If it was not obvious already then it is becoming perfectly clear that this Army basketball team will only go as far as the Black Knights two injured starters can take them. With Tanner Plomb and Kevin Ferguson still out with their knee and ankle injuries the Black Knights dropped another winnable Patriot league game, this time to Boston University on Wednesday night. The Black Knights have 33 points, 14 rebounds and a block per game sitting on the bench unable to go. This is very problematic, especially with conference leaders Bucknell next on the docket.
Here is a look at the three keys for the Black Knights to run with the Bison:
1. Stop Chris Hass
This game is the first in the second half of the Patriot League season, so from this point onward the Black knights will have already faced off against each team once this season. Army played Bucknell back on January 2 and lost 84-76. In that game Chris Hass, who averages a team high 18.5 points on any given night, simply exploded. Hass torched Army for 40 points, shooting 69-percent from the field and 83-percent from the free throw line. Hass was also 4-of-6 from three point range as he completely took over the game. Needless to say with the Black Knights injury issues they cannot allow Hass to have a night like that again and expect to keep up.
2. Slow the game down
When Army is at full strength the team can run with Bucknell and trade basket for basket with the Bison. The obvious issue right now is that the Black Knights are far from full strength and Bucknell is healthy. Ken Pomeroy ranks Army 19th in adjusted tempo while Bucknell is 31st. This measures a team’s possessions per 40 minutes against an averaged paced team. The Bison have scored at least 80 points in 11 of their 20 games this season (including 98 in one outing against Holy Cross) and Army simply cannot keep pace with that. Thus the Black Knights must milk the play clock and slow the tempo, something the team is not used to doing, to deny Bucknell the chance to put up their average number of points.
3. Keep Bucknell off of the foul line
This should come as no surprise given that the Bison are in first place in the Patriot League, but Bucknell does all the little things right. One of those little things is the amount of times per game that the team gets to the free throw line and how many of those charity shots they knock down. Bucknell ranks 17th nationally in free throws made (382) and 21st nationally in free throw attempts (525). With 20 games having been played so far this season on average the Bison shoot 26 free throws per game and hit 19 of them. Army has to keep up solid defensive pressure without fouling and putting the Bison in the bonus if the Black Knights are to have a shot.