Army hoops off to great start!

Break up the Black Knights. Army's men's basketball team is off to its best start since 1977-78 when Mike Krzyzewski coached on the banks of the Hudson. The Black Knights are 7-2 and have won four games in a row. Army is expected to make it five straight against Division III SUNY Purchase Saturday at West Point. The Black Knights follow that up with a game against Division III SUNY Purchase.

Coach Jim Crews' first four year may have been duds, but he always stayed the course, and now he's getting results. He hadn't won more than six games at Army before this season.

Now, it's possible that Army will put up its first winning season since Les Wothke's team went 16-13 in 1984-85. The Black Knights need eight wins in their last 19 games to pull it off. Army hasn't even won 10 games since 2001-02, but this team is charging to that mark. Not bad for a team that was predicted to finish last in the Patriot League preseason poll.

Army doesn't open league play until Jan. 6 at Colgate, but it seems safe to say: The Black Knights won't serve as the league doormat again. Army opened eyes early in the year, going 2-1 at the John Thompson Foundation Classic in Columbia Missouri.

Army beat Stetson 80-68, falling to Missouri 67-58, before beating North Carolina AT&T 63-49. Army erased all a 34-14 deficit, rallying to tie Missouri at 42 with 13:47 remaining.

A stingy defense and guards Jarrell Brown (18.8 points) per game and Matt Bell (15.2) have led the way for Army and freshmen are starting to chip in for the Black Knights. Freshman Chris Walker was named the Patriot League's "Rookie of the Week" last week. He averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Unlike other Crews' teams, this team believes it can win, and that will mean a lot when Army plays at Notre Dame and Michigan later this month. The Black Knights will enter as underdogs, but expect them to fight, scrap, maybe even pull of an upset.

Army's early surge has to make Crews, a winner as player at Indiana in the mid-1970s and as a coach at Evansville up until his arrival to West Point, pleased. He's caught heat for the last few years, partly because former Army athletic director Rick Greenspan hired him, and the team struggled.

But Crews stuck to his philosophies and why not? Most of them were formed while playing for Bob Knight at Indiana. But don't think Crews or his team is becoming complacent.

No way.

The Patriot League schedule will be difficult and challenging, but hey, the way this team's been playing in developing, maybe the men's team can treat Army fans to a special season.

The Black Knights are certainly off to a good start.


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