning. We've proven in the past that we don't have to have a big man to win (see Chavis and Travis for advice on that), but I don't know if we have the shooters or all-around athletes to compete for a top three spot in the SoCon next year.

For the record, Duggar isn't going anywhere. His current contract runs through 2017–18, so he's at VMI until then. I do think he's quite underpaid, which is my only concern going forward. Dave Diles is seemingly not afraid to pull the plug on losing coaches, so I'd like to see at least two winning seasons between now and then.

Next year will be better, but I don't know much better. There's no way our freshman are going to be good enough to lead the team to a top three seed, so we need several players to step up. In particular, QJ, Tim, Phil, and Jordan all need to have better seasons. Our freshman class wasn't very good this year, and what becomes of them is yet to be seen. At least we can put this disastrous season behind us, knowing the future cannot only be better.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

2014–15: Season in Review, Part I

The 2014–15 season was a disappointment to say the least, but in hindsight one that we should have seen coming. Following the untimely departure of Jon and Ot Elmore, our players were awkwardly thrust into new positions and were forced to take roles they had never played before. It was unlike any other year in recent VMI basketball history (save for that debacle in '06 when two players were booted for honor violations, thus creating the impetus for our run-and-gun offense), with no true standout players but a collection of what I like to call "misfit toys" that had no serious direction or cohesion. Our scoring was incredibly balanced, much more so than in recent memory - three players averaged between 10 and 12 points per game, and four more averaged at least 5.

I won't fault our 11–19 record to a lack of leadership (because I think that's just an excuse when you don't know why things are going wrong), but rather to a simple lack of talent and basketball skill. Certainly our players must be commended for their efforts. While there were several games this year that left me dumbfounded (Navy, VaTech, UNC Greensboro #1 and #2, and of course Mercer last night), most of our guys gave it 100% effort the entire way. They just didn't have the size or skill to compete with the quality teams in this league. When you factor in all the roster changes, having 18 players on the team throughout the course of the season (four of which were walk-ons), the Elmore fiasco back in October, and losing QJ midway through the year, it's amazing we even got 11 wins. The guys did all they could, but what they could do wasn't enough.

Below I will asses the seasons of all of our players, starting with our seniors and working my way down. Today will feature the upperclassmen, followed by the underclassmen tomorrow.

Brian Brown. Clearly the most talented among our senior class, Brian served adequately as a shooting guard but suffered obviously from the lack of a true PG. He worked best as a catch-and-shoot player, so rarely did he ever run the floor. I thought we should've used him more when breaking the press, because it looked to me like his ballhandling skills were superior to that of Eleby's. Nonetheless, Brian averaged 10.9 PPG and 1.8 APG, shooting 40% overall and a team-leading 39% from behind the arc. His 29-point, 9-three pointer performance against Furman will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, single-game performances in Keydet basketball history. He scored in every game he played and had double-figures in 7 of his final 8 games. For his career, Brian hit 203 three-pointers at a 36% rate. I wish Brian the best of luck as he commissions into the military.

Christian Burton. This year was by far Chris Burton's most productive one. Having joined the program as a walk-on in 2011, Chris played in 29 games his first three seasons combined with no starts. This year, he played 28 games with 6 starts. He averaged 9.5 minutes/game and averaged 2.8 PPG on 30% 3PT shooting. Obviously he wasn't talented enough to get a starting role but served as a hustling backup point guard who gave 100% effort. Sometimes the effort was a bit unrestrained, as Chris tended to hound opponents defensively which resulted in many needless fouls. He averaged 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes, a pretty bad ratio. However, Chris was never one lacking for intensity and it showed.

Jarid Watson. Our only legitimate center on the team (though I say that hesitantly), Jarid played in every game this year and started eight of those. He shot 55% from the floor but his FT shooting was horrid at 12-29 (41%), albeit a small sample size. He ended up scoring 2.9 PPG and grabbed 3.0 RPG, with 26 total blocks as well, all career highs. Unfortunately Jarid didn't have the footwork or ability to finish at the rim we needed, so he sat behind Anglade for much of the year. He averaged 4 fouls per 40 minutes and his defense was shaky. It's disappointing Jarid wasn't better, especially given his size. We could've used him alongside Covington for a powerful 4-5 tandem. I wish Jarid well in the future.

