Game #9-023: Army vs. Virginia Military Institute KeydetsNovember 11, 2012 2:00 pm
College basketball's opening weekend happens to fall on Veteran's Day Weekend. Many of the promotions schools are doing have a military theme. Michigan State and UConn entertained military personnel at Ramstein Air Base in Germany whom otherwise might not get a chance to see college basketball live in person this season. Three games were scheduled on aircraft carriers before the teams involved learned that basketball was not designed as an outdoor sport. At the Winthrop game I was at Saturday
, the dance team threw on small camo basketballs into the crowd sponsored by the National Guard. But on this day of November 11, the traditional Veteran's Day celebrating the end of the first World War, the finals of the All-Military Classic would be held in Charleston. This was a tournament of four military schools: Air Force, Army, the Citadel, and VMI. Every Division I military school was invited with the exception of Navy, which will face arch-rival Army later in Patriot League action
.So the tournament would open with the games covered by Matt Cayuela on Saturday: Air Force-Army
. This first day would feature traditional rivals facing each other. Air Force and Army are both service academies that need a tournament like this to meet given the distance between the two academies. The Citadel and VMI are two regional military schools with a historic rivalry dating back to when they were both in the Southern Conference. Interestingly enough, as the VMI-Citadel basketball game was being played in Charleston the two schools were playing each other in American-style football in Lexington. Those games would lead to today's games of Army-VMI in the consolation game and Citadel-Air Force in the championship.
It is hard to imagine that the service academies are really engaged in a bitter rivalry with each other. Army and Navy fight for bragging rights between the services, but in the end their graduates are on the same team in defending the country. Army, Navy, Air Force, as well as the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academies who compete in Division III are all military schools that are operated by the Department of Defense for the training of officers. Each graduate receives a commission and must serve their country for a minimum time period. This mandatory service among graduates is why Navy's two best-known athletes in their history, Roger Staubach and David Robinson, had their professional careers delayed in order to fulfill their commissions. For a prospective recruit at a service academy, they are making much more than a commitment to a program. They are making a commitment to serve their country and put their life on the line after they graduate. The hard reality of what they are facing makes it difficult for these schools to just simply go out and pick the best athletes they can find. They have to find future officers in a particular armed service that also happens to be good at sports. The challenges these schools face and the commitment of their athletes earn these schools many supporters, yet few wins.
Yet the opponents of Army and Air Force today, VMI and the Citadel, are military schools with a less challenging dilemma. VMI and the Citadel prepare their cadets in a manner that will be useful for them in a military career. The cadets of these other military schools live a rigorous life that for most prospective athletes would be a turnoff as well. VMI and the Citadel are usually in most sports on average towards the bottom of the Big South and Southern Conference. These schools are smaller and have less money, and often as a result win even less than the service academies. But their cadets can also pursue other career options after they graduate. While the Citadel and VMI each have a large regional fan base bigger than that of most mid-majors, they also have their detractors as well which the service academies for the most art do not. When I was at the Citadel-Davidson game during Stephen Curry's last season in 2009, I heard a Davidson fan anxious about the Citadel's competitiveness wishing that Davidson would put the game away since the Citadel "wasn't even a real school". On the message board of Citadel rival College of Charleston, many C of C fans refer to the Citadel as a "faux-military school." Since I haven't lived in Virginia I do not know for sure, but I could imagine VMI gets similar criticism as well.
In the past I have also not been as fond of the less traditional military schools as well, viewing the Citadel and VMI as more defending Southern culture rather than the country. The Citadel still makes use of "Big Red", a red flag similar to the blue South Carolina state flag that was used when its cadets fired upon Fort Sumter to start the Civil War. As I mentioned in referencing Pat Conroy in my first recap
, many Citadel graduates displayed contempt for Conroy after the publishing of The Lords of Discipline
. Both the Citadel and VMI fought legal battles in an effort to continue to discriminate against women that ultimately failed. But as I have attended events involving these two schools, I have grown to have more respect for them. Most of their cadets and recent graduates are more removed from the past of their schools and are increasingly part of the New South. I attended a Citadel match this fall where cadets were screaming and going nuts in support of women's volleyball, which would have been unimaginable even 15 years ago. Women now are about 10 percent of the cadet population of the Citadel and VMI, not too far off the service academies. One Citadel graduate I have known from my internship work is one of those who considered a military career, but chose to go to graduate school instead when he did not get the commission he wanted in the service he wanted. One military member at a NCAA Regional in baseball I was at a couple years ago was rooting for the Citadel because he knew many Citadel graduates who were serving with him. The Citadel and VMI may not be traditional military schools, but rather military-style schools that prepare their cadets for a different set of career options upon graduating. All of the four schools in the All-Military Classic fill a special purpose.
