Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
February 15: at Jacksonville; February 22: at Syracuse
Army was a solid 9-5 in 2014 but that record -- one that included only two wins (Lehigh and Colgate) against teams with records above .500 -- wasn't enough to drive the Black Knights into the conversation around NCAA Tournament at-large candidates. An RPI ranking of 31 combined with a weighted RPI strength of schedule ranking of just 47 annihilated any opportunity that the Cadets had to reasonably make the expanded 18-team field last spring. Seemingly in response to the team's destructive rankings in arguably the two most important metrics for at-large consideration (regardless of how poor those metrics are at assessing the strength of teams), Army futzed with their slate in 2015 to try and create some circumstances conducive to a better profile come May.
Jettisoned from the team's 2014 slate is Furman and in the Paladins place is Jacksonville, a peer Southern Conference team with a higher 2015 ceiling than South Carolina's only Division I team, and an additional date against Syracuse, increasing the number of regular season dates that the Knights will play this coming spring compared to 2014. The real driver here, of course, is Syracuse: The Orange are expected to finish with a solid record next spring, and Syracuse's opponents -- comprised, in part, of power teams in the ACC and beyond -- are expected to finish with strong records. As the RPI is partially based on the record of opponents and the records of an opponent's opponents, Army should get a jolt in both its RPI ranking and weighted RPI strength of schedule ranking simply by playing the Orange this year. Throwing hands against Syracuse and Jacksonville in February will create a busy month for the Cadets, but the benefits of those dates outweigh the difficulty of a five-game opening month of competition.
February 7: at Massachusetts; March 3: at Rutgers; March 14: Loyola; March 21: at Lehigh; April 4: Boston University; April 17: Colgate; May 2: Notre Dame
Army played eight one-goal games against this annotated competition in 2014, going a somewhat disappointing 3-5 in those games (those results include the Knights' Patriot League Tournament loss to Lehigh). The universe has an odd way of evening out over time, making one-goal results reflect things -- or not reflect things -- that aren't noticeable in the moment. How will Army pivot from these tight games last spring during their 2015 campaign? Teams change from season to season and results from the past aren't always indicative of future returns, but the fact remains that if the Knights get themselves in tight spots -- partly due to the team's preferred style of play -- they'll hopefully come out on the right side of the result more often than they did last spring. If not, another May of discomfort could reside in Army's future.