Army and Navy were once the class of the Patriot League with few peers. Since the conference began sponsoring men's lacrosse in 1991, the two programs have helped define the league's identity: No team has had more All-Patriot League selections than the Black Knights (135) (Navy is fourth with 77); Army holds 11 Patriot League championships and Navy has earned five (including four straight from 2004-2007); the two academies sit at the top of the table for most consecutive Patriot League Tournament appearances -- Army with eight consecutive from 2005 forward and Navy with seven from 2004-2010; no team has more Patriot League Tournament victories than Navy's 11; and both West Point and Annapolis are tied with the most NCAA Tournament appearances as Patriot League representatives with six each.
Not to take anything away from Bucknell, Lehigh, and Colgate, but Army and Navy -- as a duo -- have laid the foundation for what the Patriot League has become: One of the strongest lacrosse conferences in the country, only to become more of an animal next season when Loyola joins the fun. That's the thing about the Black Knights-Midshipmen lacrosse rivalry: It's not just an iteration of arguably the fiercest athletics-based rivalry in the country; when the rivalry takes place on the lacrosse field, it shapes the face of an entire lacrosse league. That's why Army's date with Navy on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium matters. The volition of a conference is encased within the game itself.
While Army and Navy won't necessarily shape the face of the top of the Patriot League this season (the Midshipmen have already been eliminated from Patriot League Tournament eligibility due to their 1-4 conference record), the game still has consequence relative to the construct of the Patriot League Tournament and Army's tenuous at-large possibilities for the NCAA Tournament should the Black Knights not surge to the top of the conference and -- unexpectedly -- earn the league's automatic invitation to May. As things stand now, Army is mired in a three-team race for the conference's final two Patriot League Tournament positions:
- Army (2-2): Beat -- Colgate; Still to Play -- Navy and Holy Cross
- Holy Cross (2-3): Beat -- No tiebreaker wins; Still to Play -- Army
- Colgate (2-2): Beat -- Holy Cross; Still to Play -- Lafayette, Bucknell
Thus, Navy is playing for more than pride and the desire to embarrass its rival on Saturday -- the Mids have a chance to impact the Patriot League Tournament without participating in the event. That adds an additional level of interest to a game that is already packed tight with dynamite. Army-Navy has force, once again, not just because it's two service academies going toe-to-toe, but because it impacts Holy Cross and Colgate as well.
Here's the tale of the tape going into the weekend affair:
|METRIC||ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS (6-4, 2-2)||NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (3-8, 1-4)|
|Adj. Offensive Efficiency||29.52 (30)||24.47 (57)|
|Adj. Defensive Efficiency||23.55 (7)||28.74 (25)|
|Adj. Efficiency Margin||5.98 (19)||-4.27 (44)|
|Pythagorean Win Expectation||66.84% (17)||37.78% (45)|
|Pace||67.20 (26)||68.70 (20)|
|Possession Margin||-1.20 (43)||+0.73 (27)|
|S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Efficiency Margin||-2.39 (53)||-0.41 (39)|
|S.o.S.: Opponent Pythagorean Win Expectation||43.60% (54)||47.78% (40)|