When the non-conference portion of last season came to a close, there were few things we could say for certain about the Patriot League. One certainty we did have, however, was that the Army Black Knights were bad and weren't getting any better. Zach Spiker's team was 4-7 with losses to Houston Baptist and N.J.I.T. on its resume and had just finished beating the Division III Coast Guard Academy by just 20 as it stared down a daunting Patriot League schedule.
Army took the floor at Lafayette on Jan. 2 a downtrodden team, but one with some firepower. After 40 minutes of basketball, it was clear that things were about to take a turn for the better. Kyle Wilson and Tanner Plomb poured in 24 points apiece and the Black Knights left Easton, Penn. with an 85-66 win that would kick off a stretch that saw them win six of their first seven Patriot League contests.
Spiker's boys had put the league on notice; reclaiming what had seemed like a lost season and instead turned it into a harbinger of things to come. With all five of its top scorers -- and 85.6 percent of its offense -- back in 2014-15, Army is an early favorite to rise to the top of a conference with a bit of a power vacuum at the top.
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Wilson and Plomb are back, bringing with them their 18.4 and 10.4 points per game averages. One of the best scoring pairs in the league, Plomb and Wilson enter this season as two of the top returning offensive players in the league, according to KenPom.com stats. Plomb's ORtg of 112.5 was tops for players who used at least 24 percent of their team's possessions while Wilson came in at No. 4 with an ORtg of 107.9.
But where is the rest of the production coming from? Dylan Cox (9.6 ppg, 2.8 apg) and Kevin Ferguson (9.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) were the third- and fourth-most productive members of last year's team with Tanner Omlid (6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) rounding out that aforementioned top five. Spiker will add freshman forward Terrone Parham to the mix, giving him yet another weapon to deploy.
At 6-foot-7 and 185 lbs., Parham will give Army something they did not have last year: length. Ferguson is 6-foot-10, but the other four players mentioned above all come in right around 6-foot-4. With the versatility to play either a stretch four or small forward, Parham should be an instant-impact player and a likely starter on Day 1.
If there is anything working against Army, though, it's the fact that they won't be able to sneak up on anyone this year. But with the team they have assembled, maybe that's the way they want it.