The Virginia Military Institute is famous for many reasons. General Stonewall Jackson was a professor there, many of their cadets fought at the Battle of Cold Harbor, and it's the alma mater of such highly regarded individuals as General George Marshall and comedian Mel Brooks.
However, they've never been able to translate this success into the realm of sports outside of an Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen appearance for the men's basketball team, in 1976 and 1977 respectively. 1977 also happens to be the last year that the Keydets made the NCAA tournament.
New head coach, Duggar Baucom, has created several successful teams that have come close in recent years, and it looks like this year might finally be his chance to do something really special. With the talent he has assembled for this coming year, he just might be able to lead the Keydets into the NCAA tournament.
How, you may ask, will this happen? Coach Baucom has had great teams in the past, with Reggie Williams and Chavis and Travis Holmes dominating on the court. His teams traditionally are at or near the top in scoring average for NCAA basketball but always come up short. They even beat Kentucky at Lexington, 111-103 in November 2008, but that year, they once again came up just short in the championship game, losing to Radford in the Big South Tournament championship game.
Despite losing twins Chavis and Travis Holmes after that tournament loss, the Keydets were still able to keep themselves competitive the past two years. They had a winning season last year, something that was a rarity before Coach Baucom. Not only that, but the only major player they lost from last year's 18-13 team that went 10-8 in conference play, is Austin Kenon.
While Kenon was the leading scorer of last year's team, VMI always seems to be able to replace scoring. What they truly needed was some talented big men. Luckily for this year's squad, it looks like they will have that. 6'9" Sophomore forward, D.J. Covington, who last year was the team's third leading scorer with almost 10 ppg will be better developed this year, and with last year's second leading scorer forward, Stan Okoye, it looks like VMI will finally have a good front court to go with the always stellar back court.
I believe that with Baucom's high powered offense being led by Covington and Okoye, VMI will finally make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the magical 1977 season. Coach Baucom also recently signed an extension through 2015, and with him at the helm this might be the beginning of the best period of time in VMI basketball history.