Phil Anglade. Phil made his way to be my favorite player on this team, not only because of his shot-blocking ability but also his work ethic, hustle, and determination. Phil was, in his first two seasons, by no means a quality rim protector or post presence, but he worked tirelessly in the offseason and throughout the year to hone his craft. He shot exactly 60% from the field this year, tops in the SoCon by far. And he's a much better rim protector than most people give him credit for. He averaged 5.8 RPG (13th in SoCon) and while his 2.9 blocks per game were good for second in the league to Justin Tuoyo, his 5.02 blocks per 40 minutes were far and away the league best. Essentially, what that means is that Phil Anglade is the most efficient shot-blocker in the Southern Conference. And while his FT shooting was atrocious for much of the year, he picked it up in the final five games, shooting 24 of 35 (69%). His work in practice paid off and I have nothing but admiration for Phil. He is bound to get better next year and will be the cornerstone of our defense.

Tim Marshall. Tim had an up-and-down season, with a few more downs than ups. He scored 20 or more points four times, including 25 and 26-point games against Furman and The Citadel, respectively. However, for much of the year his three-point shot wasn't there and we needed it to be, given that 81% of all his FGs were from three. In a four-game stretch late in the year, Tim hit 24 of 56 three-pointers (42.8%), but immediately after that he finished 5 of 23 (21.7%) in the final three games. Hopefully he works on his shot in the offseason, because he will likely be one of our top three or four three-point shooters. Our offense depends on him.

Jordan Weethee. It seemed like Jordan could never string together several consistent games in a row. He bounced in and out of the starting lineup but ended up starting 23 games and playing in all 30 (he is still yet to miss a game in his collegiate career, not including his redshirt season). He missed easy layups here and there, and his three-point shot was wildly inconsistent. Jordan had a seven-game stretch of 6 for 28 from three (21%), a two-game stretch of 6 for 11, a two-game stretch of 1 for 10, a three-game stretch of 7 for 14, and ended the season on a five-game skid of 2 for 11. All told, Weethee shot 32% from three and scored just under 6 points per game. To sum Jordan's inconsistencies in one sentence: he had seven games of 10 points or more, and six games without a single point, including the monstrosity that was the quarterfinal game against Mercer. A consistent season from Jordan next year would be more than excellent.

Tomorrow I will asses our underclassmen, plus the four walk-ons, as well as recap the season in full and postulate about the future.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Postgame Thoughts: vs. Mercer

Our season mercifully came to an end tonight. I wasn't expecting a win coming into the game but I certainly considered it a possibility. Mercer had other plans. They were better coached, outhustled us to loose balls, and did the things it takes to win a basketball game. Our players looked lethargic and uninspired at times but it really came down to making shots and we did none of that. Mercer's defense must be credited, however; they defended the three-point line well (really the only thing you need to do to beat us) and stopped us in the post.

The defense was what we expected it to be; the offense wasn't there. It was certainly reminiscent of the home UNCG game, although a bit more redeeming this time given that Mercer is a top-three team in the SoCon (but not 28 points better than us). Eleby led us in scoring with 22 points on 7 of 17 shooting (1-5 from three). He also had a career-high 11 rebounds, the team leader. I thought he tried to do a little too much, often getting stuffed on drives in the paint and whatnot, but he certainly gave it all he had. Three of our four other starters had double-figures (surprise surprise, Weethee did not score). Marshall had 12, Brian had 11, and Phil had 10 (5 of 8 FG). The problem was both Brian and Tim shot a combined 8 of 25 and 6 of 18 from behind the arc. Add in Eleby, and that last number drops to a chilly 7 for 23 (30%). Not gonna happen.

