Archives for posts with tag: Army

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–:

So much for a duel in the Dominion.  Tuesday’s ACC battle royale between #4 Virginia and #9 Virginia Tech turned into a rout almost from the outset:  the Cavaliers scored the game’s first five points and held the Hokies without a field goal for the first three and a half minutes.  There would be no repeat of last winter when coach Buzz Williams’ scrappy bunch shocked then-second ranked UVa in overtime.  Instead, the Cavaliers hit 59% of their shots and 54% from three-point range while winning the battle of the boards 27-19.  The 22-point point lead at intermission would turn the entire second half into mop-up time as coach Tony Bennett’s team emerged as the ACC’s last remaining team unbeaten in conference play.  And just like Florida State two weeks ago, another top ten team tumbles before leaving John Paul Jones Arena.  Virginia’s four league wins have come by an average of 20.5 points per game and while a date with #1 Duke awaits, the Cavaliers have undercut their instate foes (don’t you dare tell the Charlottesville faithful that the Hokies are their rivals) once again.  Set your calendar for Monday, February ninth when these two teams battle in Blacksburg.

 

Alma Mater Update- nothing like washing off the smell of a double-digit home loss to Georgia Tech by beating #1 Duke at Cameron Indoor in overtime.   A 4/5 court heave by Elijah Hughes that went down.  A monster game that saw Tony Battle and his 32 points remind everyone why they all rejoiced when he announced he was coming back for his junior season.  Despite the injuries and illnesses, the Blue Devils are the team to beat and the Orange did just that.  Now they play a pesky Pitt that’s pesky and guided by a former Duke assistant in Jeff Capel.  SU has proven they can win on the big stage–can they sustain their solid play?

 

Friday’s Game:

Maryland (15-3, 6-1 Big Ten) at Ohio State (12-4, 2-3), 6:30 p.m, BTN.

This is the second of four Friday games for the Terrapins this winter.  Friday night hoops should involve me wearing a blue foam finger in Manchester, NH and scrounging up enough money to get Ugli sticks at Luisa’s Pizza on the west side.  The Terps have won consecutive games against Indiana and Wisconsin despite not putting together complete 40-minute efforts.  What’s encouraging is that even when things have gone sideways this month coach Mark Turgeon’s young team has found a way to win.  The Buckeyes have dropped three straight, including a three-point loss at Rutgers.  Perhaps they need to get the ball more to Kyle Young, who leads the conference in shooting (72.1%) but has taken just 12 shots during the slide.

 

Saturday’s Games:

Richmond (7-10, 1-3 Atlantic 10) at Davidson (12-5, 3-1), 12:30 p.m., NBCSN.  Both teams are looking to bounce from discouraging defeats:  the Spiders lost at home to Duquesne for the first time in 25 years, while the Wildcats fell at St. Joe’s by one.  Both teams bring plenty of firepower to Belk Arena:  Davidson leads the A-10 in three-pointers made per game while the Spiders rank second in the conference in field goal percentage.

 

American (8-8, 2-3 Patriot League) vs Lafayette (4-12, 1-4), 2 p.m.  How friendly has home court been for the Eagles thus far in conference play?  They’re 2-0 at Bender Arena and 0-3 outside DC.  Perhaps this is the game where Sa’eed Nelson finds his stroke from three-point range:  the Leopards rank last in the Patriot League at defending the three and are 9th in scoring defense.  But they do have a pair of offensive threats in Justin Jaworski (18 points per game in league play) and Alex Petrie (50% from outside the arc in conference action).

 

Navy (6-10, 3-2 Patriot League) at Army (8-10, 3-2), 2:30 p.m., CBSSN.  It’s not the football game, but this mid-January matchup has two schools recovering from nightmarish pre-conference schedules.  While the Midshipmen are still trying to find their way after losing last year’s leading scorer Shawn Anderson to graduation, the Black Knights are led by juniors Matt Wilson inside (2nd in the conference in rebounding) and Tommy Funk outside (2nd in assists).

