Patriot League head coaches and SIDs were given ballots last month to determine the most useless prize in all of sport - preseason honors. While no Army West Point player cracked the 2018-19 Preseason All-Patriot League Team, the Black Knights received a little bit of love in the preseason poll.
Army was picked to finish sixth in the Patriot League this season, which would serve as a three team jump in the standings compared to its ninth place finish in its 2017-18 campaign. So, why the slight optimism in this year’s team? Let’s dissect Army’s upcoming season to find out.
G Jordan Fox, senior
G Tommy Funk, junior
G Josh Caldwell, freshman
F Alex King, sophomore
F/C Matt Wilson, junior
Key Reserves: G Aaron Duhart (freshman), G Tucker Blackwell (sophomore), G Lonnie Grayson (sophomore), F/G Jacob Kessler (senior), F/G John Emezie (senior), C Ben Kinker (freshman)
What happened last season?
Army suffered from the high and low last season (notice how I didn’t use the plural form there). Going into the final week of January 2018, the Black Knights were 12-7 overall and 5-3 in the Patriot League, from there, the wheels fell off as Jimmy Allen’s squad finished the rest of the season with a 1-10 record, going 13-17 overall and 6-13 against Patriot League foes. Their season concluded with a first round knockout loss to Loyola (MD) in the Patriot League tournament.
While service academy basketball doesn’t garnish the attention associated with the CiC in football, the Black Knights defeated Air Force last December in their lone matchup of the season and split with Navy, finishing 2-1 against their service academy rivals. Interestingly enough, the season split with Navy involved both teams losing on their home courts.
Who are the leaders this year?
This year’s captains, Jordan Fox and Tommy Funk, will not only serve as the team’s leaders, but will also likely lead statistically in most of the Army game box scores this season. Fox is a 6’1” senior guard who averaged 13.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 4.2 apg in 17-18, easily good enough to be the most dynamic player returning on the Black Knight roster. Funk is a 6’0” guard who averaged 10.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 5.7 apg last season. These two leaders give Army an experienced backcourt that will likely serve as the anchor of the Black Knights’ 18-19 season.
Why can Army be better than last year?
Well, another year under the belts for Fox and Funk in the back court will only help Army’s ability to move the ball around and likely improve their shooting efficiency. Couple that success with Wilson and King’s maturation down low and the expected impact of Caldwell and Black Knight fans should be fairly confident heading into the season.
If that isn’t enough to believe in Army, look at their roster depth. Allen has eight seniors on his team and a total of nine players that averaged nearly ten or minutes of playing time per game just last year. The Black Knights will easily have the experience and depth to hang with the best of the Patriot League - and this team is hungry for the outright title.
What questions still remain?
Army has depth in a lot of positions and Coach Allen can utilize that depth/versatility to his advantage with various forward/guard combos throughout the season. Under his own admission, Army has “guys at every position, three of four guys who could be filling the same spot…it’s just a matter of getting us all to mesh together.”
Fear not Black Knight fans as Coach Allen also states this team “has real good chemistry.” The challenge for Army may be finding the right lineup at the right time. The experience and skill set of the Black Knights will certainly provide Coach Allen options and will be a fun story to watch unfold as the season progresses.
Most exciting game of the year?
Army’s second game of the year will be on the road against West Point graduate Coach K’s Duke squad who opens the season ranked fourth in the AP Top 25 poll and third in the USA Today Coaches poll. But let’s be honest, it’s Ricky O’Donnell who knows best - he has the Duke Blue Devils ranked as the top team in the country.
Regardless, what an amazing experience for the Black Knights as they get to play one of the best teams in the country at Cameron Indoor.
Other key games:
December 8 - @ Air Force
January 2 - vs. Bucknell (PL opener)
January 19 - @ Navy
February 16 - vs. Navy