We got a grand total of 6 bench points tonight. Hinton had a couple more stupid turnovers and just looks lost on the court. It's disappointing to see from a guy with such great potential. We know he can hit the three but his mind just wasn't in the right place for 70% of the season, including the entire second half of the season.

We had 7 assists tonight compared to 14 turnovers, most of which came in the first half (by then the game was decided and Mercer called off the dogs). Stephon Jelks, a freshman for Mercer, scored 12 points off the bench and hauled in 9 rebounds. The Bears shot 53% from the floor, had 20 assists, and outrebounded us 39-33, all without the services of starting guard Darious Moten, who injured his arm in the early seconds of the game and sat out the rest. Hallice and Nwamu, who both destroyed us last time out at Cameron, each had 19. I thought Coach Hoffman told his players to cool the engines with about 10 minutes to go, but our press was so horrid and attenuated that Mercer had no choice but to convert on wide open layups. We were also 10 of 17 (59%) from the line tonight, an appropriate statline to finish the season.

Our three seniors (sans Michael Donovan, who did get some playing time tonight) will certainly be missed.  Brian and Chris were very emotional on the bench in the waning seconds (no need to go into that any further). I really felt bad for them and hate to see us perform so poorly. It looked like the days of old, in the forgetful era of Bart Bellairs and Joe Cantafio. We had no energy and simply lacked the athleticism and pure basketball talent to win.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Eleby in his final two seasons. We have two scholarship guards coming in next season: Austin Vereen, a 6'4 combo guard from D.C.-powerhouse Maret HS, as well as Quayson Williams, a talented 6'1 pointguard from North Carolina. As far as I can tell both players will compete for playing time and one might just take Eleby's starting spot. Julian certainly showed some bright spots this year, with the 43-point game at Western Carolina, and another 25-point performance against Chattanooga. Despite this he doesn't have the ball-handling skill or play-making ability to be a reliable starting PG. But there's always room for improvement in the offseason.

QJ is almost certainly coming back next season, good news for sure. We definitely could've used his scoring tonight. It's certainly true that QJ struggled mightily in comparison to last season. He got his point-scoring average but the shooting numbers (34% FG, 27% 3PT) were woeful. Quite simply he was playing in an unnatural position and had to take on an entirely new role in the matter of two weeks after that Elmore fiasco. I think he was incredibly uncomfortable in the PG role. Hopefully, he matures this offseason and comes back stronger than ever. We're really gonna need him.

Aside from QJ, next season depends on the play of Marshall and Anglade. Unless you're Kentucky you cannot expect freshman to come in and dominate. Tim had an up-and-down year (mostly down than up), making a living from behind the arc. In his senior year I expect a much more accurate three-point shot. Phil was immensely improved from his Rat and sophomore year. Despite being only 6'3 or so (our roster erroneously gives him a couple of inches), he battled with some of the best big men in the conference all year long and for that should be appreciated. A lot of folks say he isn't a great rim finisher, which is true only if you are comparing him to last year's Covington. Anglade, mind you, led the entire league in overall FG percentage at just a shade under 60%. He certainly has work to do at the free throw line as well, but improved tremendously in the last five games or so. He ended the season connecting on 24 of 35 FTs, boosting his percentage from 35 to 47%. The man is definitely getting better.

Some other questions to be answered: will Armani come back for his sophomore season? He was suspended from the team shortly following the UNCG debacle. Additionally, we should have enough practice players next year so we may have seen the last of walk-on Tyrell Mason (and Niles Tate as well). Or not. Who knows?

Thanks to our four seniors - Brian Brown, Christian Burton, Jarid Watson, and Michael Donovan - for all their contributions to VMI. It's disappointing that Brian was the only one of the four to see consistent playing time over his career. The other two simply weren't good enough to get in, but did what they could in their senior season. Nonetheless, Brian will go down as one of the top ten three-point shooters in program history, and he will be missed greatly. I wish him the best as he commissions into the military upon graduation.

