We're quite sure that for Mike Krzyzewski, playing Army is a special occasion. It's his alma mater after all, and he learned a great deal there about teamwork, forging a unit, and deeper lessons as well, some of which he shares from time to time, with the public at large or with the national team.
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West Point is a very special place. A few years ago, a writer from (we think) Rolling Stone spent time there and ended up realizing that it was nothing at all like he had imagined. His father had a reflexive disregard for the military and he had to explain to him that his - that their - bias was misplaced.
It is, as we said, a very special place.
It is not a traditional basketball power. Army is, however, undefeated, and Zach Spiker, just 14 years out of Ithaca, has made West Point competitive.
Kyle Wilson (6-5, 205 Jr.) and Tanner Plomb (6-7, 205 Jr.) lead the offense with 21.4 and 16.4 ppg. Kevin Ferguson 6-10, 200 lb. Jr.), Larry Toomey (6-6, 210 lb. Jr) and Dylan Cox (6-4, 190 lb. Jr.)also start.
Ten guys basically are the rotation, with everyone playing at least 14 mpg.
Army's wins have come against some teams which you might have expected to beat the Black Knights: Air Force has had some good stretches in recent years; Army won 84-78. VMI is a running, gunning rooting tooting team, especially for a military academy. Army outran them 92-86. Army also took down St. Francis, 74-71, Marist, 76-62 and Binghamton 80-54.
Army is averaging 81.2 ppg, good for 30th in the country. That's not something you see every year from West Point.
What Spiker is doing is pretty impressive. In his sixth year, he's currently 71-83.
In his five years at Army, Coach K was 73-59. Like Spiker, he had two winning seasons, but Krzyzewski's were more substantial: 20-8 and 19-9.
It's not fair to compare the two, but Spiker is doing well and can reasonably expect someone to give him a call before too long.
Army's Web site calls this a battle between undefeated teams and that is true, but the two teams are on different levels. Army is going to send a 6-10, 200 lb. guy out to deal with Jahlil Okafor, who outweighs him by 70 lbs. Anyone who plays for Duke would immediately be Army's star.
Then again, Army is not and has never been about producing candidates for the pros. People who go there are unusually serious and committed young people who have to start thinking about their mortality while most folks their age are trying to buy beer.
It's a contest, and most of you, we're sure, will pull for Duke. But win lose or draw, the young men on Army's team deserve immense respect and a round of applause when the game is over.
Like Coach K is fond of saying, the Cadets are part of something bigger than themselves. In their case, it's bigger than basketball too.
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