This will be the highest ranked team that Air Force has ever faced – so expect them to be very pumped up. They have played Georgia Tech 6 times with Tech holding a 5-1 edge – last game was in 1972.
This will be GT's first game after Fall Finals, so that is something to keep in mind as they play a disciplined team that executes their offensive and defensive sets extremely well. This is a big trap game as Air Force if fully capable of pulling off an upset if GT does not communicate well and tries to force things too much.
Air Force uses 9 men and has used the same starting lineup in all 8 games it has played. It is 6-2 on the season with its losses being a 65-69 decision at Marquette and a 45-50 loss at UW-Milwaukee. Its best win is a 60-36 blowout of Ole Miss.
As would be expected out of a team that plays a Princeton Offense, Air Force is a very deliberate and low scoring offense. On the season they are averaging 59.5 ppg shooting 46.3% FG, 39% 3FG and 65.9% FT. They have 99 assists to 75 TO and have a very slight rebounding edge on their opponents 24.8 to 24.3. They play 9 men and all nine have hit at least 2 threes this season and 7 of them are shooting 33.3% or better from behind the stripe. They will look to run their offense and break free for layups or threes. They are a solid ballhandling club with just 9.4 TO per game and have only had the ball stolen 33 times in 8 games. Their leading assist man is their center followed by their two starting guards. Both starting guards have a better than 2:1 A:TO ratio – as does their backup center.
Air Force was first in the country last year in points per game allowed and looks to be headed to that title again. Due to their deliberate pace and zone defense, it is difficult to score a lot of points against them. They make up for a lack of athleticism and size in the post with solid team defense. On the season they are allowing 45.2 ppg with opponents shooting 43.3% FG, 30.8% 3FG, and 70.1% FT. Their opponents have 55 assists to 115 TO – so teams are not taking care of the ball against Air Force likely due to forcing too much. Air Force is not a threat to block shots as they have only 8 on the season (4 by their starting PG) and 56 steals (7 spg).
6'3, 185 Sr. Tim Keller – Tim is a 3-yr starter and he and McCraw are almost interchangeable in the backcourt – though you would probably call Keller the PG. On the season he is averaging 7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg in 33 mpg. He is shooting 42.6% FG, 34.4 % 3FG (11-32) and 47.6% FT. He has 18 assists to 7 TO along with 4 blocks and 9 steals. Clearly the guy you want to foul late if you have to.
6'2, 185 So. Matt McCraw – Matt is off to a strong start in his first year as a starter. He is averaging 8.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.6 apg in 21 mpg. He is shooting 58.3% FG, 59.1% 3FG (13-22) and 90.9% FT. He has 13 assists to 5 TO with 6 steals. Obviously someone GT cannot leave open to shoot.
6'4, 205 Jr. Antoine Hood – Antoine is the leading scorer on the team in his second year as a starter. One of the most athletic players on the team, he is also a dangerous shooter. On the year he is averaging 12.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg in 34.1 mpg shooting 43.2% FG, 38.1% 3FG (16-42) and 77.3% FT. He has 11 assists, 16 TO and 7 steals.
6'6, 225 So. Jacob Burtschi – Jacob is in his first year as a starter after serving as a backup last season and is another good outside shooter. On the year he is averaging 6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg in 24.6 mpg shooting 58.3% FG, 41.2% 3FG (7-17) and 71.4% FT. He has 9 assists, 8 TO, and a team leading 11 steals.
6'8, 210 Jr. Nick Welch – Nick is the starting center for the 2nd year. He is the tallest player on the team and a good outside shooter. On the year he is 2nd on the team in scoring at 11.6 ppg, leading rebounder at 4.1 rpg, and leading assist man at 3 apg in 28 mpg. He is shooting 53.6% FG, 48.3% 3FG (14-29), 63.3% FT. He has 24 assists, 20 TO, 1 block and 6 steals.
Air Force uses 4 backups. Dillinger and Anderson backup the perimeter players while Buchanan and Holum backup inside.
6'7, 235 Sr. Caleb Buchanan – The backup center for Air Force. Caleb averages 3.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg in 11.8 mpg. He is shooting 37.5% FG, 40% 3FG (4-10) and 83.3% FT (5-6). He has 11 assists, 4 TO, 3 blocks and 5 steals. Good defensive player.
6'5, 200 So. Jared Dillinger – Jared plays the 2/3 for Air Force. He is averaging 3.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg in 12.3 mpg. He is shooting 47.1% FG, 33.3% 3FG (3-12) and 55.6% FT. He has 1 assist, 3 TO and 2 steals.
6'2, 185 Fr. Tim Anderson – Tim backs up Keller and McCraw. He is averaging 2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg in 15.5 mpg shooting 23.8% FG, 13.3% 3FG (2-15) and 6-6 FT. He has 3 assists, 2 TO, and 8 steals... quick hands.
6'6, 205 Jr. Marc Holum – Marc backs up Burtschi at the PF spot. On the season he is averaging 1.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg in 12.5 mpg shooting 33.3% FG, 25% 3FG (2-8) and 3-5 FT. He has 9 assists, 3 TO, and 1 steal.
This is a dangerous trap game for GT. In one discussion thread on the Hive, posters were asked what you would do to beat GT. On offense the ideas revolved around a slow, deliberate pace and protect the ball. On defense play zone and keep GT from passing or penetrating to the middle. This is what AFA excels at. Add that to it being the first game after Finals and this is a game that should be highly respected. I would not expect a 20-25 point blowout.
Offensively GT has to be smart and work for good shots. Any chance to run needs to be converted for opportunities will be limited. Defensively, GT must play smart and communicate well. I would keep a lot of pressure on AFA to try to decrease the amount of time they have to run their offense. There is a pretty significant dropoff from their starters to their reserves – that is something that GT needs to use to its advantage.
In the end GT will need to find a way to force a more uptempo game for 7-8 minutes each half to pull off a win.
Here's hoping GT can pass its first post-Finals test.