I could talk about Weethee and the freshman and a lot of other things but this article is getting way long and I'll leave it for an end-of-season recap tomorrow (or sometime in the short future). This season will be one to forget, but I'm sure everyone who made it out to a few basketball games can come away with at least a couple good memories. Here's to hoping the baseball team can get VMI athletics back to their winning ways!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Postgame Thoughts: Chattanooga

Although we lost tonight it should be said that we competed from the tip-off to the final horn against at least one of the SoCon's top two teams, and arguably the best from top to bottom. Wofford doesn't have the offense the Mocs have and is prone to blowing leads. Chattanooga, on the other hand, with Tuoyo down low and Jones running the point, is practically unstoppable. They minimized every run we had and battled a small but loud crowd to escape with a win.

Tonight we shot 25% from behind the arc and took "only" 24 three's. That's largely a testament to Chattanooga's suffocating perimeter defense. They crowded the three-point line on every possession and it forced Tim and Julian to struggle from distance, shooting a combined 2 of 12. We were outrebounded 46-39 which isn't bad considering the circumstances. The turnovers were much better: only 7 of them tonight, compared to 22 in the last game at the Roundhouse. But the biggest one came in the last minute of the second overtime, where the refs called Tim Marshall out of bounds on a catch-and-shoot three pointer. His foot was hovering the line and Duggar said he didn't like with the call in the postgame, but I think they got it right. Just an unfortunate play from a group of players that doesn't always have the best court awareness.

Individually Phil led the way with a career-high 26 points, and went 14 of 20 (!!) from the free throw line. He missed a couple late but you really can't ask for much more. Phil also had a couple chip shots that went awry in the first half as well and it ultimately cost us. But he does haul in 5 rebounds, two steals, and 6 blocks. A monster effort from a monster of a man.

Eleby followed suit with 25 points, but on 8-18 shooting and 1-5 from three. Not much you can do about it with Chattanooga's defense. He also has 7 assists (season high vs. DI) and 9 boards. Brian didn't shoot much and finishes with 10. Marshall, as mentioned earlier, struggled mightily from the floor and had 5. Weethee, the only other starter, was a no-show with 2 points despite playing most of regulation and overtime.

Only two players (Jarid and Trey) scored off the bench. Jarid was 2 of 3 from the floor and finished with 4 points, doing some nice work on the boards but it wasn't enough. He simply doesn't have the athleticism to hang with established big men a la Tuoyo, Duke Ethridge, etc. Trey scored 10 points and hit a pair of three-pointers but I thought he did a poor rebounding job, getting beat to the ball several times which lead to several Chattanooga points. He did finish up with 6 rebounds.

We were bailed out from losing in regulation or one OT by Chattanooga's 50% FT shooting. But other than that Chattanooga showed no weaknesses. They shot 47% overall, 38% from behind the arc and got 19 points from their guard Eric Robertson who came off the bench. Casey Jones also scored 17, and both players shot 50% from the field with smart shot selection from every part of the court. We forced them into 13 turnovers but could only convert those into 14 points. Not a single fast-break point was registered, hinting at our lack of a quality rim finisher.

Samford, once red-hot midway in the season, comes in riding a four-game losings streak and was drubbed by UNCG tonight on the road, eliminating any possibility of the 'Dogs getting a first-round bye. In an incredible twist of luck, Furman upset Western Carolina at home tonight 53-49, and Ashton Moore hit another buzzer beater to lift El Cid over ETSU 74-73. This of course means that both ETSU and WCU are tied at 8-9, the Keydets being one game behind each.

Having worked out the seeding scenarios last week, if VMI ends up tied with Western Carolina or ETSU (i.e. they tie only one), they will not get the tiebreaker over either one of them (this of course necessitating that VMI win Saturday). If, however, WCU and ETSU both lose, combined with a VMI win, the Keydets will leapfrog the Catamounts into fifth place by way of going 2-2 against those two squads (ETSU, at 3-1 with a sweep of the 'Cats, gets fourth, and WCU gets sixth). The Bucs play at Mercer, and the Catamounts play at The Citadel. Do I like our chances? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see how it all plays out.

