Rationalizing Navy’s Easy Non-Conference Schedule

A couple of weeks ago, I gave Navy some kind hearted flack for their newly released non-conference schedule. It was, to put it nicely, a very weak slate featuring the likes of St. Francis (PA), The Citadel, UMBC, Binghamton, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and a home game versus a Division III opponent. You can view the schedule here.

According to KenPom, Navy had the seventh worst non-conference SOS in the nation last season, so this nothing new.  But the 2013-14 tilt projects to be even easier than that:

  • 2012-13 season: Opponent’s average KenPom rating of 240
  • 2013-14 season: Opponent’s average KenPom rating of 253

Navy (8-23, 2-12 Patriot) is coming off another tough season of rebuilding, so I can certainly understand the logic behind the schedule. The team was incredibly young, and was forced to rely on underclassmen Tilman Dunbar, Worth Smith, Brandon Venturini, and Kendall Knorr. I had an opportunity to speak with Navy head coach Ed DeChellis to get his take on his team’s non-conference schedule. Why was it so easy?

“Last year, we were playing UAB, TCU, and people – like Albany – who were very, very good,” said DeChellis. “We needed to play some ‘like’ opponents (this season). We were playing everybody above the league (last season) and we weren’t there, we weren’t very healthy.”

DeChellis’ idea of “like” opponents includes several low mid-major programs on the rebound, such as UMBC, Binghamton, and St. Francis (PA). While the RPI and KenPom rankings for these teams will be poor this November, it’s likely to improve over the course of the season. More importantly, if DeChellis’ young team can compile a few wins in November and December, it should give them more confidence heading into conference play.

Another major advantage of this year’s schedule is the increased number of local games for the Mids. It’s easy to forgot how difficult the transition is for kids going from high school to the Naval Academy.

“We thought we should play more ‘like’ opponents and more local, instead of us flying around playing everybody,” explained DeChellis. “Mid-week travel is very challenging for us, because when these kids get back at one, two, three in the morning, they have to be up at 5:30. They can’t sleep in, and the next day of practice is challenging because they have two to three hours of sleep. I tried to do more where we can get these kids home at a decent hour where they get six, seven hours of sleep.”

It’s hard to disagree with DeChellis there. Navy’s non-conference schedule may appear to be Cupcake City, as Dickie V would say, but it makes sense for a team full of youth and inexperience. With any luck, year number three of the DeChellis era will be the turning point for the Mids.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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