Location: Annapolis, MD
Time: 9:00 PM EST (estimated)
Channel: CBS Sports
KenPom Line: MSU -13
Basketball season is upon us! This year the Spartans open up on the road against the Naval Academy, as part of the Quicken Loans Veterans Classic, because it is apparently impossible to honor veterans without a corporate sponsor being involved. I digress.
Probably the most interesting storyline in this game is that Ed DeChellis, former Penn State head coach, is entering his fourth year coaching at Navy. Since bolting Penn State for Navy after making the NCAA Tournament, DeChellis is a combined 20-70 in three years, and has yet to crack the KenPom top 300(!). This is the program that lured him from Penn State. Wow.
Navy does return their entire starting five from last year, featuring Senior Forward Worth Smith and Senior Guard Brandon Venturini. It's worth mentioning that Venturini is from Allendale, Michigan and lists "Michigan or Michigan State" in his bio as the teams he would most like to play. Expect him to be fired up.
The Tempo-Free (projected, national ranks in parentheses)
|66.3 (336)||93.9 (333)||103.6 (194)|
You can take Ed DeChellis out of the Big Ten, but you can't take the Big Ten out of Ed DeChellis. Since he took over, Navy has been one of the slowest teams in the country; their fastest pace in the last three years put them at 310th in the country. They've been a total disaster offensively, failing to break 95 points per 100 possessions in any of the last three years. Though they're more experienced now, it's hard to imagine them improving dramatically on the offensive end with largely the same personnel.
In 2013-14 Navy was merely below average defensively, but did manage to rank 35th in the country in terms of turnover percentage. This aggressiveness also cost them in terms of how often they sent opponents to the line, where they ranked 241st in the country in terms of free throw rate. The only other item of note here is that 37.9% of Navy's opponents field goal attempts came from three, which is one of the highest rates in the country.
Matchups to Watch
Denzel Valentine vs. Turnovers: Will be interesting to see how Valentine hangs onto the ball with an increased usage rate and a team that forces a high number of turnovers
Branden Dawson vs. Worth Smith: Worth Smith is Navy's version of Dawson, meaning that he's a 6-6 guy playing the 4 spot that doesn't shoot very well (but does basically everything else). Hopefully this is an advantageous mismatch.
Bryn Forbes vs. Open Threes: Considering both the cast on his off hand and the number of three point attempts Navy allows, it'll be telling if Forbes can stroke it.
This seems like it'll be a bit of a slog at first given Navy's pace. Navy has to play again Sunday against Notre Dame, so it wouldn't be surprising if DeChellis pulls his normal rotation guys once the game gets out of hand. I think MSU pulls away to the tune of: MSU 76 - Navy 55.