ARMY 80, VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 74
In this first game between Army and VMI, not only were these two different types of military schools but also two different types of basketball teams. The Keydets like to run and score on transition opportunities, and focus their defense on creating turnovers. The Black Knights also like to run, but also try to play a halfcourt offense when needed and play a more conventional defense. To start the game, VMI controlled the pace. Both teams were coasting down the court and getting easy buckets, often uncontested. VMI had a slight lead most of the early part of the first half. But once Army changed the style of the game, they pulled out in front. The Black Knights shut down the looks VMI was getting, forcing the Keydets to change their game without access to easy baskets. VMI coach Duggar Baucom became visibly frustrated as his players fell behind ten points at the half after having started well.
Baucom was able to make adjustments to keep the game close. Army stopped getting easy shots, and VMI got their offense going again through Stan Okoye. I considered drafting Okoye in the fantasy draft only because VMI's NBA-style offense could potentially generate more stats for Okoye. And Okoye would put up great stats this game, shooting 4 for 5 on threes and scoring 31 points with eight rebounds. But while Okoye was the best player for the game, Army had the better team. And Army did everything a team needs to do as was discussed in Essay Season here. They took better shots, moved the ball better, and played better defense. It was these principles that would keep them ahead the whole second half even when the Keydets tried to mount a charge. Even with a few late baskets, Army would get the 80-74 win.
In this classic battle between Cadets and Keydets, the more conventional Black Knight Cadets from West Point would be the victors. But even though they do not face the same obligation as those from the United States Military Academy, the players of Virginia Military Institute could end up serving alongside their fellow cadets from Army. When the PA announcer in the second game this afternoon asked for military veterans to stand, about half of the male Citadel fans did so. The All-Military Classic achieves what those ill-fated games on aircraft carriers featuring big-name teams were hoping to achieve: to honor the armed services on Veterans' Day weekend, featuring players likely to be future veterans themselves. I do not always root for the Citadel and VMI, or even the service academies for that matter. But all of the schools here are deserving of our respect.
ARMY 1-1 (0-0) -- E. Ellis 6-11 6-8 19; J. Herbeck 3-14 3-4 11; M. Williams 4-4 2-3 10; J. Springer 2-3 1-2 5; D. Cox 3-4 1-1 8; K. Wilson 3-6 1-1 8; L. Toomey 2-4 0-0 5; M. Gramling 2-6 0-0 4; A. Stire 2-2 0-0 4; T. Plomb 1-4 2-2 4; M. Lenox 0-0 0-0 0; M. Washington 0-0 0-0 0; C. Gramling 0-0 0-0 0; K. Ferguson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 29-60 16-21 80.
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 0-2 (0-0) -- S. Okoye 11-21 3-7 29; N. Gore 5-10 2-2 14; R. Glasgow 3-8 0-0 7; B. Brown 1-8 0-0 2; T. Marshall 3-9 0-0 7; P. Anglade 2-8 3-7 7; D. Covington 1-5 1-1 3; G. Stephenson 2-4 0-0 5; J. Carr 0-0 0-0 0; C. Burton 0-0 0-0 0; J. Watson 0-0 0-0 0; D. Absher 0-0 0-0 0; D. Albritton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-74 9-17 74.
Three-point goals: ARMY 6-24 (E. Ellis 1-4; J. Herbeck 2-10; D. Cox 1-2; M. Gramling 0-2; T. Plomb 0-2; L. Toomey 1-2; K. Wilson 1-2), VMI 9-28 (S. Okoye 4-5; N. Gore 2-6; R. Glasgow 1-3; B. Brown 0-6; T. Marshall 1-6; G. Stephenson 1-2); Rebounds: ARMY 37 (J. Springer 5), VMI 38 (P. Anglade 14); Assists: ARMY 7 (M. Gramling 4), VMI 11 (R. Glasgow 6); Total Fouls -- ARMY 15, VMI 17; Fouled Out: ARMY-None; VMI-None.