If however we lose to Samford, we can kiss fifth place goodbye. The Citadel cannot tie us even with a win (we swept them), but UNCG (now 6-11) absolutely can. If all three of these teams are tied, UNCG gets the sixth seed, VMI the seventh, and Citadel the eighth. So we'd be ousted from the bye. UNCG's game doesn't get tipped off til 5pm, so we will know how the Keydets have fared well before then. But if we lose, Keydet Nation must root loud and proud for Chattanooga on Saturday evening.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Postgame Thoughts: @ Western Carolina

Well I suppose I'll have to jump on the Eleby bandwagon after this one, since I've had no faith in him as a starting point guard for pretty much the entire year. Julian definitely proved me wrong tonight: 43 points on 11 of 22 shooting (8-15 from three), 13 of 15 FTs, 7 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. An incredible statline for a guy who came in averaging 8.5/3.9/2.5 on the season. He has certainly come a long, long way since taking over for QJ at point in mid-January.

Late in regulation I envisioned writing a piece on Eleby's failure to come up in the clutch after missing the front end of a 1-and-1 which could have put us up by three and likely ended the game right there. I suppose you can't make them all, right? But Julian completely turned the tables after that. He scored 10 of our 13 points in the first overtime, including two threes, and did an incredible job selling a foul on Devin Peterson during a three point attempt. Julian goes to the line, calmly sinking all three FTs, and somehow we erase a five-point deficit in the final fifteen seconds. But he's not done: Julian hits a three in the second overtime and converts on 4-4 FTs to seal the hard-fought W.

Duggar once again chooses not to go platooning, and as such Eleby and Brown play 46+ minutes. Brown, by the way, shot only seven threes (made three), and had a modest 9 points. Marshall shot 6 of 17 from behind the arc, his cold shooting and foul trouble limiting him to 32 minutes. He did finish with 18 points. Weethee had a great game with 15 on 5 of 10 shooting plus 9 boards. Anglade fouled out and was limited pretty much the entire game after getting two early fouls in the first half (I thought the officiating was crappy) but not before netting 10 points and 4 blocks.

Coming off the bench I thought Jarid did tremendously well on the boards, with 7 offensive boards and 11 in all, plus 10 points. Those seven offensive boards also resulted in 7 points, which proved quite crucial. Jarid is showing himself to be a better rebounder than Phil (by having three inches on him), but we needed Phil for his scoring tonight and got lucky that Eleby couldn't miss. Chattanooga probably won't let that happen Thursday.

Trey had 5 and Craig had 3 off the bench to round out the scoring. Iruafemi got a few minutes and Chris Burton barely played, perhaps because Baucom has decided that Eleby is the man for the job (and clearly he is). With he, Phil, Tim, and Brian starting to find their stride, there's really no need for a platoon. It works when you don't have an established starting five but at this point our starters are gelling together and finding their roles. Look for a regular substitution system from here on out.

As a team we shoot 46% from the field, and an excellent 44% from behind the arc (we made 20, boosting our 11.9 average in that category). Eleby accounted for much of that, making 8 of 15, three of which came in the overtimes. Weethee hit 2 of 5 on threes, and even Hinton got in on the action. Notice that all of this super shooting is coming after Eleby starts to find his stride. Why were we shooting so pitifully in January and early February? Simple: we had no legitimate PG there to stabilize the offense and set up 3P shooters. Free throw shooting was good for the most part (25 of 32, 78%). Jarid hit four of his seven attempts, and Anglade once again impresses from the line by hitting 2 of 2. Perhaps he has started to work on that in practice? Either way, Eleby, discounting that hiccup late in regulation, hit every FT shot he needed to. A consistent FT shooter is critical in the postseason, and I think Eleby is the guy.

