By Ken McMillan
WEST POINT – Jimmy Allen will make his debut as Army’s men’s basketball coach against one of the toughest foes the Black Knights have ever faced.
Allen and his revamped lineup will open the 2016-17 season on Nov. 11 at the University of Oregon, the defending Pac-12 Conference champion and an NCAA Elite Eight participant. Some preseason polls have the Ducks (31-7 last season) as a top-10 team.
“With the exception of Duke two years ago, who ended up winning the national championship, this is the most talented team we’ve played in the last six years,’’ Allen said. “I probably would prefer not to play them in the very first game of the year. … It will be a unique experience for sure. We will have to be tough and go out there and see what we can do.’’
The rest of the non-league slate – scheduled long before Allen took over from new LaSalle coach Zach Spiker in the spring – is no easy task either. Conference regular-season champs Monmouth (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) and Saint Bonaventure (Atlantic 10) are scheduled, and potentially Chattanooga (Southern) in a West Point mini-tourney. Conference runner-ups include Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Francis-Brooklyn (Northeast).
In all, there are five 20-win foes, six more with winning overall records and nine teams with 2016 postseason experience.
Newburgh’s Mount Saint Mary of the Skyline Conference will open the Army home schedule on Nov. 15. This is the eighth consecutive season an NCAA Division III team has made the Army schedule. The Black Knights have swept those outings, beating Mount Saint Vincent, Vassar, Marywood, Rosemont, Coast Guard (twice) and Ferrum.
Army-Oregon is an “opening game” of the Maui Invitational, but Army is not part of the championship bracket. The Black Knights will host a regional tournament as part of the invitational, with Chattanooga, Central Arkansas and a third team to be determined coming to West Point for a mini-tourney on the weekend of Nov. 19-20.
Fairleigh Dickinson (Nov. 30), Saint Francis-Brooklyn (Dec. 3), Air Force (Dec. 7) and Binghamton (Dec. 21) visit Christl Arena. Army travels to Columbia (Nov. 23), Fairfield (Nov. 26), Monmouth (Dec. 10) and Saint Bonaventure (Dec. 19). Monmouth features Kingston graduate Justin Robinson, an All-American candidate at guard.
The 27th season of Patriot League play opens Dec. 30 when Lehigh visits. The home rematch with surprise champion Holy Cross comes Jan. 18, followed by a visit by Navy on Jan. 21. Army travels to Annapolis, Md., on Feb. 18.
Allen said the Oregon and Saint Bonaventure games represent the on-going efforts to schedule schools from high-major conferences. Army faced Tennessee and George Washington last season, USC and Duke in 2014-15, Notre Dame and Rutgers in 2013-14 and Penn State and Texas A&M in 2012-13.
Army finished 19-14, after getting upset in the Patriot League semifinals by Holy Cross and losing to New Jersey Institute of Technology in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament – that was the Black Knights’ first postseason event since the 1978 National Invitation Tournament. Army graduated seven seniors who had the lion’s share of minutes and production for the past four seasons.
“Obviously, we’re striving to continue to have success in our program,’’ said Allen, who has been on Army’s staff for seven seasons. “We’re going to have some guys step up and do that but we’re excited about having the opportunity to do it and grow as a team.’’
Fri. 11 – Maui Invitational opener, at Oregon (31-7, 14-4 Pac 12, first; NCAA elite eight)
Tues. 15 – Mount Saint Mary (8-17, 6-14 NCAA Div. III Skyline)
Sat. 19-Sun. 20 – Maui Invitational, at West Point: Chattanooga (29-6, 15-3 Southern, first), Central Arkansas (7-21, 6-12 Southland, tie-ninth) and TBD (fourth foe and schedule to be determined)
Wed. 23 – at Columbia (25-10, 10-4 Ivy, third; College Insider champion)
Sat. 26 – at Fairfield (19-14, 12-8 Metro Atlantic, tie-fourth; College Insider first round)
Wed. 30 – Fairleigh Dickinson (18-15, 11-7 Northeast, tie-second; NCAA first four)
Sat. 3 – Saint Francis, N.Y. (15-17, 11-7 Northeast, tie-second)
Wed. 7 – Air Force (14-18, 5-13 Mountain West, tenth)
Sat. 10 – at Monmouth (28-8, 17-3 Metro Atlantic, first; NIT second round)
Mon. 19 – at Saint Bonaventure (22-9, 14-4 Atlantic 10, tie-first; NIT first round)
Wed. 21 – Binghamton (8-22, 5-11 America East, sixth)
Fri. 30 – Lehigh* (17-15, 13-5 Patriot, second)
Mon. 2 – at Bucknell* (17-14, 14-4 Patriot, first; NIT first round)
Thur. 5 – at Lafayette* (6-24, 3-15 Patriot, tenth)
Sun. 8 – Loyola* (9-21, 8-10 Patriot, eighth)
Wed. 11 – Colgate* (13-17, 9-9, tie-fourth)
Sat. 14 – at American* (12-19, tie-fourth)
Wed. 18 – Holy Cross* (15-20, 5-13 Patriot, ninth; NCAA first round)
Sat. 21 – Navy* (19-14, 9-9 Patriot, tie-fourth)
Wed. 25 – at Boston* (19-15, 11-7 Patriot, third; College Insider second round)
Sat. 28 – Bucknell*
Wed. 1 – Lafayette*
Sat. 4 – at Loyola*
Wed. 8 – at Colgate*
Sat. 11 – American*
Wed. 15 – at Holy Cross*
Sat. 18 – at Navy*
Wed. 22 – Boston*
Sat. 25 – at Lehigh*
28-March 8 – Patriot League tourney
Asterisk indicates Patriot League game; all times still to be determined