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Men’s Basketball Preview, Review: Academies look to build off strong starts

Air Force and Navy both won their preseason tournaments last week.

#VegasBubble Air Force v CSUN Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

It was yet another great week for the academies in basketball.

Navy and Air Force can now declare themselves as preseason tournament champions. The Midshipmen dominated two very good teams in Furman (who was fresh off a win against the ACC’s Louisville), and Radford to win Furman’s MTE. Air Force followed that as they dominated both Holy Cross and Bethune-Cookman en route to a Sunshine Slam Championship.

This week, all three teams will stay local, and hope to add to their positive records. KenPom has them going 5-0.

Results

Monday:

Louisville 77, Navy 60

Wednesday:

Army 74, Merrimack 51

Air Force 61, Texas Southern 57

Saturday:

Air Force 72, Holy Cross 53

La Salle 61, Army 58

Navy 47, Radford 33

Sunday:

Air Force 73, Bethune-Cookman 65

Navy 77, Furman 66

This Week

Wednesday:

Navy beat Division III Washington College (Chestertown, MD) 89-40

Denver vs Air Force – 4 p.m. (Mountain West Network)

Saturday:

Marist vs Army – 1 p.m. (ESPN+)

Navy vs Mount St.Mary’s – 2 p.m. (WDVM, NEC Front Row)

Idaho State vs Air Force – 4 p.m. (Mountain West Network)

Review

Navy

The Midshipmen have bounced off its strong start with a strong weekend in Greenville, South Carolina.

On Saturday afternoon, the Navy defense showed out, holding Radford to only 23.6% from the field. In the first half Radford scored eight points, the lowest for a Mids’ opponent since Navy basketball began keeping box scores in 1951-52.

The Highlanders would hit one of its 15 three-point shots on the afternoon, as the Midshipmen picked up a 47-33 victory over Radford. John Carter Jr. led the way with 13 points.

On Sunday, Navy would defeat Furman on its home court by a score of 77-66, wrapping up an MTE title. John Carter Jr. once again led the way with 21 points, as the Midshipmen shot a very impressive 60.7% from the field. The victory over Ken Pomeroy’s 101st ranked team at the time was a Quadrant B win for the Midshipmen, its second in either A or B this season.

The win snapped a streak of 22-consecutive home non-conference wins for the Paladins.

Navy would open its week with a loss to Louisville, but it’s hard to stop a 56% shooting team, especially one from a Power Five conference.

On Saturday, they’ll take the trip up north to face local rival, Mount St. Mary’s.

Air Force

The Falcons are red hot. They have won four in a row, including a MTE title in Daytona Beach, pulling off their best start since 2016-17.

It began on Wednesday, as they squeezed out a 61-57 victory over perennial NCAA Tournament team, Texas Southern.

The first half was a struggle for the Falcons, as they trailed 33-28 at the break while shooting 9-21 from the field. In the second half, Air Force made a couple more shots as they were able to get its lead out to as much as seven, pulling out the victory.

Joseph Octave led the way for Air Force with 17 points. He was one of four Falcons to score double digits.

Over the weekend, Air Force would open the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach with a victory against Patriot League foe, Holy Cross, 72-53.

They led wire-to-wire, forcing 21 Crusader turnovers, which led to a 27-6 scoring advantage on points on turnovers. Air Force would also not allow a three for Holy Cross, as the Crusaders shot 0-8 from behind the arc.

Senior AJ Walker led the way for the Falcons with 27 points. He was once again one of four Falcons to score double digits.

In the championship game against Bethune-Cookman, AJ Walker went off once again, scoring 22 points. Air Force went on to beat the hosts Bethune-Cookman by a score of 73-65, as AJ Walker went on to win tournament MVP honors. He was one of four Falcons to score double digits once again.

Bethune-Cookman started off the game blistering hot, with a 12-0 run. They would lead by two at the break, 41-39.

The defense was the difference in the second half as Bethune was only able to get off 18 shots in the second half, while the Falcons outrebounded the Wildcats by a 29-20 tilt.

It was their first tournament title since the 2012 All-Military Classic.

This week, Air Force will host two local teams in Denver (Wednesday), and Idaho State (Saturday).

Army

Army is coming off a successful 1-1 week, which included a dominating victory over 2019-20 NEC regular season champions, Merrimack.

At halftime, the Black Knights took a 39-20 lead in large part due to a disparity in shooting percentages. The Black Knights shot 53.57% for the half, as Merrimack only made seven of its 28 shots, shooting 25% at the break. They would lead for the remainder of the night, taking leads of as much as 31.

Josh Caldwell led the way for the Knights with 14 points. Charlie Peterson followed with 13 points.

The Black Knights would wrap up their week with a close loss to La Salle, 61-58. Neither team led by more than eight on the evening, but Army struggled to make their shots late, resulting in a loss.

Jalen Rucker and Charlie Peterson led the way once again, as they each scored 13 points on the evening.

This week, Army will face off against Marist, as its Wednesday contest against Wagner was called off due to COVID-19 issues within Wagner’s program.