Western Carolina actually shot quite well at 50.6%. They made six more shots too, but the difference, of course, was VMI hitting 13 more three-pointers (the 'Cats had only seven). We held Rhett Harrelson to 2 of 11 shooting from three (several of which were awful shots), and Mike Brown, who was 9 of 19 in the last game against us, shot 4 of 10 today. WCU even turned the ball over less in this game than that one, and shot slightly worse. The difference was that we simply made more shots.

Some Notes & Observances
  • This win puts us a game behind WCU for the fifth spot, and, if Samford (lost to Mercer in the waning seconds) and The Citadel (who got beat up by Wofford) lose, both those teams are essentially out of it for getting the final bye. Samford could still technically tie us at 7-9, but I won't get into all the tiebreaking mumbo jumbo just yet. The good news is that we control our own destiny, and one more win clinches the sixth seed.
  • Thanks in large part to 27 points in overtime, we are now averaging 81.6 points per game as a team and have wiggled our way up to 4th in the nation. BYU, at first, currently averages 84.4 per game. Since we will play at least three more games in the season (hopefully more, but just for the sake of argument), we will need to average 110 PPG to surpass the Cougars at their current pace and lead the nation in scoring. Virtually impossible, yes, but if we manage to win that quarterfinal game, that number "drops" to 103.8. If we play five? 100. Essentially we would need BYU to start not-scoring a lot. We'll see where we can go with it, but today is a great start.
  • This was the program's 200th all-time road victory, a momentous accomplishment (although at 200-774, there's a lot of catching up to be done).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Postseason Scenarios

With the SoCon Tournament looming in just two weeks, pundits, bloggers, and fans alike are counting down the days to Asheville, in hopes their squad will capture the elusive championship and automatic berth to the Big Dance that comes with it. As of now, Wofford is in sole possession of first place with a one-game lead over Chattanooga, who has a one-game lead over Mercer. Four teams - ETSU, Western Carolina, VMI, and Samford - have played fifteen conference games thus far, and for that reason will be idle until Saturday, with no midweek games.

VMI of course has trudged through a down year, and, despite all the troubles, finds themselves on a two-game winning streak and in sole possession of the sixth seed and final first-round bye. Samford, who won five in a row after an 0-8 conference start, lost to The Citadel on an Ashton Moore buzzerbeater (which, if you saw it, was an unbelievable stroke of luck) and fell in a hard-fought game at Chattanooga, losing by seven. Still, the Bulldogs of the West are dangerous, with a home game against Mercer Saturday, followed by the last two on the road at UNCG and VMI.

El Cid at this point isn't really much of a threat. Because we beat them twice, the Bulldogs of the East would have to finish the year at least 3-1 AND have VMI go 0-3 to get the final bye, unlikely given they play Wofford, ETSU, and Western Carolina to end the year. May as well check them off the radar.

UNCG and Furman are also 4-10. The same criterion would apply to them as it did The Citadel to overtake the Keydets for the sixth spot. The Paladins also play Western Carolina and Wofford to end the year, and the Spartans have the Terriers on the road and Chattanooga on Senior Day. This is really a race between VMI and Samford.

Below I will go every each of the possible scenarios that the Keydets could finish, and show what must happen for us to not only get the bye but possibly obtain the third or fourth seed.