 

#9 Virginia Tech (14-2, 3-1 ACC) vs Wake Forest (8-8, 1-3), 4 p.m., ACC Network.  Can the Hokies pick themselves back up from Tuesday night’s wreckage?  They face a Demon Deacons team that is fresh from upsetting #17 NC State by holding the Wolfpack to 37% shooting and 21% from three-point range.  Wake also has a second-generation star in Brandon Childress (son of assistant coach and 1995 ACC Tournament MVP), who’s averaging 16 points with 4 assists per game.  Despite the debacle in Charlottesville, Tech does lead the ACC in shooting and ranks second in scoring defense.  They should be able to find get their mojo back at Cassell Coliseum.

 

Howard (7-11, 1-3 MEAC) at South Carolina State (4-15, 2-1), 4 p.m.  Remind me not to buy into the Bison until they have a winning record entering February: eight losses in nine games has one feeling that “next year” won’t be happening this year.  Tuesday’s defeat to Morgan State was made possible by 18 turnovers and R.J. Cole’s second-lowest scoring output of the season (12 points in 42 minutes).  But as long as Cole and Charles Wiliams (25 points against the Bears) are around, the Bison are a threat to break out on a scoring spree.  And bring me back into the camp thinking that it might just happen this winter.

 

#4 Virginia (16-0, 4-0 ACC) at #1 Duke (14-2, 3-1), ESPN, 6 p.m.  The Cavaliers will have little time to bask in their beatdown of the Hokies…traveling to Durham to face an angry Blue Devils team that lost at home as a top-ranked team for the first time ever (previously 60-0 in that situation).  Adding injury to insult, guard Tre Jones is out indefinitely with a right shoulder injury.  But they still have the ACC’s leading scorer in R.J. Barrett and walking double-double Zion Williamson to test the pack-line defense.  UVa’s ultra-efficient offense that leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio won’t easily have its way with a Duke defense that holds teams under 40% shooting and under 30% from three-point range.

 

VCU (12-5, 3-1 Atlantic 10) vs UMass (7-10, 0-4), 6:30 p.m., NBCSN.  The Rams defeated Dayton Wednesday thanks to Marcus Evans: the transfer from Rice scored 17 points-including the team’s last seven and the go-ahead three with 33 seconds remaining.  The Minutemen may be tied for last in the conference, but three of their four league losses have come by five points or fewer.  They lead the A-10 in three-point shooting and are #2 in field goal percentage, while junior guard Luwane Pipkins scored 38 points last year against the Rams.

 

George Mason (10-8, 4-1 Atlantic 10) vs. Fordham (9-8, 0-4) 7 p.m., ESPN+.  The Patriots outscored UMass 18-9 over the final 6:40 of the second half to beat the Minutemen 68-63 Wednesday as Justin Kier tallied 22 points and 9 rebounds–the junior is averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds in league play.  That makes up for Otis Livingston II struggling over the last three games to the tune of 7-32 shooting (22%).  The Rams lead the conference in turnover margin, but are 1-4 on the road (those losses include a defeat to Houston Baptist).

 

Sunday’s Game:

George Washington (6-11, 2-2 Atlantic 10) vs. Duquesne (12-5, 3-1), 4 p.m., NBCSN.  The Colonials bounced back from a horrid first half at La Salle by shooting 68% after intermission in their 68-63 win Wednesday;  they’ll find the Dukes a little tougher to contend with even though the game is in Foggy Bottom.  Duquesne is 12-5 and 3-1 in the league for the second straight January;  last year’s edition stumbled the rest of the way into a 16-16 finish.  Sincere Carry averages 5.5 assists per game;  I can’t think of a more appropriately named point guard.

