In ancient times, the citadel—literally, "little city"—was located at the heart of cities in great civilizations, built as the last line of fortified defense against invading armies. It was designed to be impenetrable, to withstand any attack.
Things have, uhh, changed in the last few millennia. The Citadel, home of the Bulldogs, has proven to be a little more generous to its foes this college basketball season. They rank just 349th in scoring defense across all of NCAA Division I hoops, giving up just shy of 90 points per game.
It's not all bad down in South Carolina, however. The Bulldogs are 5-6 on the year, having played a schedule featuring much bigger, better-funded schools like Florida State and Virginia Tech. They have a top-15 scoring offense, too.
Still, there's been some tough sledding for head coach Duggar Baucom and his team. After opening the season 3-2, they've dropped below .500, and the schedule doesn't look any kinder as they travel to Columbus to take on the 9-3 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Looking toward the other bench, it's been a gem of a year for new coach Chris Holtmann and his guys. They've won four straight games, including two against conference foes Michigan and Wisconsin, and are on something of a relaxing stretch before they have to face No. 7 UNC: their last two wins have come over William & Mary and Appalachian State, and The Citadel doesn't figure to put up much more of a struggle than either of those two did.
Led by Jae'Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes are an exciting team once more. The real tests start in earnest in a few days; in the meantime, Ohio State gets one more contest to iron out the kinks and make the bench a little stronger.
Numbers to know
The Citadel is averaging just under three blocks per game, which sits them at No. 231 nationally. The Bulldogs' inability to stop shots inside is a big part of why they've been so easy to score on this season. The bleeding probably won't stop against an Ohio State team whose leading scorer is 6'7 Keita Bates-Diop, who also makes his free throws at an 82.5% clip, in case they get any ideas about running a hack-a-KBD defense.
Despite the aforementioned generosity of the Bulldogs' defense, their offense has managed to almost completely keep pace. They're scoring 89.3 points per game, breaking the 100-point mark in five of 11 games this season, and have three different starters who average better than 40% shooting from deep. They might not find as much room to maneuver as they'd like against a Buckeye team allowing just 67.3 points per contest, but the potential is there.
One consistent struggle for the Buckeye offense has been ball security. They've coughed up 165 turnovers in their 12 games this season, putting them all the way down at 285th nationally in that category. It likely won't matter against a team they can outgun, but that's a stat that'll need to be cleaned up before they face the likes of UNC and Michigan State.
Cast of characters
The do-it-all Buckeye guard is one of the most complete players wearing the Scarlet and Gray this season. He's in the top three on the team in points, minutes, assists, steals, free throw percentage, and three-point percentage. That combination of talents has come in handy: he scored 23 points against Stanford a few weeks ago in a game where the rest of the team totaled just 56, making four of his six attempts from deep in that one. At just 6'1, 175 lbs., Jackson isn't a physical force on the court, but he can take over games nonetheless.
Wesson, a freshman power forward, has already proven himself to be an impact player at the college level. At 6'9, he's a matchup problem, especially for a team like The Citadel that has struggled to contain big scorers inside. The advanced stats like Wesson, too: while he eats up the second-highest usage rate on the team, he makes the most of those possessions, posting the second-highest offensive rating and the third-best effective field goal percentage on the Buckeye squad.
Simmons, a 6'0 freshman guard, has been the Bulldogs' most prolific scorer since the dismissal of Preston Parks from the team in late November. Despite this, Simmons averages just shy of 23 minutes on the floor per game—part of the deep, bench-building effort of coach Duggar Baucom. Seven Bulldogs play 14 minutes a game or more, but none play more than 23. This high level of rest also lets Simmons and co. play aggressive, high-tempo basketball, resulting in their absurd 12.0 steals per game stat. (Simmons himself gets 1.5 of those.)
Listed as a guard, Johnson stands an impressive 6'8, which certainly helps bolster his block numbers, the highest on the team in 2017. Johnson isn't a prolific scorer, tallying just about five points per game, but he makes his presence felt in other facets despite limited playing time: he's the Bulldogs' leading rebounder and has the best FG% of anyone on the team. Just a freshman, Johnson still has plenty of room to grow as a player, which should worry opponents in the years to come.
How to watch
Game time: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 97.1 The Fan