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Air Force Preview

October 17, 2012

Last Season’s Record: 13-16
Conference Record: 3-11
Key Returning Players: Michael Lyons, Mike Fitzgerald, Taylor Broekhuis, Todd Fletcher

The 2011-12 season was a huge disappointment for the Falcons. A decent OOC performance (8-4) with a couple of close losses to CU and Drake quickly deteriorated during the early portion of conference play. It led to the firing of 5th year coach Jeff Reynolds halfway through the conference schedule after a road loss to CSU. In stepped new coach Dave Pilipovich who freed the reins on his team and they responded with a pair of solid wins over San Diego State and Wyoming before falling back to their previous losing ways. The season ended with a 15-point defeat at the hands of New Mexico at the MWC tournament.

But 2012-13 brings a renewed sense of optimism to Colorado Springs as the Falcons return a solid core of four seniors and more time to learn their new coach’s system. And a closer look at 2011-12 reveals that there is justification for their positive beliefs.

The 2011-12 season turned in a big way when their senior captain Taylor Stewart broke his foot during the Boise State game. Several inexperienced players were thrust into the role of that 5th starter and others newcomers received more minutes than they were prepared to play. In short, the Falcons had very little margin for error and they were not able to handle the loss of Stewarts skills and leadership.

Back is All-MWC second teamer Michael Lyons who is as dynamic a scorer as Air Force has has since the days of Antoine Hood. Back is center Taylor Broekhuis who gives the Falcons presence in the middle. Back is sharpshooter Mike Fitzgerald who converted 39% of his three-point attempts in 2011-12. And back is point guard Todd Fletcher who gives the Falcons solid on-the-ball leadership both offensively and defensively. Four seniors who have been around the block.

And so the search is on to identify the fifth starter and other key bench contributors.

Returnees from last year who could make an impact include Max Yon, Kyle Green, Justin Hammonds, and DeLovell Earls. Each showed flashes but none showed he was ready to be a primetime player in the MWC.

More importantly, the Falcons will have to identify a backup big who can spell Broekhuis. Air Force was the worst rebounding team in the MWC and one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country. Adam Brakeville and Chase Kammerer are two candidates but neither appear to be impact players. That means the Falcons success will most likely be contingent on the health of Broekhuis.

It remains to be seen how much of the Princeton offense and the match-up zone defense will be retained from previous staffs. After Pilipovich took over, the team was freed up to play at a faster tempo but that led to issues defensively. Happy players don’t always equate to wins given the level of athleticism and skill that the Falcons have relative to the rest of the Mountain West. Air Force will have to shoot the ball better to make major strides in 2012-13. In their glory years from 2004-2007, the Falcons were a Top 50 team nationally in Offensive Efficiency. Under Reynolds, their efficiency fell to the bottom half nationally. It remains to be seen whether Pilipovich can restore the Falcons to the status of a dangerous offensive team as opposed to flat out offensive.

Pilipovich has signifcantly upgraded the OOC schedule in 2012-13. While the Falcons might see their record take a hit, it should serve to prepare the team better for the rigors of conference play.

Air Force’s OOC schedule includes road games at Colorado and Richmond, a neutral game with Florida, and a home game with Wichita State. A 2-2 record in those games will give the Falcon faithful a reason for optimism. An 0-4 record and the Falcons will be looking down the barrel of a tough season as they open the MWC portion of the schedule with Nevada, @UNLV, and @CSU.

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