Furman heads down the stretch in non-conference play and the year, and will have two final non-league games to take part in before beginning Southern Conference play on Jan. 2, hosting VMI.
On an interesting side note, current VMI head coach Dan Earl served as an under current Navy head coach Ed DeChellis before matriculating to Lexington. DeChellis, of course, has also coached in the Southern Conference, preceding Murry Bartow's 12-year stint as the coach in Johnson City. DeChellis would help pick up the pieces of an ETSU program that had hit all-time lows towards the tail end of Alan LeForce's career as the head coach in Johnson City.
LeForce would be urged to step down just four years removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance and an opening round win over Arizona--the final of a four-year dominating run in the Southern Conference--and DeChellis took over a program that was once ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation in LeForce's first year as the head coach.
Many felt what LeForce did at ETSU was capitalize on the talent that Les Robinson had left in Johnson City before moving to NC State in 1990-91. But the fact is, LeForce was a good coach, with assistants like Buzz Peterson, Tom Conrad and John Shulman--three coaches that went on to become head coaches, with two of those taking the reins at Southern Conference schools.
Following the 1995-96 season and just seven wins, including only two in the Southern Conference, LeForce was asked to step down. DeChellis was hired to take over and rebuild the ETSU basketball program. DeChellis would bring in some building blocks, with players like guards Kyle Keeton, Dimeco Childress, D.J. McDuffie and Gabe Lisicky, and forwards Adrian Meeks, Navy transfer Greg Stephens.
Stephens and Childress ended up being All-SoCon selecion and were part of the foundational elements that would eventually lead the Bucs back to the success and the top of the Southern Conference in DeChellis' final of six seasons at the helm. Childress, a sharp-shooting guard, would be named the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 2001-02 season.
Gabe Lisicky has a recognizable last name, as his brother Pete Lisicky, along with VMI head coach Dan Earl, were two of the best shooters the Penn State program have seen in the recent history of the program, even helping the Nittany Lions to a historic win over Kentucky in Lexington.
The rebuilding project didn't take long for DeChellis, and he helped re-energize the program at ETSU, bringing the excitement back it had lost in the latter seasons under LeForce. The Bucs went from just seven wins in the 1996-97 season, to 17 a couple of years later. Five years after taking the reins of the program, DeChellis had the Bucs back in the NCAA Tournament. The 2002-03 season would be the final one for DeChellis at ETSU, as he accepted the head coaching position at Penn State following the first of what would be two-straight SoCon title runs for the Bucs.
DeChellis would take his talents to Happy Valley and in stark contrast from ETSU, he found that though Penn State was a much bigger program and possessed potential for hardwood success, the fans were genrally apathetic towards basketball. DeChellis would lead the Nittany Lions to a school-record 27 wins and a Top 10 finish in 2008-09.
Then, two years after such a strong season and seemingly at the pinnacle of his career, DeChellis would leave PSU to take the head coaching job a Navy, which was a real head-scratcher to many. He was not fired, and in fact his contract extended through 2013-14. He left following the 2010-11 season citing that Penn State did not care about its basketball program.
DeChellis is now in his fifth season in charge at Navy, where he has posted a 41-93 record at the helm of Navy, and since taking over at the start of the 2011-12 season, DeChellis has had a harder time turning around this program than either ETSU or his alma mater Penn State. His first three seasons as head coach, yielded a combined 20 wins, including a mere three in his first season in Anapolis.
Last season, the Midshipmen finally had some success, winning 13 games last season and have already won eight to start the current campaign. DeChellis has also helped the Midshipmen to a pair of wins over Southern Conference goes this season, getting victories over both UNCG (W, 70-66) and VMI (W, 68-62).
The Midshippmen are coming off a bad loss, however, losing a game to another Upstate team, in USC Upstate, who downed Navy, 66-57, during exam week. It was similar to Furman's performance against Gardner-Webb under similar circumstances, as the Paladins were 20-point losers on the home floor (L, 73-53). Three of Furman's five losses this season have come by 20 or more points, including two of the past three.
With the Southern Conference looking like it is the strongest it has been maybe since Steph Curry was playing for Davidson in 2008-09, Furman needs to find its game quickly with Southern Conference play on the horizon.
Despite the success DeChellis has had as a head coach, he is just 3-5 in his career against Furman as the head coach at East Tennessee State (2-5) and Penn State (1-0). The last time the Paladins faced a DeChellis coached team was on Nov. 28, 2010, as the Paladins were 70-49 losers to Penn State.
The Paladins and Midshipmen will be meeting for just the second time in the history of the two programs, with the only other meeting taking place in the 1976 Poinsettia Classic at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, with the Paladins taking a commanding 89-66 win on Dec. 28, 1976.
The one thing the Paladins can expect from Tuesday night's meeting with the Midshipmen is that it will be a stark contrast from the last two games, which were against teams that favored more of an up-tempo pace.
This time around, the Midshipmen feature a much more defensive-minded team, looking to defend in the halfcourt and keep the game in the low-mid 1960s.
DeChellis has had some pretty good defensive teams at both ETSU and Penn State, and is starting to win games in the same manner at Navy. In 12 games this season, only one team has eclipsed the 70-point mark against Navy, which was College of Charleston, who picked up a 72-58 win over the Midshipmen back on Nov. 16.
