Maryland men’s basketball hits the road tonight to take part of the Veterans Classic. The Terps’ host and opponent for the contest will be the Navy Midshipmen.
While Maryland closed out a win despite watching a large lead disappear in its season-opener, the Midshipmen were on the wrong end of one of those big leads and started the season with a blowout loss on the road.
To get a better idea of what type of Navy team this is, we brought in Austin Lanteigne from SB Nation’s service academy site Against All Enemies. You can follow Austin (@a3lanteigne) and the site (@AAE_SBN) on Twitter, and you can find our corresponding Q&A here.
Testudo Times: On the football field, Ken Niumatalolo’s teams have an identity. What type of identity do Ed DeChellis’ teams have on the basketball court?
Against All Enemies: If you look at last year’s squad, Coach DeChellis led Navy to the top of the Patriot League in scoring defense where the Midshipmen gave up an average of only 66 points per game. The Mids aren’t going to dominate on offense nor look to establish a fast tempo game, rather they will look to play sound basketball in hopes of grinding out a win after a tough 40 minutes. Sure, all of this sounds cliche, especially for a service academy athletic program, but Coach DeChellis is always going to have a team that is looking to control the tempo and limit mistakes.
TT: Who is Navy looking to carry the scoring load this year?
AAE: Navy only returns two starters from last year’s squad and one of them is point guard Hasan Abdullah. At point, he may not be the leading scorer each night, but the offense will certainly depend upon his ability to both shoot and move the ball around. His dynamic ability as point guard coupled with the hopeful emergence of George Kiernan at forward will likely contribute to most of Navy’s points this season. Kiernan was the leading scorer in Navy’s opening game at Old Dominion in a 67-44 loss to the Monarchs.
TT: Navy has had a top-40 scoring defense the last three seasons. Is that a trend that should continue, and how specifically do the Midshipmen limit opposing teams?
AAE: Navy led the Patriot League in offensive rebounds and rebound margin last year which really limited opposing possessions. Additionally, Abdullah led the Patriot League in steals per game average in 17-18 which certainly helped. Those two attributes combined to form a solid end-of-season scoring defense for the Midshipmen. The recipe for that success to repeat would involve another active year from Abdullah and significant development on the boards from Kiernan and 6’8” center Evan Wieck.
TT: Which freshmen should Maryland fans know, and a player (of any class) that could surprise people?
AAE: I am excited about the potential behind freshman guard John Carter, Jr. He led the Naval Academy Prep School in scoring last year and managed to grab 10 boards and scored 8 points in the season opener at ODU. He will certainly be fun to watch as he gets more and more comfortable playing at this level. In terms of surprises, I think Hasan Abdullah is a fun player to watch - especially on the defensive side of the ball.
TT: What type of environment should travelling Maryland fans expect, and what’s the overall atmosphere of Alumni Hall?
AAE: The Veterans Classic is an awesome experience that Maryland fans should really enjoy. I would encourage them to get there early and watch the first game as the Naval Academy Athletics Department really puts on a top-notch event. Alumni Hall isn’t exactly known for being a hostile atmosphere unless it is the Army-Navy game as those games are mandatory for all 4,000+ Midshipmen to attend. Safe to say it can get loud then. It will be interesting to see the level of Midshipmen support this year as this is the first Veterans Classic that doesn’t feature a home football game that same weekend (Navy football will be at UCF Saturday). If you are visiting Annapolis and looking for a good spot to eat or drink, be sure to check out our recommendations here!
TT: What’s the significance for Navy of hosting the Veterans Classic and having Maryland, Providence and Wichita State come to Annapolis?
The Veterans Classic has been a home run since year one. The event has featured solid basketball programs like UNC, Michigan State, VCU, Florida, and Ohio State to name a few. The weekend always seems to draw a solid crowd and Navy gets the opportunity to tell its story to fan bases who may not be as familiar with Annapolis or the Naval Academy as a whole. Having these programs join this year is pretty special because Maryland is just down the road and Wichita State is kind of our sister school in the AAC. Navy is a football-only member of the American, so the Shockers kind of fill our void in the other athletic programs within the conference.