On a cold day last March in West Point, N.Y., Navy's first 20-win regular season in 13 years ended with a shocking loss to Lehigh in the first round of the Patriot League tournament. It was a deflating conclusion to an otherwise stellar season for the Midshipmen.

For Coach Don DeVoe, however, it was only the beginning.

"We accomplished a lot last year," DeVoe said, ". . . but that loss made our players realize, `We really dropped the ball and we'll need to work to make sure that doesn't happen again.' "

Navy begins this season generally regarded as the Patriot League's second-best team, behind Lafayette, which returns two league players of the year, center Stefan Ciosici and guard Brian Ehlers.

However, Navy has some large holes to fill, beginning with the multiple roles played by Skip Victor, the backbone of last season's team who led the Midshipmen in steals and assists and was third in scoring and rebounding. Just as important, he was their best defensive player, usually assigned to the opposition's top scorer. Also gone is 6-11 center Josh Williams, who provided strong low-post defense.

"I fully realize more than anyone else that the players who made us successful the last couple years are the players who have departed our program," DeVoe said. "We're basically starting over."

Those are strong words about a team that returns its top two scorers, junior forward Chris Williams and senior center Sitapha Savane, as well as starting point guard Reggie Skipworth and improving junior forward Robert Reeder.

Still, DeVoe will be counting on a number of last season's reserves to play more prominent roles, including sophomore guard Jahiel Lewis and junior guards Shawn Murray and Chris Worthing.

"We really need to do lots of work with this team because these guys really haven't had a chance to win many big ballgames," DeVoe said.

Data

Last season: 20-7, 9-3 Patriot League.

Coach: Don DeVoe (eighth season, 119-80; 27th season overall, 447-308).

Top returning players: F Chris Williams, 6-4, Jr. (13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2 spg, first-team all-Patriot League); C Sitapha Savane, 6-8, Sr. (12.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg, first-team all-Patriot League); F Robert Reeder, 6-7, Jr. (6.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Reggie Skipworth (5.4 ppg, 3.1 apg).

Key departures: G Skip Victor (11.1 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3 spg, second-team all-Patriot League); C Josh Williams (9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg).

New faces: G Jason Jeanpierre, 6-2, Fr. (Clifton Park, N.Y.); F Francis Ebong, 6-8, Fr. (Omaha); F Kyle Barker, 6-7, Fr. (Lyons, Mich.); F Scott Long, 6-6, Fr. (Newberry Park, Calif.)

Schedule

November

19 at Rice, 9

22 Wake Forest, 7:30

24 Richmond, 7:30

27 Air Force, 3

29 Coast Guard, 7:30

December

2 at Northeastern, 7

4 at Harvard, 7

6 Denver, 7:30

23 at So. Methodist, 8:30

28 Gettysburg, 7:30

30 Belmont, 7:30

January

3 UMBC, 7:30

5 Liberty, 7:30

12 at Bucknell, 7:30

16 at Lafayette, 4

23 at Holy Cross, 4

26 Army, 7:30

29 Lehigh, 3

31 William & Mary, 7:30

February

2 at Colgate, 7:45

5 Bucknell, 3

9 Lafayette, 7:30

12 Stony Brook, 3

14 Colgate, 7:30

19 Holy Cross, 3

23 at Lehigh, 7:30

26 at Army, noon

March

4-5 Patriot League tournament in Easton, Pa.