Canisius vs. VMI gameday 3/18/14 (CIT first round)

By Nick Veronica

Canisius hosts Virginia Military Institute at 7 p.m. tonight in the first round of the Postseason Tournament.

The teams: Canisius Golden Griffins: 21-12 overall, 14-6 MAAC (4th), 9-3 home. RPI: 98, BPI: 140, Kenpom: 110.

VMI Keydets: 19-12, 11-5 Big South (2nd in North division), 5-9 road. RPI: 220, BPI: 218, Kenpom: 219.

Demystifying VMI: The Keydets are the highest-scoring team in the country, averaging 87.7 points per game. But don’t worry about that. The Keydets are much less scary when you look deeper into their stats.

For starters, VMI scores a lot because it plays at a fast pace, not because its offense is super efficient or abnormally adept at making baskets. VMI’s adjusted tempo is the third-highest in the country, according to Kenpom, but its shooting percentage is 186th and its adjusted offensive efficiency is 142nd. Canisius shoots field goals at a better rate and averages more points per possession than VMI.

Secondly, you have look at who VMI was playing. Its four highest-scoring games of the year came against Washington College (Division III), Bluefield State (Division II), Bridgewater (D-III) and Virginia University of Lynchburg (non-NCAA). VMI did score more than 100 points against four Division I teams, but if you take out these four non D-I opponents, VMI’s scoring average falls to 83.2, which would drop it to fifth nationally, behind Iona.

Plus, it’s not like VMI’s defense is very efficient, either. Kenpom ranks the Keydets’ defense 291st-most efficient in the country, and only three teams give up more points per game. (And if you exclude the non-Division I opponents, VMI’s scoring defense falls another place, below Niagara.)

What’s a Keydet? Apparently the same thing as a cadet, if you believe

Players to watch: Despite VMI’s lack of efficiency on a per-possession basis, its players still put the ball through the hoop frequently, which should make for an entertaining game. Freshman guard QJ Peterson leads the team at 19.4 points per game. Senior forward D.J. Covington scores 18.7 ppg and, at 6-foot-9, leads the team in rebounding at 9.4 per game. Guard Rodney Glasgow averages 18.4 ppg and adds 5.6 assists. (I don’t know why D.J. has dots but QJ doesn’t. That’s how their roster has it.)

Milestones: A win would give Canisius 22 wins on the season, matching the school record set in 1994 and 1957. … With 19 points and seven assists in the postseason, Billy Baron can become just the second player in school history with 1,400 points, 350 assists and 300 rebounds. … Chris Manhertz is 14 rebounds shy of 800 for his career, which only three players in school history have accomplished. … Canisius has already set the school record for most points in a season.

With a win: Canisius or VMI will advance to the second round of the CIT and will have to await a pairing with a (relatively) nearby school. Bracket play doesn’t start until the third round. Canisius would be on the road for Round Two, and personally I’d be interested to see the Griffs play a MAC team (full CIT schedule).

Wild card: VMI is, obviously, a military school. Check out the headshots on their athletics site. Pretty badass. Plus, their coach is a little scary.

No live blog today but check Twitter for updates during the game. I’ll have reactions and postgame interviews up shortly after the buzzer.