Yes, it’s a very slow time for college sports. At this time of the year, pretty much any news can be confined to the following categories:
* A player is arrested/shot/suspended/relieved of a suspension/kicked off the team. Not convinced? Look at the first half dozen or so entries on this page.
* A player has some sort of ailment (like Florida State offensive lineman Evan Bellamy) and will miss significant time.
* A coach receives a hefty contract extension, even if he’s become quite good at tossing up eight-wins seasons and coming off as a bumpkin in this book.
* An athletic director discovers his new school’s football facilities were probably constructed as one of the first acts of the Tennessee Valley Authority – and have not been upgraded since. (Poor Duke football).
There’s also a trickle of basketball schedules – one that eventually becomes a torrent in August. And since Dan Steinberg’s ever-interesting Sports Bog gave us, among many other things, the Atlantic 11 hoops poll, there’s an established group of schools in the area to work with – and maybe a couple extra if Delaware and Delaware State are added for a full Delmarva effect.
Alas, only one of the 27 Division I schools in Maryland/D.C./Virginia appears to have released their basketball schedule this quickly. So consider this the first of a periodic series over the next couple months breaking down what the area can look forward to when winter arrives.
So here’s a very early lookahead at Navy, which went 16-14 and finished second in the Patriot League a year ago before losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
They’ll be missing: Senior Greg Sprink, who averaged 20.8 points en route to earning the Patriot League’s player of the year award.
They’re adding: Assistant coach Ron Ginyard, whose younger brother Marcus will again be a key cog for North Carolina this season.
Home/road/neutral schedule split:14 home, 14 road, 1 neutral site. For a school from a traditionally one-bid league, that’s an exceptionally manageable travel situation.
Best team visiting Annapolis: Derrick Mercer and Garrison Carr return to man the backcourt at American, so the Eagles (Jan. 28, 7 p.m.) figure to be the visitor most likely to make the NCAA tournament.
Best home game subplot: It’s easy to point to whenever Army comes to town. But Bucknell – the team that stunned the Mids with a midcourt heave in OT in the PL quarterfinals, visits on Jan. 10 to open conference play.
Funny seeing you here: Most of Navy’s nonconference home opponents are relatively nearby schools. Then there’s Texas-San Antonio, which returns the back end of a home-and-home on Dec. 2. Perhaps the Midshipmen will remember the Alamodome, where they lost to the Roadrunners 77-67 in a dress rehearsal game to work out any bugs in the building before the Final Four.
Best road venue: The Palestra. The Midshipmen swing up to Penn (which should be much improved over last year’s embryonic squad) on Dec. 5.
Best showcase: Navy will play in the BB&T Classic for the second time in three years, this time in the opener of the doubleheader against Virginia Tech. That’s not a bad deal for the Mids – playing an ACC opponent on a neutral floor less than an hour from Alumni Hall.
Best opponent: Villanova. Coach Billy Lange, who got a contract extension out of last season’s progress, visits his old boss Jay Wright on Dec. 22.
New to the schedule: William & Mary (back after a one-year hiatus), Radford (first meeting), Virginia Tech (first meeting since 1964), Mount St. Mary’s (first meeting since 2004), Wofford (first meeting since 1998), Elon (first meeting).
Pivotal stretch: Five of Navy’s first eight league games are on the road, and the home games in that sequence are against defending league champ American and recent PL royalty Bucknell and Holy Cross. Making it through at .500 or better would immensely bolster the Mids’ chances of making a push for a regular season crown.