Army-Navy Basketball Preview

As Army and Navy prepare to meet again on a slab of hardwood this season, the backdrop to this reunion is strikingly similar to the context which surrounded the first clash between the Black Knights and the Midshipmen.


When Army played Navy on Jan. 11, the Black Knights had averaged 85 points in their previous three games. Navy had just lost to Boston University, scoring only 32 points. Anyone and everyone with an interest in Army-Navy basketball was wondering, "How will Navy find enough points to win?" The only question from Army's perspective was, "Will the Black Knights maintain their poise and not fall off the ledge?" Navy's defense dragged Army down to the 60-point mark and pulled the Black Knights into a slower pace that created a very competitive game. However, the Midshipmen weren't able to score with the regularity they needed. Army steadied itself just enough to walk away with a 60-55 triumph in Annapolis.

As these teams reunite four weeks later, what has changed? Very little. Army has averaged 75.5 points in its last four games, miles beyond Navy's season-long 60-points-per-game average. Navy is once again coming off a loss to Boston University. The Midshipmen scored 16 points more than they did in their first matchup with the Terriers. However, since 32 points set such a low bar, that still meant the Mids didn't even hit 50. They fell to BU by a 61-48 score, and so once again, "How will Navy score?" is the dominant question heading into a Midshipmen-Black Knight roundball rumble. It's a neat and tidy inversion of these teams' football histories in recent years.

Army holds the cards and the firepower in this matchup. The Black Knights want to fend off Holy Cross for the third seed in the Patriot League Tournament. Winning this game is an essential part of that project, especially since Army goes to Worcester, Mass., next Wednesday to face the caped Crusaders, who are just one game behind the Black Knights in the league standings.

The only profound difference between the setup for the Jan. 11 Army-Navy basketball game and the backdrop to this rematch is that Army is the host. Home-court advantage in Annapolis gave Navy the extra measure of energy it needed to keep pace with Army for 40 minutes. The Black Knights now get to welcome the Midshipmen to West Point, stacking the odds against the visiting team.

The equation hasn't really changed for Navy since the last time it faced Army. Coach Ed DeChellis – tapping into his bag of tricks from the Penn State portion of his career – would love to engineer a 38-33 upset akin to what he did at times with the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten. (Penn State beat Illinois by that score during DeChellis's tenure in State College. PSU beat Wisconsin by a 36-33 count in a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal under DeChellis's defense-first approach.)

Army coach Zach Spiker – knowing that Navy has to make this game ugly in order to win – must keep his players focused on the need to keep their legs moving, and to perform various actions (screens, cuts, dribbles, passes) not for their own sake, but to break down Navy's defense at every possible moment. Top Stories