 

 

 

Advertisements

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Navy looks to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 2017– instead of competing for an AAC West title the Midshipmen finished 4-4 in league play.  After a 5-0 start the Mids were fortunate to be bowl-eligible after posting their worst regular season (6-6) in five years.  And instead of beating Army, Navy lost its second straight game to their arch-rival.

What caused a rare subpar season under coach Ken Niumatalolo?  Two things:  untucked shirts and sloppy shaves. “When you’re a disciplined person, you’re disciplined all the time.  And learning to make the right decisions over and over,” Niumatalolo said, “tucking in your shirt and being groomed the right way-we realized there’s carryover to the field. Because the teams that maybe have been a little bit lax in there… may be lax in some of the critical choices that have cost us the game.”

The lack of attention to detail regarding seemingly minor areas contributed to sloppy play:  witness the 16 turnovers that were second most in the AAC.  Witness the 53 penalties (14 more than 2016, an increase of 35%) committed by the usually sharp squad.  This year there is a commitment to doing the little things…and from those little things big things will be expected.

There will be a change at quarterback this season: it won’t be due to graduation unlike previous autumns but due to the talent of Malcolm Perry.  The junior lost the competition last year to Zach Abey, and the coaching staff moved him to slotback in order to get Perry on the field.  This year Perry takes over at QB and the team moves Abey to wide receiver and with every practice Perry makes the coaching staff feel they’ve made the right decision. “Just the work ethic-I’ve been impressed with. A very humble kid-quiet kid-who comes to work,” Niumatalolo said,”He’s gotta progress and continue to develop in the passing game…but he’s with a great coach in (Offensive Coordinator Irvin) Jasper and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be ready for game one.

What are the keys to being a successful quarterback in the option offense? “Small picture, I’d say just being consistent in your technique and footwork-making sure it’s second nature.” Perry said, “Macro-it’d be getting us in the right play and making sure everyone’s in the right position.”  Perry’s three starts last year included a 250-yard rushing performance against Army.  He’ll have help this fall-senior fullback Anthony Gargiulo averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2017 while senior right tackle Andrew Wood has received pre-season all-AAC notice.

Defensively the Mids return five starters- but lose standout linebacker Micah Thomas to graduation. Safety Sean Williams ranked second in tackles behind Thomas last year and will be the key cog in 2018.  His focus? “Attitude, detail and discipline-you know?” Williams said, “In our defense we just come with a certain intensity.  We know that we’re playing for everybody on the sideline. As long as we keep the approach of caring about each other, being meticulous in our preparation and being a beast when it comes to being a beast then we’re gonna be fine.”

The second-most traveled team in FBS (only Hawaii logs more air miles this fall) starts the season at Hawaii, coach Niumatalolo’s alma mater (the Mids are 0-2 in the islands all-time).  While they play four of their next six games in Annapolis-the AAC season begins with a bang as West Division favorite Memphis drops by September 8.  The usual highlights of their slate involve going to Colorado Springs for their annual duel with Air Force, San Diego for their “home” game with Notre Dame, and Philadelphia for their annual date with Army.

Penthouse Prediction- a victory at Hawaii starts the season in fine fashion and the Mids take care of business at home against AAC and non-league foes (mightly Lehigh) alike.  Even losses to Notre Dame and UCF can’t dampen the vibe in Annapolis because they recapture the Commander-in-Chief Trophy by beating Air Force and Army.

Outhouse- the defense can’t contain Hawaii and Memphis is too much for the Mids in their home opener.  Losses to Houston and UCF make the Mids a non-factor in the AAC West and they need a win over Army to secure bowl eligibility.  They don’t get it…and what was once a 14-game winning streak is now a three game slide against their biggest foes.

 

A ten-year tenure.  That is something you don’t often find in college football’s transient world.  Ken Niumatalolo begins his tenth season in Annapolis…in an FBS where there are 22-first year coaches and 77 of 128 head men have been in place less than four years. Looking closer, when he took over in Annapolis in 2008 Virginia and Maryland were two coaching moves away from where they are today.  Even further, since Navy joined the AAC in 2015 nine of their conference foes have changed coaches…leaving 2015 hires Chad Morris (SMU) and Phillip Montgomery (Tulsa) as the other “senior statesmen” of the league. “I’m very grateful -this is such a tough profession to stay involved in,” Niamatalolo says, “I feel fortunate to be coaching great kids at a great place.”

