Through two games of league play, the service academies are leading the way in the Patriot League. The Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen are both 2-0 and sit in a three-way tie atop the standings with Lehigh.
Under coach Ed DeChellis and behind senior guards John Carter Jr. and Greg Summers, Navy has jumped out to 9-4 with victories over Virginia and Furman in non-conference before beating Holy Cross and Boston University to open league play.
Army sits at 8-6 after a tough non-conference slate with games against Duke and South Carolina. The Black Knights defeated Loyola (Md.) and Bucknell to begin Patriot League action. They have some young scorers in 2021 Patriot League All-Rookie Team member Jalen Rucker and fellow sophomore 6-foot-9-inch forward Charlie Peterson.
These two athletic programs have frequently been compared to each other. While it would be easy to do so now given their similar records and solid starts to conference play, this wouldn’t tell the whole story for either of their coaches or rosters.
Army coach Jimmy Allen got his start in Division I basketball as an assistant at Navy, where he helped to bring the Midshipmen to back-to-back Patriot League Regular Season titles in 1997 and 1998 with a third in 2000.
After seven seasons with Navy, Allen went to Wofford before taking the head coaching job at Division III Averett University. From there, he returned to the Patriot League - this time coaching as an assistant with Army.
In 2016, Allen was officially given the head coaching reigns of the Black Knights. Following a few losing seasons, Army went 12-10 last year and went to the semifinals of the conference tournament. In addition to Rucker and Peterson, Allen’s squad is led by senior guard Josh Caldwell and junior Chris Mann.
Navy’s DeChellis graduated from Penn State, where he coached and was named the 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year. He then moved over to Navy for the 2011 season where the Midshipmen went 3-26 to open DeChellis’ tenue.
Contrast that with the program’s 15-3 record during the 2020-21 season, highlighted by an impressive 12-1 run through conference play. Navy’s only blemish came at the hands of Army 87-78 in overtime. Navy won the Patriot League regular season crown for the first time since 2000, when Allen was an assistant under Don DeVoe.
After a disappointing quarterfinal dropout in the 2021 conference tournament for the top-seeded Midshipmen, Navy returned four of its starting five and is back with a vengeance behind a group of seniors, highlighted by Carter and Summers, along with a mix of skillful juniors.
With conference play set to continue tonight, both programs will have interesting matchups. Army is slated to take on Lehigh, who was picked tenth in the preseason poll but won its first two conference games. Navy is scheduled to face off against Bucknell, who suffered two close losses to begin league play.
With both Army and Navy currently atop the conference, all eyes will look ahead to their two matchups this season. Navy is slated to host the first showdown on Jan. 22 in Annapolis, Md. Army’s home game is set for Feb. 12 in West Point, N.Y.