It's not as if Army had a bad season in 2012. At 7-8, the Black Knights appeared to have taken a step back from 11-6 and 9-6 campaigns in 2010 and 2011, respectively. However, a closer look at what Army was last season yields a different kind of result -- playing a schedule ranked 20th in the nation, the Black Knights were the victim of three one-goal losses and a two-goal defeat at the hands of eventual national quarterfinalist Colgate. It was an Army team that was close last year but not quite where it needed to be. With cats like Garrett Thul and John Glesener roaming the field, Army -- in a stacked Patriot League next spring -- has a nice chance at getting back above .500 and showing that Joe Alberici is one of the most underrated coaches in the country.
February 9: @ Massachusetts; February 13: Manhattan; February 16: VMI; February 24: @ Syracuse; March 2: v. Michigan; March 9: @ Rutgers; May 3: Johns Hopkins
Army has really nice balance in its non-conference schedule in 2013. Featuring three teams that should reside somewhere near the bottom the country dot the schedule -- Manhattan, VMI, and Michigan -- and getting those teams early in the season should allow the Black Knights to ease themselves into the season and work out the kinks in real time. There are also three big names on the slate -- the Minutemen, Orange, and Blue Jays -- that'll provide nice tests for the Black Knights: The opener against Massachusetts is a litmus test and opportunity for a victory given the amount of turnover that the Minutemen are absorbing in the spring; Army has in recent years given Syracuse fits, and the Black Knights have enough potential to go into the Carrier Dome and grab a win; and a Johns Hopkins closer after the Patriot League Tournament could allow Army to play spoiler much like Navy did last season at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Then there's an odd early-May date against Rutgers that could serve as a launching pad to Army's non-stop Patriot League dates in mid-March through late-April.
It's too early to say where the Black Knights will go in this non-conference schedule, but the potential is there for damage.
March 16: Lehigh; March 23: Lafayette; March 30: @ Colgate; April 6: Bucknell; April 13: @ Navy; April 20: @ Holy Cross
The Colgate-Bucknell-Navy run for Army over back-to-back-to-back weekends is daunting, but it is muted by the fact that the game against the Bison is at home, not requiring the Black Nights to travel on consecutive weekends in a tough stretch. Other than that, Army's league schedule stacks up fairly well: The Black Knights get Lehigh at home to kick things off (and with a full week to prepare for the Mountain Hawks); the league closer against Holy Cross should give Army the opportunity to sneak into the Patriot League Tournament if they're in a "win and you're in" situation at that point of the season; and all of the team's conference games fall a week apart, which is perfect for staying healthy (or getting healthy) in what could be the toughest top-to-bottom automatic qualifier conference in the country. Behind Colgate and Lehigh there isn't a defined pecking order in the league's, and the way that Army's slate sets up, it wouldn't be ridiculous to assume that the Black Knights could be the Patriot's third-best team come late-April.