This is an important season for Army. While John Glesener returns to anchor the Black Knights' offense, the Cadets are replacing a lot of starts and contributors -- Garrett Thul, Brendan Buckley, Andrew Boyd, Alex Van Krevel, Pat Brennan -- from a season ago. The Black Knights should be competitive in the coming spring, but a stacked Patriot League is going to create concerns for Army.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
All She Wrote
February 9: Massachusetts; February 15: @VMI; February 22: v. Furman (Washington D.C.); March 4: Rutgers; May 5: @Notre Dame
The Syracuse game evaporated. The date with Johns Hopkins has disappeared. There's no Cornell or Air Force. This is Army's out-of-conference schedule for 2014: An elite Notre Dame team to close the season, an average Massachusetts team that will needs to fill major holes (again), a fresh face in Furman, a VMI program that has struggled to find its place in the Division I hierarchy, and a Rutgers team that is still transitioning under Brian Brecht. This isn't a nonconference slate that looks particularly imposing, and the lean nature of that portion of the Black Knights schedule is a resume-limiter when it comes to potential at-large considerations for the NCAA Tournament. While Army hasn't -- in the overall -- deviated significantly from its out-of-conference schedule construction in the recent past, there's a different kind of feel to the Cadets' 2014 nonconference slate. I don't know; maybe this all makes sense and I'm simply missing something.
Helmets Must be Worn at All Times
March 15: @Loyola; March 22: Lehigh; March 29: Bucknell
Even if Army is charged with having a soft out-of-conference schedule, the two-week stretch of Patriot League games against the conference's best teams -- in consecutive meetings -- more than makes up for what the Cadets were able to put together in the nonconference portion of their 2014 agenda. This is a brutal period of games occurring on back-to-back-to-back Saturdays against three programs that present different kinds of problems. Where Army sees these teams on the schedule also creates issues: The Cadets could enter April with something like a 2-3 Patriot League record, a somewhat tough hole to come out of with just three games remaining in their conference regular season. The race for the Patriot League's third and fourth postseason positions is going to be frantic, and how the Black Knights acquit itself in a critical part of its docket against elite competition is ultimately a deciding factor in Army's fate.
The Most Important Games in the History of History
March 8: Holy Cross; April 12: Navy; April 18: @Colgate
The most important thing in league play is making the conference tournament. That's it. It matters who you beat and who you lose to, but in the end, the dominating theme in conference play is getting enough wins -- from wherever possible -- to qualify for the conference postseason. And there's a simple reason for that: Anything can happen in a tournament setting. Where Army needs to excel in 2014 in Patriot League play is against those programs expected to challenge the Cadets for the league's final tournament positions. If Army takes care of business against Lafayette and Boston University, these three games -- against the Crusaders, Midshipmen, and Raiders -- are the defining dates for the Black Knights next spring. Tiebreaking scenarios are always present as conference play unfolds, and if Army is able to throw those circumstances in its favor against teams that want to fight with the Cadets for an invitation to the show, the Black Knights should find themselves in good shape.