A large returning cast of top players for the Army men’s basketball team will be challenged by a competitive non-league schedule this season.
Army has scheduled trips to Penn State from the Big Ten Conference on Dec. 8 and Texas A&M, recently moved to the Southeastern Conference, on Dec. 29. The 12-game home schedule will include America East challenger Maine and a rising Marist team from the Metro Atlantic.
“It’s more competitive than it has been in the past,’’ coach Zach Spiker said of the 29-game slate. “I think our guys want to be challenged. Also, we’re trying to prepare ourselves so we are playing our best basketball in the latter half of the season. We want to perform well in league play.’’
The non-league home schedule has Binghamton (Nov. 16), Marist (Dec. 4), Maine (Dec. 14), Div. III Rosemont (Dec. 22) and Columbia (Jan. 5).
Additional road contests include St. Francis, N.Y. (Nov. 20), Yale (Nov. 24), Bryant (Dec. 1), New Jersey Tech (Dec. 11), Houston Baptist (Dec. 31) and Dartmouth (Jan. 8).
This season will mark the first matchups with Texas A&M, Houston Baptist and Rosemont.
Next season, Houston Baptist will visit West Point and Army travels to Maine for the first time.
Army opens the season on Nov. 10-11 in the All-Military Classic, hosted by The Citadel. The Black Knights will face Air Force in the opener, and either Virginia Military Institute or The Citadel in the second contest. Spike said he likes opening the schedule with the tournament, to be hosted by VMI in 2013 and Army in 2014.
“We want to go up against fellow service academies as much as we can,’’ Spiker said. “I think it’s a good way to start the season.’’
The 23rd season of Patriot League play, and the last with only eight schools (Boston University and Loyola, Md., join in 2013-14), begins Jan. 12 at regular-season champ Bucknell. Tourney champ Lehigh visits West Point on Feb. 3. Navy comes to Christl Arena on Jan. 20 (a Sunday afternoon contest) with the “Star Game” set for Feb. 16 in Annapolis, Md.
Army will play Ivy League foes Columbia at home and Dartmouth and Yale on the road. Army and Dartmouth will meet for the eighth season in a row with the Black Knights winning six of the seven meetings. Army last met Columbia in 2005-06, wrapping up a 12-year series – the teams have split the last six meetings. Yale has won the last two seasons, including 84-75 at West Point last year.
“I think it (playing the Ivy schools) makes sense,’’ Spiker said. “We are like-minded academic institutions. We all have the same mission in mind, to grow our people as students and athletes. And that’s why, in my opinion, you always see West Point competing with schools like the Ivy League as much as we can within reason.’’
Spiker said it was reasonable to raise the competitive level of the schedule, given he has four returning starters and seven of his top eight scorers from last season. Ella Ellis was a first-team all-Patriot League selection after scoring 17.5 points per game, Maxwell Lenox was an all-rookie team pick and Josh Herbeck average 10.3 points last season.
Last year, Army went 4-5 against upcoming non-league foes, including wins over Bryant, Binghamton, Dartmouth and St. Francis. The Black Knights lost to Air Force, The Citadel, Yale, Marist and New Jersey Tech.
Sat-Sun. 10-11 – All-Military Classic, at The Citadel; Sat. 10 – vs. Air Force (13-16), 4 p.m.; Sun. 11 – vs. The Citadel (6-24) or VMI, 2 p.m. or 4 p.m.; Fri. 16 – Binghamton (2-29), 4 p.m.; Tues. 20 – at St. Francis, N.Y. (15-15), 7 p.m.; Sat. 24 – at Yale (19-10), TBA
Sat. 1 – at Bryant (2-28), 1 p.m.; Tues. 4 – Marist (14-18), 7 p.m.; Sat. 8 – at Penn State (12-20), TBA; Tues. 11 – at New Jersey Tech (15-17), 7:30 p.m.; Fri. 14 – Maine (12-17), 7 p.m.; Sat. 22 – Rosemont (13-12, Div. III), 1 p.m.; Sat. 29 – at Texas A&M (14-18), TBA; Mon. 31 – at Houston Baptist (10-20), 4 p.m.
Sat. 5 – Columbia (15-15), 3 p.m.; Tues. 8 – at Dartmouth (5-25), 7 p.m.; Sat. 12 – at Bucknell* (25-10, 12-2), TBA; Wed. 16 – Lafayette* (13-18, 7-7), 7 p.m.; Sun. 20 – Navy* (3-26, 0-14), TBA; Wed. 23 – at Colgate* (8-22, 2-12), TBA; Sat. 26 – American* (20-12, 10-4), 3 p.m.; Wed. 30 – at Holy Cross* (15-14, 9-5), TBA
Sun. 3 – Lehigh* (27-8, 11-3), 1 p.m.; Sat. 9 – Bucknell*, 4 p.m.; Wed. 13 – at Lafayette*, 7 p.m.; Sat. 16 – at Navy*, TBA; Wed. 20 – Colgate*, 7 p.m.; Sat. 23 – at American*, 2 p.m.; Wed. 27 – Holy Cross*, 7 p.m.
Sat. 2 – at Lehigh*, TBA
Home games at West Point’s Christl Arena; * — indicates Patriot League game; overall records in parenthesis and league marks for Patriot foes