He’s gotten great results.  A 77-42 record with five Commander-in-Chief’s Trophies, four bowl wins and an 8-1 record against arch-rival Army.  But it’s more than just wins, losses and honors on the field for the coach:  “We’ve had some success but we’ve done it the right way with good people.  Of anything that is the most gratifying.”  His Midshipmen return four starters on offense and six more on defense from a team that won the AAC West Division last fall.

The Midshipmen will have a new pilot at the helm.  Last year they lost quarterback Tago Smith in the first game of the season to a knee injury, but senior Will Worth directed the offense well until breaking his foot in the AAC Championship Game.  Then-sophomore Zach Abey started the game against Army, and returns this fall as the #1 QB.  “Physically he has all of the tools,” Niumatalolo says, “he’s fast and can run…he’s physical.  The experience he learned from playing in those three games (AAC title game, against Army, and in the Armed Forces Bowl)…there’s no way we could have simulated that pressure. He’s just got to continue to improve.”  Abey won’t be all alone, as the Mids do return second-leading rusher Chris High, who averaged over six yards per carry in 2016. What makes the senior special?  Abey says, “He just hits the hole hard…it’s not the most glamorous as he gets hit pretty much every play whether he has the ball or not.  He just goes in full-speed.”  If High is able to provide the same base threat inside as the keystone to the Midshipman option offense, expect another year where Navy averages over 300 yards on the ground per game.

The defense did have occasional issues last year, coughing up at least 40 points on four occasions last year.  Senior linebacker Micah Thomas led the team with 107 tackles in 2016, and knows what the Midshipmen’s AAC foes will throw their way again this autumn:  “Offenses like to spread it out and get it on the edges.  To combat that we’re going to try to get after the quarterback and help our DB’s when they’re getting there in tight coverage.”  The Mids will need more than the 20 sacks they posted last year (tied for 99th in FBS) as well as the seven interceptions that tied for 104th if they want to repeat as AAC West Division champs.

The Midshipmen open conference play with home games against Tulane and Cincinnati after starting the season on the road at Florida Atlantic.  This year’s senior class is 15-3 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.  Coach Niamatalolo says, “the atmosphere here-first and foremost with the brigade-there’s so much to it.  When it’s filled and people are sitting on the hill–it’s a pretty special place.  What this stadium represents…and our guys, they know when they come here this is hallowed ground.”  That said…while Air Force comes to Annapolis October 6th, most of the marquee matchups are on away from home.  Navy was picked to finish third in the West Division behind Memphis and Houston;  they visit both the Tigers and Cougars.  The Notre Dame game is also a true road tilt- as opposed to one played in Baltimore, Landover or Jacksonville as a Mids “home” game.  The annual matchup with Army is at Philadelphia…and instead of looking to extend a double-digit streak the Mids will just be looking to avenge last year’s loss at close-to-campus M&T Bank Stadium.  Somehow the season hinges again on a cold December afternoon-but that’s nothing new to the longest-tenured coach in Navy History.

 

Midshipmen Penthouse– the defense improves and the Mids avenge last year’s loss to Air Force.  They split with AAC contenders Memphis and Houston and advance to the AAC Title game via tiebreaker…even with their loss at Notre Dame.  Mids win the league and also beat Army to deliver another double-digit victory season to Annapolis.

Midshipmen Outhouse– Zach Abey’s growing pains are more pronounced than originally thought…and Air Force steals a win in Annapolis.  The Mids also fall at Memphis, Temple and Houston before dropping a second straight game to Army, spurring the Cadets to start crowing about “a streak”.