Air Force and Boise State match up well with one another on paper with many similarities. Neither team plays big overall with their rosters dominated with players in the 6'3" to 6'8" range of build, so speed and finesse are keys to both teams. But do not let that comment fool you. They do have their 'bigs' with a strong Kenny Buckner who is an experienced 6'7"/251# senior that averages 17mpg/6.7ppg/4.7rpg and junior forward Ryan Watkins (6'9"/230#/9ppg/7rpg). BSU is strong and aggressive and has a nose for the ball and follow their shots on offense and are looking to rebound on defense. A lot has to do with the shot selection both teams are making but in the overtime loss to NM the Broncos out rebounded NM 36/8 to 26/6 rebounds/offensive rebounds. This is aways an emphasis area for the Falcons and needs to be highlighted once again coming into this game.
Looking at the match up here's the key statistics for both teams (biggest numbers that stand out is the edge in 3 point shooting and FT percentages and the rebounding edge Boise State has):
AF PPG 72 FG 47.0% FT 68.9% 3pt 38.8% Reb 31 Off 8 Def 23 AST 15 STL 8 TO 12
BSU PPG 78 FG 48.2% FT 74.3% 3pt 42.5% Reb 35 Off 10 Def 25 AST 15 STL 8 TO 12
|Field Goal %|
|Free Throw %|
Boise State has played a number of players but, in looking at key games for the Broncos in both OOC and MWC play, their Coach Leon Rice has used a very short bench. In the New Mexico game (with all key players back from suspension except for forward Kenny Buckner should be back for the Air Force game) played six players in double figures to include two with 43/45 minutes each, three players with 32 minutes or greater and four others players with only 3/5/7/19 minutes of playing time.
Success for Boise State evolves around a trio of guards or guard/forward players. They are led by sophomore Derrick Marks (6'3"/206#/17ppg/3.6rpg/3.9apg) who has had a breakout year this season (9ppg in 2011-12) and is shooting 45% from the arc. Along side him in the backcourt is junior Jeff Elorriaga (6'2"/183#/12ppg/3.9rpg) who is a shooter, leading the MWC at 49% in three point shooting on 55 made on 112 attempted (compare that with Air Force's Todd Fletcher 48% but on 25 of 52). The trio is rounded out with sophomore Anthony Drmic (6'6"/196#/15ppg/4.8rpg/42% 3pt shooting). Yes, this team can and will shoot the three point shot, but they do not limit themselves to the outside, each of these three will attack the basketball and Marks in particular, has an exceptional mid-range shot inside 15' with the quick pull up and release off the bounce. Along with Watkins who started vs New Mexico, the Broncos may feature another guard in another sophomore Hadziomerovic (6'4"/204#/6ppg/3rpg) and freshman Mikey Thompson (6'3"/170#/9ppg and another 3pt shooter).
In watching the New Mexico game you saw a very aggressive Boise State team that played a tough man-to-man versus the Lobos for much of the game. But as early as the 11 minutes mark in that game they moved for a short period to zone and then even a box-and-one defense. They do show the ability to use a zone press for the full court pressure but mostly played a half court defense. On offense they will try to spread the court and often use the one man low at the low post or running the baseline. Their options low open up having both Watkins and Buckner available to play the big position. Bottom line is they will look to drive and shoot but if the kick out is there they will take the three point shot. They are also very good at transitional ball movement looking to get the ball forward quickly using the pass and looking for the lead runner going to the lane and the basket. One point of note: Derrick Marks is an exceptional player. However (an editorial opinion here) he sometimes appears to be too quick to take a shot himself going straight one-on-one versus making that extra pass to maybe a more open teammate. At the end of regulation in the NM game it appeared there were opportunities for him to pass for a better shot but did not. Bottom line will be that AF must defend for the entirety of the shot clock no matter who has the ball.
Key's for Air Force to win versus Boise State:
1) Biggest obstacle for this game may not be BSU, it may be Air Force itself. The players must put the CSU game behind them and bring that energy to the court that they brought to UNLV. Several players on the team have been ill and that has contributed to the problem but it is not an excuse. At this point of the season with a minimum of only 14 games left to be played, there should not be a question about leadership and motivation on the court. I have used this example before and will use it again: To quote Air Force Academy graduate and now head coach of the San Antoinio Spurs Coach Popovich "The team needs to bring some nasty" to the floor. They must play aggressive, believing in and motivating each other. And the five seniors need to take that role and lead.
2) Matchup zone will be used by the Falcons throughout much of the game. They will be concerned about the low post in this game but will be less likely to key on doubling down with the absence of a UNLV's Bennet or a CSU's Iverson. This should give the the ability to work hard to defend the arc while stopping the cutter down the lane. We must not let Mark's 15' shot be a 'consistent' during the game. He will get his points but we must minimize his effect on their total points.
3) With the movement we can create with our version of the Princeton offense we must exploit the inside and backdoor cuts. We started out aggressive and executed the offense for the first 5 minutes of the game versus CSU, but then their physical play (and the referees let them play physical) denied the lane and we did not make that a priority, settling for more of a perimeter game. This cannot happen versus the Broncos. We must go inside out from the opening until the closing buzzer.
4) Taylor Broekhuis, Marek Olesinski and Chase Kammerer must play big in this game. Go to the board for the rebound and, more importantly, we need points from the 5 position. For the Air Force to have success it must (again) begin inside.
5) Consistency in scoring is imperative for the Falcons. Kudo's to BSU versus NM: They had five players in double figures to include 12 from guard Thompson off the bench. The consistent scoring contribution across the roster has been absent from many games for Air Force. This is something that is critical for their success (as shown in the UNLV game with 3 in double figures).
Big game for both teams and a must win at home for Air Force. Three-day weekend so not many cadets are anticipated at the game and many Boise State fans are expected to attend. Need to get fired up to support the Falcons.
- Friends of Air Force Basketball will host a pregame for members at the same location on the NE side of the Cadet Ice Arena versus their normal location in the Hall of Excellence.
- Big games around the MWC include UNLV at CSU, #15 SDSU at Wyoming and Nevada at Fresno State.
Go Air Force....BEAT BOISE STATE
Matchup Statistics: Air Force (9-6/1-2) vs Boise State (13-3/1-1)
Air Force (9-6/1-2) Roster, Schedule, Stats and more
Boise State (13-3/1-1) Roster, Schedule, Stats and more