FACTS & STATS: Site: McAlister Field House (6,000) -- Charleston, South Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: VMI 0-0, The Citadel 0-0. Away Record: VMI 0-0, The Citadel 0-0. Neutral Record: VMI 0-0, The Citadel 0-0. Conference Record: VMI 0-0, The Citadel 0-0. Series Record: The Citadel leads, 53-45.
GAME NOTES: The second annual All-Military Classic takes place in Charleston, South Carolina this time around, with The Citadel entertaining the Keydets of VMI in the first round of action at McAlister Field House.
The Bulldogs and head coach Chuck Driesell are trying to work beyond their disappointing showing last season when they won a total of just six games in 30 chances. Now in their 102nd season of basketball, the Bulldogs were a mere 3-15 against the rest of their Southern Conference foes, while one of their three non-conference victories came against Army in the third-place game of this tourney.
Meanwhile, the Keydets of the Big South Conference were again one of the top offensive teams in the country last season at 79.7 ppg. Unfortunately, their defense was very suspect once more as it allowed 80.6 ppg which was the third- worst in Division I. Head coach Duggar Baucom, who is entering his eighth campaign with VMI, was able to guide the team to a 17-16 record, but just 8-10 in league play and a miserable 1-14 in true road games.
These two teams opened up their schedules against each other last year in this tournament as well, with VMI taking a wild 103-100 contest during which every starter for the Keydets scored at least 11 points. In terms of the all-time series, the Bulldogs still own a 53-45 edge over VMI despite the recent setback.
Also in action today in this event are Air Force and Army, with the winners from both contests playing for the title on Sunday and the losers competing for third-place honors.
Among the probable starters for the Keydets, only one averaged double-digit points last year which is rather unusual given the team's penchant for rushing the ball up the floor and letting fly with three-point shots. Stan Okoye, the Big South Preseason Player of the Year, not only delivered 17.1 ppg in 2011-12, he was also the top man on the glass for the group with better than seven boards per contest as well. Although he averaged just 4.3 ppg a year ago, forward Nick Gore may have had his best outing against the Bulldogs with 14 points, nine rebounds and two assists, so that's something to consider when filling out the starting lineup of course. Scoring better than 20 ppg in high school last season, Gavin Stephenson may be the one to provide significant spark off the bench for VMI.
While the Keydets were racing up and down the floor against the competition last season, the Bulldogs were trying to slow the pace as much as possible en route to 64.2 ppg. The Citadel struggled to keep foes from running up the score though, with opponents producing 71.9 ppg which meant the Bulldogs were often just trying to keep up. Senior center Mike Groselle stands as the top scorer among the potential starters for the Bulldogs after putting up 16.7 ppg. His 9.6 rebounds per contest led to him producing 14 double-doubles in 2011-12 which was a school-record. The squad also hopes that youngster Matt Van Scyoc will have an impact in the paint after having a successful high school career that should carry over. Forward C.J. Bray (4.3 ppg) is far from an offensive juggernaut, but he did close out last season with four straight double-digit efforts, so there is potential there.
As long as the Keydets are able to speed up the tempo and play their brand of basketball, expect to see the visitors come out on top today.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: VMI 81, The Citadel 68
11/10 10:32:34 ET
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