Basketball Scouting Report: Colgate

The Navy Midshipmen, bereft of high-quality scoring options, are playing the rugged defense they need to play in order to remain competitive. Can this team continue to follow the Ed DeChellis template to the letter?


Navy really does have the right coach to guide it through a season in which points are going to be hard to come by. Ed DeChellis, it is worth remembering, steered Penn State to the 2011 NCAA Tournament in part because his Nittany Lions were able to hold Wisconsin to 33 points in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Penn State also defeated Illinois, 38-33, in a 2009 game, as a younger group of Lions worked their way to the NIT championship. DeChellis knows what it's like to lean on defense when scoring punch exists in short supply. As a result, it should not be too surprising that Navy has allowed an average of under 60 points in its last stretch of three games. This is why the Midshipmen are hanging in the Patriot League race and have a really good chance to move to 3-3 in the conference.

This Saturday game against Colgate is one the Midshipmen – fresh off their conquest of Bucknell on Wednesday night – should be able to handle. However, as much as Navy is thriving thanks to its defense right now, the other side of the coin has to be brought into the discussion: When a team finds a defensive groove and manages to win a low-scoring game against a backdrop of offensive scarcity, it is operating with a low margin for error. Navy might indeed have the right formula for winning games without Tilman Dunbar, but any slight regression on defense could lead to a shift in fortunes, one that won't treat the Midshipmen very kindly. It's not as though this team will win by large spreads in its present state; Navy is now built to win 60-56 grinders, not 81-62 runaways. The Midshipmen have to remain finely focused if they're going to continue to beat the vulnerable teams in the Patriot League.

COLGATE AT-A-GLANCE

Coach Matt Langel is scrambling for answers on a team that's 0-5 in the Patriot League. Colgate doesn't possess a lot of depth, making it precisely the kind of team Navy can counter. The starting five does almost all the work, and hardly any reserves are able to keep this team afloat when a starter needs a breather. Injuries to senior guard Pat Moore, who hasn't played since Jan. 2, have left this team even more in need of additional contributions to its roster, but those contributions have not emerged. Two reserves, Clayton Graham and Chad Johnson, played only three minutes apiece in the Raiders' loss to Boston University this past Wednesday. Two other reserves, Alex Ramon and Nathan Harries, have not played more than five games this season, typically with minimal minutes. It is as though the bench is being rebuilt from scratch in the third week of January. That's an obvious point of concern.

Starting Lineup

Center – Ethan Jacobs –
Junior, 6-11, 235; 2013-14: 11.1 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game

Jacobs is a serviceable center, but he's not particularly imposing on defense. Navy can attack him in the paint, and agile defense should be able to contain him when the Raiders have the ball.

Forward – Murphy Burnatowski – Senior, 6-7, 230; 2013-14: 14.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg

The leading scorer on the Raiders compensates for a lack of quickness with an accurate shooting touch. A 37.6-percent conversion rate on threes is quite respectable, and Burnatowski hits 82.4 percent of his foul shots. This is the player Navy must hold in check.

Guard – Luke Roh – Junior, 6-4, 195; 2013-14: 6.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.6 apg

Roh is only 6-4, but he's the best rebounder on the team… yes, better than the 6-11 Jacobs and the 6-7 Burnatowski. He also helps out on the boards, making him a supremely coachable player and a "glue guy" on this roster. If there's a player on the Raiders who can help Colgate beat Navy at its own "defense-first" type of game, it's Roh.

Guard – Damon Sherman-Newsome – Junior, 6-5, 205; 2013-14: 11.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg

Sherman-Newsome's best attribute is that he's a selective shooter. He doesn't chuck large quantities of threes, but he makes 41.3 percent of them. He hits 48.2 percent of his field goals, so he knows what a good shot looks like. Navy has to take him out of his comfort zone.

Guard – Austin Tillotson – Sophomore, 6-0, 175; 2013-14: 14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.3 apg

Tillotson hits 55.3 percent of his threes, but he averages fewer than 2.5 long-distance attempts per game. He does what Sherman-Newsome does, only better. He's also the best assist man on the Raiders (even more than Roh).

Keys to the Game

1) Take away the three.
The Raiders are the best three-point shooting team in all of Division I, at 48.9 percent. If Navy's defense is going to win this game, it must take away the long ball from Colgate, which plays good offense and poor defense. Rotations and switches must be effective in this game for Navy, which must use speed to stay in front of Colgate players and close down shooting hands.

2) Get to the rim and the foul line. Navy should be able to drive into the paint and break down Colgate's defense. Ball movement and an attack mentality should get the Midshipmen some drive-and-dish opportunities that can lead to easy buckets, not to mention a bundle of free throws.

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