Second Basketball Scouting Report: Boston
The Army Black Knights know how their postseason will begin. West Point basketball will face the Bucknell Bison in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament next week in the 4-5 game, the most evenly matched quarterfinal on the docket. Army's two wins over sixth-place Lehigh mean that the Black Knights can't fall to sixth place. Army's two losses to Holy Cross mean that coach Zach Spiker's team can't rise to third.
Should Army not try hard tonight against conference-leading Boston? No. The Black Knights can and should put forth a vigorous effort. Yet, it's plainly foolish to claim that this game is extremely important for Army. It simply isn't. Beating Boston a week from now in a Patriot League semifinal (or final, if American somehow slips past the Terriers for first place) is the key, provided that Army can handle Bucknell first. Reduced effort? No, that shouldn't be part of Army's mindset or approach. What the Black Knights can do, though, is to play more of their reserves and begin to give their starters fresh legs for the conference tournament gauntlet.
BOSTON UNIVERSITY AT-A-GLANCE
The Terriers had won seven of their last eight games and five in a row to move past American University for the Patriot League lead, but all that work seemed to catch up to BU this past Sunday against Bucknell. Playing at home, the Terriers just didn't have any mustard on their fastball. They hit just 32 percent of their field goal attempts in a 10-point loss to the improving Bison. Boston still leads American by a game heading into the final two collisions of the regular season. The Terriers need this win far more than Army does. Remember: The regular season champion of a one-bid (small) league gets an automatic berth in the NIT if it fails to win the conference tournament. This game matters a lot for Boston.
Forward – Dom Morris – Senior, 6-7, 240 2013-14: 11.2 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game
Morris's performances in the past few weeks have witness slight downticks in production. Morris is one of two seniors in the starting five. His teammates and coaches need him to answer the call in these next two weeks, the most important ones in his BU career.
Forward – Nathan Dieudonne – Sophomore, 6-7, 210; 2013-14: 5.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg
Dieudonne's identity won't change – he's going to be the no-glory laborer on defense and the boards. Don't attach an assessment of his value to numerical totals, chiefly his point production. That's not what he's about.
Guard – John Papale – Sophomore, 6-3, 190; 2013-14: 9.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.2 assists per game
Papale has enjoyed a good run near the end of the season. He tossed in 20 points against Loyola (Maryland) on Feb. 15 and is showing signs of becoming a more reliable shooter. Army knows Papale is not BU's main scoring option, but if the Terriers can get a stronger third or fourth scorer, they're going to be a tough out next week in the league tournament.
Guard – D.J. Irving – Senior, 6-0, 165; 2013-14: 12.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.2 steals per game
Irving, as the other senior in the starting five, has to elevate his game. If seniors don't play with the (healthy form of) desperation which accompanies the awareness of these fleeting and precious moments in a life and a collegiate career, teams generally don't get where they need to go. Army, in turn, must recognize that Irving will be supremely motivated to perform well.
Guard – Maurice Watson, Jr. – Sophomore, 5-10, 165; 2013-14: 13.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.7 apg, 2.2 steals per game
Watson's assist and steal numbers have slightly improved over the past three weeks. He continues to be that all-point player who can affect a game in so many ways for the Terriers.
Keys to the Game
1) Take a more holistic approach on defense. Army, if it should meet Boston in the Patriot League Tournament, can focus on taking away the Terriers' foremost options. This should be a game in which the Black Knights try to play as much basic defense as possible, seeing what players can do in isolation situations. Testing players' instincts and reactions is part of the process of "gathering information" for the bigger (potential) reunion with the Terriers next week, the one that really matters. Let's say this much: The way Army attacks Boston's offense in this game should not closely resemble the way the Black Knights approach BU next week. Simplify the game plan this time around, because a more complicated plan will be needed if Army can make the Patriot League semifinals or final.
2) Play the bench and tinker with combinations. The bench usually gets shortened in postseason play, but regardless of whether Spiker wants to do that or not, he should definitely be interested in resting his starters for next week, since Army's position in the Patriot League Tournament bracket is now fixed (even though the seeding, 4 or 5, is still up in the air).
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