Coach: Billy Lange (9-19 in one season at Navy, 48-38 overall.)

Last season: 9-19, 5-9 Patriot League, lost in conference quarterfinals.

The glue: As Navy's most experienced front-court player, Matt Fannin would have been a key to the Midshipmen's hopes even before Carlton Baldwin's injury. But when Baldwin, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, broke his right ankle in September, Fannin's responsibilities expanded even further.

Navy's 6-6 senior captain led the team in scoring (10.9 points per game) and rebounding (6.7) a year ago. He was second in the Patriot League in rebounding, and with Navy employing a three-guard lineup, he'll likely need to play a bigger interior role this season.

"Matt's got to be our catalyst; he's got to be a physical rebounder for us," Lange said. "He's our go-to player on the inside. I'm sure everybody knows that; there's no secret."

Baldwin, who led Navy in scoring and rebounding two years ago, has healed faster than expected and could be ready for next Friday's season opener against Georgetown. Had Baldwin's recovery lasted longer, 6-5 freshman Casey Reed likely would have joined Fannin in the front court.

Game to watch: Jan. 25 vs. American. This game obviously has none of the pageantry of home meetings with Air Force or Army, but from a basketball standpoint, it should provide a significant measuring stick. The Midshipmen lost three games to American last year by a combined 15 points, including a two-point overtime loss in the Patriot League tournament.

Postseason prospects (from 1 to 4 basketballs): With all six freshmen expected to play, any improvement on last season's record would be satisfying.