Obviously most people remember Navy for David Robinson, who chose the Naval Academy over VMI, and it coincided with Navy's greatest era ever in its tradition-rich history, qualifying for the Elite Eight before being eventually knocked out by Duke (L, 71-50). That 1985-86 team posted an outstanding 30-5 record--best in program history--some three decades ago.
Maybe somewhat surprising is the fact that the Midshipmen are 35-15 all-time against Southern Conference foes.
A Look at the Midshipmen:
Navy came into the 2015-16 season looking to get back to their tradition of being one of the top teams in the Patriot League, as the program had participated in 11 NCAA Tournaments, but Navy hasn't been to the Big Dance since 1998. In each of the past three seasons under DeChellis' leadership, Navy has increased its win total.
Prior to the season, Navy was selected dead last out of 10 teams in the always-tough Patriot League. So far so good for DeChellis' Midshipmen, who look to be well on their way to their best season in now what is his fifth season as the head coach. Two of Navy's most impressive wins are over Furman's first two Southern Conference opponents, with those wins over UNCG and VMI.
Like Furman, the Midshipmen enter with losses in two out of their last three games. Like Furman, Navy will open conference play soon, as in the very next game following the date with the Paladins. Navy travels to Patriot League favorite Bucknell to open league play on Dec. 30.
Navy enters Tuesday night's contest with just two players averaging in double figures, as Shawn Anderson and one of those two players is 6-4 wing guard Shawn Anderson (12.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.4 APG), has done a little bit of everything this season for Navy and is the second-leading scorer on the team, and is the lone player averaging in double figures in the starting lineup.
In the Spartan Showcase at UNCG over Thanksgiving, the sophomore guard captured tournament MVP honors in leading Navy to the tournament title, with wins over UNCG (W, 70-66), Jacksonville (W, 71-65) and IPFW (W, 75-53).
This season, Anderson has had some strong performances for the sophomore guard, including a career-high 21 points in the loss to College of Charleston earlier this season. He connected on 7-of-13 shots from the field in that game and was 1-for-3 from the three-point line. He was also a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in that 21-point effort against the Cougars.
Anderson has eight double-figure scoring games in 12 contests this season. USC Upstate held Anderson to a season-low six points the last time out, however. Anderson 10-for-29 (34.5%) from three-point range this season after going 0-for-13 as a freshman last season.
Teaming with Anderson in the Navy backcourt Tuesday night will be both Tilman Dunbar (8.0 PPG, 3.4 APG) and Kendall Knorr (4.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG). Dunbar runs the point guard position for the Midshipmen and he has taken pretty good care of the basketball this season, posting a team-leading 41 assists to just 26 turnovers.
Dunbar had 13 points four assists in the win over VMI earlier this season. He has five double-figure games this season, and posted a season-high 16 points in a win over UNCG. Dunbar has made the most of his performances against teams hailing from the SoCon, as he has posted a double figures in both games against SoCon foes this season, and had a career-high 28 points and nine boards back during the 2013-14 season.
Knorr posted his lone double-figure scoring game of the season against UMBC, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, and was 4-for-7 from three-point land in that win. The 18 points was a career-high against the Retrievers, and finished on the verge of double figures against Penn earlier this season, posting nine points.
Rounding out the starters for the Midshipmen will be post performers will be 6-7 Tom Lacey (3.3 PPG, 3.2 APG) and 6-9 senior center Will Kelly (8.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.4 BPG). Lacey posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in a game earlier this season against Goucher. Kelly will be a good prepper for Chattanooga's Justin Tuoyo later this season, as he is leading the Patriot League in blocks-per-game so far this season.
The top player off the bench also just happens to be Navy's leading scorer and rebounder, in sophomore forward Jace Hogan (12.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG). Hogan has scored in double-figures in six-straight games, and is coming off an impressive double-double effort against USC Upstate, having scored 14 points and added 12 boards.
Quickly Noting The Paladins:
Furman goes in search of its second true road win of the season when it takes on Navy Tuesday night at Alumni Hall. The 79-70 win at Appalachian State marks the lone true road win of the season for the Paladins, and have lost games at Charlotte (L, 77-68), UCONN (L, 83-58) and Dayton (L, 70-50) to account for the true road losses for the Paladins this season. The only other away from Timmons Arena came on a neutral floor, as the Paladins lost a 73-69 at Texas A&M Corpus-Christi at Elon.
Furman comes into the contest with two averaging in double figures, with Stephen Croone (13.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG) and freshman forward Matt Rafferty (10.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG) leading the Paladins in scoring this season. Croone has scored in double figures in seven of nine games he has seen action in this season, including 11 points the last time out against Dayton. Rafferty's 8.7 RPG are leading the Southern Conference this season, and along with Samford's Matt Rose, is making a bid for Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors.
If Rafferty does indeed win the award, he would join Paladin guard Devin Sibley (8.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG) in winning the Freshman of the Year award in back-to-back seasons. Sibley enjoyed his top performance against Appalachian State earlier this season, with 18 points in the road win. Sibley teams with Croone and the team's top defender Daniel Fowler (6.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG) to round out the backcourt.
Kris Acox (8.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG), who was the SoCon's rebounding champion last season, has two of team's five double-doubles this season, with Rafferty having posted the other three.
Final Score Prediction: Furman 67, Navy 62