After starting off the season with a 3-0 record, the Texas Longhorns prepare to take on The Citadel Bulldogs. On Friday evening, head coach Shaka Smart, the Longhorns, and the rest of us can finally see the answer to this question — what would happen if you took the sort of kids you could convince to attend a military college in South Carolina and had them play like Bo Kimble, Hank Gathers (may he rest in peace), and the 1990 Loyola Marymount Lions?
Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom has been chasing this idea for a decade — he was driven to it by desperation. Coach Baucom’s backstory is interesting; he was a North Carolina State Trooper with a heart condition who was forced to find a lower stress occupation. He ended up as a Division I basketball coach; I bet the doctors were pissed.
While Baucom was serving and protecting the good people of the Tar Heel State, he was also moonlighting as a high school basketball coach. But when his health sent him chasing a new career, he went to college and got a degree. The pull of the court must have been strong, and a great opportunity opened up. Baucom’s first job after graduating was on the staff of another former high school coach — Bob McKillop at Davidson. If you are going to go and learn from someone, it might as well be from the best.
After a few stops as an assistant and two seasons as the head coach of a Division II program, Baucom landed his first D-I head coaching gig at the Virginia Military Institute. After some early struggles, Baucom decided to try something a little bold and very crazy. Neo-Westheadian hoops, based on the strategic bet of shooting as soon as possible in every possession (shooting before a turnover occurred) and pressing full court on every possession (trying to increase opponent turnovers) was born. Nothing else mattered. Fans of weird basketball had a new team to watch.
The wildest part of this whole story is that the plan actually worked. I want to emphasize something rather important to this story — VMI is a tough place to win. The first year of running and gunning, the Keydets won 14 games, which was the highest win total in about a decade. The second season they won 14 games again. Then in year three (the 2008-2009 season) VMI won 24 games (the second highest total in school history) and finished in second place in the Big South Conference. Baucom would go on to become the all-time leader in coaching wins at VMI, and has the highest career win percentage of any VMI basketball coach who has worked since the Prohibition Era.
At the start of the 2015-2016 season, Baucom moved to The Citadel. It is now his fourth season in Charleston, and the basketball is as weird as ever. So weird. The Bulldogs have a 2-1 record, with a loss to Clemson (by a 100-80 score) and two wins over non D-I programs where Baucom’s men put up 148 points and 137 points, respectively.
Games involving The Citadel tend to involve high scores for both teams, simply because they have more possessions than virtually all other games in college basketball. A typical D-I game contains around 70 possessions. The average Citadel game has around 80. That is the average, which includes a lot of games against teams that want to slow things down. When the Bulldogs play against a team that also desires to play fast — teams like the Longhorns — 90 possession games are a realistic expectation, and team scores that cross the triple-digit threshold are common. Given the Longhorns recent offensive struggles this may seem mind-blowing, but Texas scoring over 100 points in Friday’s game is absolutely in play. Even better is that everyone will get up a some shots and get a good cardio session in.
The game tips in Austin at 7 p.m. Central, and airs on the Longhorn Network.