My thoughts on AF vs Wyoming..........
Preview: Air Force (11-6/2-2) versus Wyoming (15-3/2-3)
This is an interesting match up in what is becoming one of the toughest MWC seasons in recent history with parity showing itself in the early going. New Mexico sits atop the ladder at 4-0 but the middle gets more crowded with UNLV/SDSU at 3-2, Air Force/Boise State/Colorado State all at 2-2, Wyoming 2-3, Nevada 1-3 and Fresno State 1-4. Key match ups will occur tomorrow to include:
Air Force at Wyoming
#15 New Mexico at SDSU
Boise State at Nevada
Colorado State at Fresno State
Wyoming has given themselves the distinction of playing aggressive defense this season as evidenced in holding SDSU to only 9 points in the first half (poor shooting by SDSU helped) and playing a melodic offense that reminds many of Air Force in the past using all of the clock when they have the ball, limiting possessions and looking to shoot late in the clock. They are currently ranked 339 out of 344 teams in the NCAA in number of total possessions per game. This is making defenders defend for the full 35 second shot clock and puts alot of pressure on teams, especially at the 7200' of the A&A Auditorium in Laramie. The altitude should not be as big a concern for the Falcons, also from 7000' at Clune and with the depth the Falcons have shown to have this season. In recent games to include the loss to UNLV on Thursday night, they continued with their slow down offense which reminds me alot of Air Force's offense. Not a true low post position more of a mid to low post with players, to include their big, rotating to the top in their offensive flow similar to Air Force. They played all man to man versus UNLV with limited pressing. I expect to see more full court pressure versus the Falcons.
The number comparison for Air Force vs Wyoming:
AF FG 48.5% 3pt 40.1% FT 70.4% Reb 31/8 Ast 16 Spg 8 Bpg 2 Tpg 12
Wyo FG 44.7% 3pt 33.1% FT 71.3% Reb 30/8 Ast 12 Spg 7 Bpg 4 Tpg 12
Air Force Schedule/Stats/Roster
A very good match up on paper. One thing that is not show here is average minutes per game for their starters. In the MWC season, Wyoming's Coach Shyatt has gone with a very short bench. I cannot say if it is due to desire or necessity with his players and with the suspension of Martinez. In the UNLV game the five starters played 39/39/35/34/32 minutes with a combined 13/5/2/1 minutes and only 7 points off the bench. No bench players are averaging double figure minutes in reserve roles for the season. Contrast that with Air Force where the starters are averaging 32/29/26/27/12mpg and the Falcons have four players averaging double minutes off the bench plus two more at 9mpg each.
Take this all into consideration with the actual minutes played by the Wyoming starters last night with their timetable I discussed early in my blog. This is the perfect setup for Air Force. Last Saturday to this Wednesday's tip off: A four day gap for Air Force versus a two day gap with travel for UNO. The setup continues as AF plays WEDNESDAY night but then has 2 days (Thursday and Friday) to prepare and practice then travel to Wyoming for the Saturday evening game. This is the perfect setup because next up Wyoming (15-2/2-2) goes on the road for a THURSDAY evening tip off in Las Vegas which they lost to UNLV with starters playing a lot of minutes, then Friday travel home (by plane to Denver then bus to Laramie)/practice one day only for the Saturday evening tip off with the Falcons. It will be interesting to see the physical outcome of this game.
Back to Wyoming, even with the loss of Martinez, the Cowboys are stacked with good players led by senior Leonard Washington (6'7"/230#/F/14ppg/9rpg in 33mpg). Big player that has energy both inside and out, defends well, tough on the glass and not afraid to shoot outside (only 20% from the arc but tough at the 15' mark). Sophomore Larry Nance Jr (6'8"/210#/F/11ppg/7rpg) is playing well in tandem with Washington and between the two they grab 16 rebounds a game. With Martinez gone their three guard lineup centers around Gilmore (Sr/5'10"/170#/11ppg/40% 3pt), Adams (Fr/6'2"/175#/6.6ppg/28mpg) and Grabau (So/6'2"/170#/6ppg/28mpg/36% 3pt).
Key numbers to watch for in this game are the rebounds and the outside shooting. Although the numbers look the same on rebounds that is deceiving due to the low number of possession Wyoming has. Both teams average 31 rebounds per game but AF is doing that on 66 possession/gm versus 60 for Wyoming. Wyoming is shooting 33% 3pt for the season but only 28% in conference play. Compare that to Air Force who is a consistent 40% 3pt shooting in the season/MWC action.
Key's for Air Force to have success and win at Wyoming:
1) First and foremost defend for 35 seconds on the clock. Air Force practices against itself day in and day out and knows how to defend for long periods of time. In many games they have done exceptionally well to then give up a missed assignment and shot in the last 5 seconds of the clock. This must be a priority for success.
2) Force Wyoming to score from the perimeter. They do not shoot well from the arc yet have the ability to do so especially at home. But they can and do score inside. Key will be to force them to be pressured at the end of the shot clock to make a quick choice to shoot and to shoot long. Combine this key with the first successfully and AF can win.
3) Do not get dominated on the glass. Watch for the slip on the defender to allow Washington or Nance Jr. to get the 'up and over pass' for the easy score. Do not let this happen.
4) Drive to the basket. Make Wyoming defend the inside and get them into foul trouble with their short bench. Point of note here: Home court for Wyoming is very tough. In Colorado's loss in Laramie the Cowboys had a 33 to 15 FT advantage. In their win over SDSU they had a 27 to 11 FT advantage. Even in their loss to Boise in Laramie they had a 18 to 6 FT advantage. Just does not seem right does it? Air Force cannot let the physical play and whatever the referees do affect their play. They must continue to play and to attack.
5) The bench may be the biggest key to this game. Go deep into the bench and get minutes and points off the bench. Tire Wyoming out from the opening buzzer to the end. Play our game not theirs.
That what I know and expect from this game. Time will tell the outcome. Hard to beat 6 to 9 players on the court if the officials insert themselves into this game, but Boise State still won in that environment as can the Falcons.
Game is on Root TV (702 HD Comcast Colorado Springs) and am 740 with Jim Arthur and Matt Pauley.