There are several reasons why The Citadel’s basketball team is off to a 1-4 start against Division I competition heading into Saturday’s game at Gardner-Webb. But the most glaring reason jumps off the stat page.
Teams are shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point range against the Bulldogs, a figure that ranks last in the Southern Conference and 329th out of 345 D-I teams according to NCAA stats.
More damaging, foes are trying 24.5 3-pointers per game against the Bulldogs, by far the highest number in the SoCon. As my man @sandlapperspike recently pointed out on his blog, D-I teams are taking 47.6 percent of their shots against The Citadel from 3-point range, the second-highest ratio in the nation.
In other words, shooters’ eyes are lighting up when they see the Dogs’ 2-3 zone.
No question, The Citadel’s early schedule has featured teams that rely heavily on the 3-pointer. Air Force (9.3, 7th), VMI (8.9, 12th), UNCG (8.9, 14th) and Charleston Southern (8.6, 19th) all rank in the top 19 in the country in 3-point baskets per game.
That begs the chicken-and-egg question: Are those teams making so many 3-pointers because they are great shooting teams, or because they’ve all played the Bulldogs?
Sooner or later, coach Chuck Driesell would like to think, a team’s going to have an off night from 3-point range against the Bulldogs — or, at least, just an average night (SoCon squads are averaging 34.9 percent from 3-point range, well below the 40.1 percent Citadel foes are shooting). Last year, D-I teams shot 34.23 percent on 3-point tries.
The Bulldogs mixed more man-to-man into their formula against CSU, to no effect, and Driesell says his team simply must improve at its base 2-3 zone. In the CSU game, the Bucs made the 2-3 zone look soft and passive, especially in comparison with their own aggressive, trapping defense.
The good news is that the Bulldogs’ next string of foes — Gardner-Webb, St. Bonaventure, Georgia Tech and Clemson — have not relied nearly as much on the 3-pointer this season as the first five opponents.
In 3-pointers per game, G-Webb ranks No. 284 (4.7 per game), St. Bonaventure No. 148 (6.4), Georgia Tech No. 264 (5.0) and Clemson No. 254 (5.1). As a group, those teams are averaging just 30.7 percent on 3-pointers.
Of course, all those games are on the road, and each of those teams has other advantages over the Bulldogs. But if they also torch The Citadel from long range, we’ll know a little bit more about the 3-pointer and the egg.