Thanks to a pretty miserable run to end the season Navy will enter the Patriot League Tournament as the seventh seed. That means that on Tuesday night the Mids will host tenth seeded Lafayette at Alumni Hall. While Navy finished regular season play with a 77-73 loss to Bucknell to send the Mids to 9-9 in conference, the Leopards never really got their season going, slumping to 3-15 in the Patriot League. Ironically the Mids poor end to the season could help as Navy has proven to be a better road than home team this season and the nature of the Patriot League Tournament means the Mids are almost certain to be the visiting team the rest of the way if they get past Lafayette.
That being said here is a look forward to the three keys for the game on Tuesday evening:
1. Repeat the earlier performances against Lafayette
The Mids swept the season series against the Leopards in 2016. One of the more impressive victories of the entire season occurred on January 16 as Navy took down Lafayette 87-61 at home and this was followed by a 74-68 win on the road on February 13. The game in January should set the strategy for the game here as Navy shot 56-percent from the field and had 26 assists to eight turnovers on the day. Navy took advantage of the size and efficiency of Will Kelly inside as the big man had 17 points and eight rebounds including three dunks. Efficiency from the field against a bad defensive side will see the Mids progress.
2. Stay balanced on offense
Navy may be coming into this tournament as the seventh seed, but that really isn’t indicative of where this Mids team is at. Navy actually tied for fourth in the Patriot League with their 9-9 record and only slipped to their seeding due to a series of convoluted tiebreakers. One thing Navy has done well all season is spread the ball around and have a plethora of scorers who can take advantage of match ups. The Mids have four players averaging double digit scoring in Shawn Anderson (12.8 ppg), Tilman Dunbar (11.3), Will Kelly (10.5) and Jace Hogan (10.2). In addition junior Zach Fong was the game-high scorer last time out against Bucknell, coming off of the bench to hit five three-pointers and score 17 points. Balance is the key to how Navy plays offensively.
3. Put this out of reach early
Lafayette stopped a 12-game losing streak when they beat Colgate 79-77 on Saturday. The fact it was Senior Day was probably a big reason the Raiders walked into a trap, but the Leopards will now come into Alumni Hall with more confidence than they would have if they had last 13 in a row. Navy will especially have to watch out for freshman Paulius Zalys who dropped a career high 21 points on Colgate and junior Monty Boykins who was one rebound short of a double-double. The Leopards will also likely get regular starters Nick Linder and Zach Rufer back for this game. If Navy can get out to a double digit lead at some point during the first half it will be hard for Lafayette to claw the Mids back.