Game #9-026: Air Force vs. The Citadel BulldogsNovember 11, 2012 4:00 pm
After the consolation game of the All-Military Classic
, it was time to crown a champion. The visiting U.S. Air Force Academy would take on host Citadel, with the winner being crowned All-Military Classic champions as possibly the best military school at basketball in the country (although Navy might argue that having not been included in the tournament). The winner would receive the trophy Matt Cayuela had seen the day before. But with many other multi-team events, how meaningful is it to win the championship? Winning a MTE is a good early sign for many teams, but in most cases is not a major accomplishment when reviewing the season unless there is little other success.
When I was in high school, there were several trophy cases in every corner of the cafeteria. When I first saw those cases, I expected the trophies to be of state championships, at least conference titles. But on closer inspection, many of the trophies had labels like, "Silver Fox Invitational Runner-up". I remember attending a high school basketball game on Christmas vacation to Illinois one year where my dad's old high school carried off a trophy for winning the consolation bracket of a holiday tournament played at SIU Arena in Carbondale. When you think of prestigious awards your school will display, this is not what most thinks of.
Multi-team events are very common in other sports as well. Volleyball in particular holds quite a few. At a volleyball tournament where I saw the final session coming out of a football game this past Labor Day Weekend, the winning team was given a trophy of a large wooden surfing board (which did not make sense given that the tournament was played over 100 miles inland). Most non-conference matches in volleyball are usually held during one of these MTEs. Baseball holds them as well, particularly early in the season at resort areas along the coast. Soccer often holds MTEs where only two games are played by each team on the weekend and there is no true champion of the event. The Myrtle Beach hotel industry often relies on MTEs at the high school and college level to keep the hotels full outside of peak tourism season.
And often that is what is driving these multi-team events: generating money for the tourism industry with events paid for by corporate sponsors. This is why in American-style football bowl games still exist in place of an actual national championship playoff system that every other sport has. For those of us doing projects where we are trying to get in many games like Kyle did in the past and those of participating now are doing, these events are great. It also helps the teams involved get to meet and play teams they likely would never face elsewhere. This was even the case with two local schools in USC Upstate and Wofford in the Charleston Classic a couple years ago. It allows for more opportunities to make an early season statement and multiple games that only count once towards scheduling limits. But like a lot of other things in Our Game, multi-team events are mostly about money.
That is most likely not as much the case with the All-Military Classic, a tournament designed to showcase the basketball teams of Division I's military schools. But even here the tournament operated differently from a normal Citadel home game in order to get more money. For one, all tickets were $20, while most Citadel home games are $10 for general admission. You are still paying only $10 a game, but you won't be getting two games for the price of one here. And if you are a Citadel fan just wanting to see your team play Air Force, you will be paying more than you should. Perhaps the tournament organizers were counting on the large military presence in the Charleston community and the excitement from the ill-fated Carrier Classic to get big crowds at McAlister Field House. But perhaps due to more interest in football among the military schools' fan bases or because of the $20 tickets, the crowd was even less than most Citadel games which aren't well attended to begin with. I thought at the VMI-Army game that the small crowd would surely fill in with the Citadel game up next. But instead the crowd merely shifted from the bleachers behind the team benches to the chair seats where the season ticket holders sit. Aside from some traveling with the Air Force team behind their bench, I was practically the only one in the bleachers. Not even many cadets from the Citadel showed up to watch their Bulldogs play on a Sunday afternoon. This picture was taken at halftime of this Citadel-Air Force game.
But despite the small crowd, there would be a high-quality basketball game to be played. As Matt Cayuela mentioned in his recap
, Air Force is in the Mountain West and a Citadel win here would be considered a Red Line Upset, just as a victory by Division III Colorado College two years ago was considered here to be a Stendhal over the Falcons. I know the reasons behind the Red Line, but Air Force should not have any more advantages than their Patriot League rivals in Army and Navy. All three service academies recruit not because of conference affiliation but rather based on getting athletes who wish to enter the military in a particular armed service. Air Force is only in the Mountain West for football reasons and as a geographical fit. Perhaps they might be a better fit in the WAC, a conference below the Red Line that sponsors FBS football. None of the three academies are included in the OPE report that goes into the Red Line math since their budgets are tied into defense spending rather than education spending. But they most likely have the benefit of having more financial resources than most mid-majors with more students and a successful alumni base, even if recruiting is much harder.
AIR FORCE 77, THE CITADEL 70
So the Bulldogs were underdogs in this battle, even if not as much as you would expect them to be against a school above the Red Line. Early in the game, Air Force would have a slight edge. In contrast with VMI, Air Force has in the past been successful when they are best at defense and controlling the ball. And the Falcons were able to do just that, limiting the amount of touches Citadel big man Mike Groselle could have. The Bulldogs were never able to get out and attack with a fastbreak offense like what was seen in the first game. But neither could Air Force, and eventually the Citadel used their slight size advantage to create opportunities to get back in the game and take a 2 point halftime lead on a buzzer-beater that was initially called a three but was changed to a two upon review.
In the second half, it was not defense but rather great shooting that would help get Air Force going again. The Citadel also picked up their shooting, but Air Force was able to drop a bombardment of long-range three pointers on the Citadel to beat back any chance of a Red Line Upset. While Groselle had another good game, it was another Mike in Michael Lyons of Air Force who kept getting buckets all game long to finish with over 30 points as Air Force took the All-Military Classic with a 77-70 win. Lyons would receive MVP recognition after the game.
Multi-team events may not always be prestigious championships. And while Air Force gets the honor of being the champion of the military schools this weekend, a Mountain West title and/or NCAA bid would be a much bigger step for the program. Yet among early season games this was quite meaningful, and Air Force was able to take a trophy back to Colorado Springs.
AIR FORCE 2-0 (0-0) -- T. Fletcher 1-3 0-0 3; T. Broekhuis 1-4 1-2 3; M. Lyons 11-16 4-5 33; M. Fitzgerald 2-6 3-4 8; K. Green 4-9 6-6 18; M. Yon 4-6 0-0 10; M. Olesinski 1-2 0-0 2; C. Michael 0-2 0-0 0; D. Earls 0-0 0-0 0; K. Williams 0-1 0-0 0; T. Coggins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-49 14-17 77.
THE CITADEL 1-1 (0-0) -- M. Groselle 6-11 5-6 17; M. Harris III 0-4 2-2 2; L. Miller 6-9 2-2 20; C. Bray 6-7 0-0 14; Q. Marshall 3-4 0-0 6; M. Van Scyoc 0-2 0-0 0; A. Moore 3-5 1-4 7; D. Setzekorn 0-1 2-2 2; S. Elmore 0-0 0-0 0; J. Jenkins 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-44 12-16 70.
Three-point goals: AFA 15-34 (M. Fitzgerald 1-3; T. Fletcher 1-3; M. Lyons 7-12; K. Green 4-9; T. Broekhuis 0-1; M. Yon 2-4; C. Michael 0-2), CITA 8-20 (C. Bray 2-3; M. Harris 0-3; L. Miller 6-9; A. Moore 0-1; D. Setzekorn 0-1; Q. Marshall 0-1; M. Van Scyoc 0-2); Rebounds: AFA 15 (M. Lyons 3), CITA 27 (M. Groselle 8); Assists: AFA 14 (T. Fletcher 5), CITA 14 (M. Harris 5); Total Fouls -- AFA 15, CITA 17; Fouled Out: AFA-None; CITA-None.