Scenario #1: Finish 2-1, beat WCU & Samford

  • This one seems the most plausible. Here we finish 8-10 in the SoCon, and a win over Samford would clinch 6th place. Additionally, WCU (8-7) and ETSU (8-7) must lose their final three games for us to have a shot at 5th or 4th. The tiebreaker would then go to the record between the tied clubs if all three were tied. VMI would be 2-2, ETSU 3-1, WCU 1-3. Advantage Bucs, but Keydets get fifth. If only one of the teams finishes 8-10, the tiebreaker goes to the record against the top seed (given we split), and so on if a tie persists. WCU wins that one by splitting Chattanooga, and ETSU wins it by beating Mercer. We would need a three-way tie for a higher seed.
Scenario #2: Finish 2-1, beat WCU & Chattanooga
  • A bit scarier because we lose to Samford, who could tie if they win their other two games. If this works out, Samford (who would have beaten Mercer) gets the tiebreaker because we were swept by the Bears. A win over WCU ensures the exact same scenariors in Scenario #1 must occur to obtain fifth or fourth place.
Scenario #3: Finish 2-1, beat Chattanooga & Samford
  • First, this eliminates any possibility that we overtake the fifth seed from the 'Cats, but we could snatch it from ETSU by going 1-1 against the Mocs, whereas they would be 0-2 with a loss Saturday. And of course our sweep over Samford clinches sixth place.
Scenario #4: Finish 1-2, beat Western Carolina OR Chattanooga
  • From this point on we cannot reach WCU or ETSU with a 7-11 record or worse. Samford would have a much easier route to the sixth seed, needing to go 1-1 in the other two games, which would give them an identical 7-11 mark in league play (they play UNCG and Mercer). A win over Mercer gives them the tiebreaker. A win over UNCG doesn't, but their sweep of WCU does. The Bulldogs win out in this scenario, so we need them to lose 2 of 3.
  • By finishing 7-11, any of the other bottom three teams (El Cid, UNCG, and Furman) could tie or overtake us. UNCG and Furman do play each other, so that will take one out of the equation. El Cid also plays Furman, which may take out another, given that each squad must finish 4-0 to surpass us, and only one can do so. A 7-11 finish is open to numerous possibilities.
Scenario #5: Finish 1-2, beat Samford
  • By beating Samford, we win the first tiebreaker (head-to-head) and thus clinch the sixth seed regardless.
  • And yet again, any of the other bottom three teams can equal or surpass us.
Scenario #6: Finish 0-3
  • Captain Obvious says we don't want this to happen. An 0-3 finish would put us at 6-12 in the league, and Samford (having hypothetically beaten us) needs only to win one game to get sixth. Plus, UNCG can pass us by finishing 2-2 or better, thanks to their season sweep (the Spartans play Furman and Samford at home - certainly possible.
  • Both Furman and El Cid must finish at least 3-1 to get a better seed.

So there it is. Certainly any seed is open, although for us, doing better than sixth is a pipe dream to say the least. All we need is that first-round bye, so we should be satisfied with 6th place.

Some Notes & Observances
  • I figured Wofford's at-large chances were done after their loss to Chattanooga last week, but their RPI of 46 still bodes very well for the Terriers. Right now, Wofford is projected as 12-seed according to, set to play UNC. Certainly they need to finish the regular season undefeated, and if they are going to lose in the tournament, it needs to be in the title game, preferably to a top-tier squad, namely UTC (RPI 135) or Mercer (RPI 224). This would put them at 27-7, presumably still a top-60 RPI. The big killer is their 128 SOS (Strength of Schedule), which sets them back among the mid-major powers and Power Five teams. They have three quality wins, and two elite wins: NC State, Iona, and Sam Houston State, the latter I consider just quality, given their 96 RPI. But I doubt that's enough to impress the Power Five-biased selection committee.
  • Chuck Driesell should be working his last go-round with The Citadel, given that he is in his final year of his current contract, and that the school chose not to renew his contract either before the season or during it, a pretty clear signal that they want out. It's disappointing for the Dogs, who seem to have some potential in his Princeton offense but have struggled to beat the press all year long. Wes Miller of UNCG may not be too far behind.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Postgame Thoughts: @ The Citadel

Road. Warriors.

What else can be said? Tonight the boys went into a raucous and nearly full McAlister Field House and come away with a well-fought 84-69 win. It was not surprisingly a game of runs, as we came out shooting hot, on a 13-5 spurt early in the first. El Cid came back to score the final 12 points of the first half - amazing how we can go through such drastic hot and cold swings in a matter of minutes.

