Thursday, October 30, 2014

VMI Preview: Back in the SoCon Fold, Where They Belong

From now until November 7, each business day, a Scanning the SoCon representative will write a
preview of their team. Today, Shelton Moss from Running the Block will take a look at VMI in their return season to the SoCon.

At long last, Keydet fans, the dawn of the 2014–15 basketball season is upon us, and for those in Lexington as well as everywhere in the college hoops world, we are looking forward to the start of the another year. Given the lackluster performance of our football and soccer counterparts at the Institute, Runnin' Roos basketball may provide some much needed solace this winter in the cozy confines of Cameron Hall.
Of course VMI is just six months removed from one of the greatest seasons in program history, a 22-win campaign which included, after a devastating Big South tournament semifinal loss, three wins in the Tournament (CIT). It was the first tournament appearance in 37 years for the school, and should find a comfortable spot in Keydet lore. The succeeding off-season seemed to be rather quick, because, well, it was: by making it to the CIT semifinals VMI became the first team in Big South to play in the month of April and provided a March that Keydet fans will never forget.

But enough about the Big South, CIT, and 2013. The future is now, and that's what we're here to talk about. Despite the loss of powerful big-man D.J. Covington and sharpshooting guard Rodney Glasgow, the Keydets return several names worthy of mentioning, the first of course being the dynamic sophomore guard QJ Peterson. As a freshman, Peterson averaged 19 points per game on 40% shooting and had three 30+ point games. If he can get to the free throw line more, Peterson can be a huge threat to any SoCon defense. Other key players will be seniors Jordan Weethee and Brian Brown, who both averaged slightly under 7 PPG last season. Additionally, junior Tim Marshall shot 35% from behind the arc, and Phillip Anglade, along with sophomore Craig Hinton, will receive more playing time.

There will also be two new faces on Post this season. Originally, three players were recruited by Coach Baucom. Unfortunately, point guard Jon Elmore, sought after by twenty-two Division I schools, including some in the Atlantic-10 and ACC, transferred out, along with his brother, Ot, just two weeks before opening tip off. This leaves the Keydets with just two Rats: forward Armani Branch, a 6-foot-7 stud from Hampton, Virginia and Fred Iruafemi rounding out the Rat class for VMI.
The schedule for this year is certainly a daunting one. Kicking off with the fourth (and presumably last) installation of the All-Military Classic hosted at West Point's Christl Arena, VMI plays two non-conference home games of interest: UNC Wilmington (Nov. 22), and Marist (Dec. 13). Both are return games from previous years. The Keydets also face four teams from power conferences: Virginia Tech of the ACC, Maryland of the Big Ten, West Virginia of the Big XII, and George Washington of the A-10. The schedule is road-heavy in the first two months, but evens out by February. Saturday conference home games include match-ups with ETSU, The Citadel, Wofford and Samford for Senior Day.

With no true post-presence under the basket, VMI will be relying heavy on smart play and accurate shooting from its guards. The loss of Covington only adds to our lack of height, so rebounding must be a team effort. With that said, predicting 2014-15 is a coin-flip. Our talent at the guard position is a threat, but a lack of size and experience may diminish our chances of a post-season run in Asheville.
Prediction: 17–12 (11–7 SoCon), 4th place

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