When Army and Navy met in Annapolis for their first matchup Jan. 23, both squads were 2-2 in the Patriot League. Thanks to a solid showing in their non-conference schedule, Army was seven games above .500 and looked to be a potential Patriot contender. Navy, meanwhile, was well below .500, and had not been very impressive in non-conference play.
Navy beat Army that afternoon, and since then, the Mids (13-13, 7-4) have fought their way back to .500 and second place in the Patriot standings. Army (13-12, 3-8) has basically done the opposite, dropping five of six games and plummeting to the bottom of the Patriot.
The two academies play again on Saturday, and there’s much more on the line than bragging rights. The Midshipmen need a win to stay in the hunt for the Patriot regular season crown (which means they get an automatic bid to the NIT). Navy is one game behind Lehigh (17-9, 8-3) and tied with Bucknell (7-4, 12-15) for second place. Navy swept the series with both Lehigh and Bucknell, so if the Mids will hold the tiebreaker should they end up tied for first with either squad. Navy must also stay ahead of Lafayette (6-5, 15-11), who swept Navy this year.
Navy can also lock up a home game in quarterfinals of the Patriot League tournament by beating Army and having a couple of other teams lose, according to the fine folks at the Patriot League Twitter page.
For Army, the goal is simple. Win two of their three last games and they can ensure a winning record for the program for the first time since 1985. A few weeks ago, this seem like an ace in the hole. Army’s strong non-conference performance (10 wins, two losses) bought them plenty of breathing room heading into Patriot League play. But the Black Knights have fallen flat of late, losing five of their last six. The final three games for the Black Knights include the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams in the Patriot. Taking two of three will not be easy.