College basketball preview: Navy Midshipmen

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NAVY MIDSHIPMEN

Coach:Ed DeChellis. First season

Key player: G Jordan Sugars. The senior already has 1,015 career points and has a chance to crack the top 10 in points in school history. Considering the roster’s other juniors and seniors have a combined 27 points in their career, he’ll be by far the Midshipmen’s most experienced player.

Biggest loss: G O.J. Avworo. He ranks ninth in school history in assists, a trait that would come in handy for a team that spent much of the preseason attempting to identify its starting point guard.

Top newcomer: C Jared Smoot. The 6-foot-10, 244-pounder is one of two Mids listed at taller than 6-foot-6. His size could be a valuable asset even if his game probably needs a little bit of polish.

Best case: The youthful Mids defend like crazy from beginning to end in DeChellis’ first year and mature just in time to earn a surprise home game in the Patriot League tournament.

Worst case: Navy struggles to transition from a fast-paced team reliant on 3-pointers to a methodical, defense-first bunch and fails to win 10 games for the first time since 2004-05.

Key games:

* Navy at Longwood, Nov. 11. A new era begins as DeChellis debuts a 20-man team with 11 newcomers. The Mids won last year’s meeting in Annapolis by 17 points.

* Army at Navy, Jan. 14. The Mids’ first meeting of the season with Army is at Alumni Hall. Navy was only 6-8 in the Patriot League last year, but swept its two meetings with the Black Knights.

* Lehigh at Navy, Feb. 22. While Navy isn’t expected to contend for a Patriot title this season, it could still be a late spoiler for the Mountain Hawks. Same goes for Bucknell, which Navy visits Feb. 25.

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