Even then, Citadel wasn't finished; Jake Wright, who is shooting an absurd 43% from three-point range this year, hit two long bombs to start the second half, and the Dogs got up 46-35 before the blink of an eye. Of course any knowledgeable Keydet fan could've foreseen a collapse in the making, but Duggar decided to change up the press and our guys started hitting shots. After Ashton Moore made a layup with about fourteen minutes left, VMI ended the game on 40-17 run. Once Tim and Brian got it going - there was no stopping them.

There were too many critical stats for me to pick one that stood out. Where can I start? Citadel's 15 turnovers were impressive, including two ten-second violations. Or, how about the 37% 3P shooting percentage - including 50% (9 of 18) in the second half? Citadel couldn't handle our press and that fed right into our offensive game. We outscored the Dogs 22-9 in second-chance points, and shockingly doubled them up in offensive rebounding (16-8). We won virtually every statistical category, except for free throws. Citadel, who is the most accurate FT shooting team in the SoCon, got to the line twenty times, and not surprisingly made 17 of them. The Keydets got to the line only nine times, which needs to improve. But we did make 7 of them; and, oh by the way, Phil Anglade made 5 of 7 FTs. Incredible.

Individually, Tim Marshall had a field day with 8 three-pointers for a new career-high 26 points (in only 28 minutes). Brian was 6 of 9 from three and had 20 himself, plus four assists and four steals. Anglade, the league's leader in FG%, added another 17 on 6 of 10 shooting, and, as I mentioned, a stupendous 5 of 7 at the line. Trey was solid with 10 points and 4 boards.

Eleby, though struggling from the field (4-13 FG), had a much, much better game than in recent memory. Julian scored 9 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished two assits, but more importantly did not turn the ball over a single time. He looked much more comfortable running the point, but still needs to work on shooting.

We did not see much of Weethee, Burton, Craig, and Fred in this game. Those four players combined to go 1 of 6 from the floor in limited action. Watson did come in for eight minutes and had two rebounds, plus a beautiful lead pass to Trey late in the game for an easy layup. Only 12 bench points today, 10 from Trey.

This win puts us now a full game ahead of Samford in sixth place for the final bye. While we play on the road at WCU next Saturday, Samford will host Mercer and then play their final two on the road in a couple weeks. You've gotta think that our final game of the season at home against Samford will determine which team gets that sixth and final spot, if it hasn't already been decided by then. The good news is that if we are to win two games the rest of the way - we will get the sixth seed - or, if we beat Samford in that final game, we clinch the sixth seed, regardless of all other outcomes. Bottom line: beat Samford. If we want to get even loftier, if we finish 3-0 and WCU loses to Citadel on the road in the regular season finale, we could tie the Cats for fifth place. But that's a stretch. For now, it's one game at a time, and I think this team is starting to gel at exactly the right time. The prospectus of winning at least one tourney game is looking much brighter.

Some Notes & Observances

  • The ASN commentators said that this was the first game in which Citadel cadets were required to attend. Interesting, given that attendance is mandatory for nearly all Saturday basketball games at the Institute, even some during the weekday if the occasion is special.
  • Props to Citadel fans who packed McAlister today, with an attendance of 4,248, by far the biggest of the year for them (they hadn't even hit 2,000 before this). You have to wonder why VMI can't get 4,000+ for a televised home game without it being in the CIT or some such. Of course our record is dismal this year, but then again, so is Citadel's. Charleston is vastly more populated than Lex, so that explains quite a bit, but the Dogs do live in the shadow of CofC which greatly hinders attendance. Not today though.
  • For the first time since 2014 (I believe), Duggar chose not to utilize the platoon system. I suppose it worked; Eleby looked much more comfortable running the point, and he is a superior option to Burton, who played only two minutes. All the starters were solid, and as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • Home teams in the SoCon are winning just around 55% of their games this year in conference play. Why is this? Possibly the low attendances and the overall parity in the league, with everyone other than Wofford being beatable on the road. UNCG's pathetic 1-9 home record against DI competition certainly has something to do with it (and who was that one win? I think we all shudder to know). We definitely continued that trend today, as Citadel looked overamped coming in and didn't have the legs to keep up with us.