The Army-Navy football game has been a mainstay in part because of its neutral and often high-end location and on Saturday the basketball game between the two schools follows suit. Army will host Navy at Madison Square Garden in New York, the most famous arena in sports. This will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools at this most prestigious of venues and this seems to be a fitting season for the game to take place with both Army and Navy being contenders for the Patriot League crown.
Here is a look at the three keys for the Black Knights to beat the Midshipmen:
1. Cover the weaknesses
It looks more and more likely that both Tanner Plomb (knee) and Kevin Ferguson (ankle) will miss this clash having both missed the previous two Army games with injuries. Injuries to stars will hurt any team, but Army is not hugely deep and the team is clearly missing the leading scorer (Plomb) and rebounder (Ferguson) in the Patriot League. For Army to win this game the team must rally around the play of Kyle Wilson who has to get his shot going again. Wilson has been horrible from the field in the last two games and Army needs his three ball to be back on point if the team has any shot at beating a streaking Navy unit.
2. Stay away from Will Kelly
If Plomb and Ferguson do make the lineup then their battle with Navy center Will Kelly would be fascinating to watch. Navy is 12th in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 61.7 points per game, with the play of Kelly being a major reason for that. Kelly is fourth in NCAA in total blocks (57) and ninth in blocks per game (2.9). When Kelly isn't getting a clean block he is almost always altering the way a shooter or a driver attacks the basket, leading to missed shots and rebound opportunities for himself or his teammates. With backups in at the big men spots the Black Knights would be wise to stay out of the lane if Kelly is home and attack the basket more on fast break opportunities than in their half court sets.
3. Overcome the occasion
Any way you look at it, this is a huge game for both teams. Seeding in the Patriot League Tournament means more to both Army and Navy this year as, without injury-depleted rosters, both would think of themselves and Bucknell as the favorites to take the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament from the league. Throw in the fact that this has been designated as the men's basketball Star Game AND that it is being played at The Garden and you have an occasion that could easily overwhelm. If Army adapts to the unique challenges of this game and this situation then the Black Knights will have a shot.