UW at Air Force men’s hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy.

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBriggeman

What’s gone wrong for the Falcons now at 10-12 overall, 1-8 in the conference and losers of eight straight games? 

What hasn’t gone wrong, that would be a better question. First, the team hasn’t been able to complete athletically in the league. Nevada and UNLV simply overwhelmed them

Brent Briggeman

Brent Briggeman

physically. Fresno State clogged passing lanes with its length, forcing 17 turnovers and turning that into a 28-6 advantage in points off turnovers. Wyoming, New Mexico and San Jose State shot well. It’s been something different every game, though a consistent theme has been the Falcons’ shooting woes. Beyond that, Air Force has been playing with an injured point guard in Trevor Lyons (shooting hand).

 

Has this recent spiral surprised you, and are there signs or hopes that it will end? 

I don’t think it has been stunning. Air Force started the season 10-4, but other than an overtime victory over New Mexico State, the wins weren’t against Mountain West-caliber teams. When it played up against Ohio State, Colorado the results were lopsided. It was obviously going to be a season where a lot of things had to go right, and they haven’t. As for signs of a turnaround for this season, I’m not sure they’re there.

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UW-Air Force men’s basketball Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for the The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBriggeman

Brent Briggeman

Brent Briggeman

At 10-4 so far, is that where you thought Air Force would be record-wise? If not, what has surprised you — good or bad?

I think this would have been an optimistic forecast. Air Force challenged itself in the nonconference, going to Colorado and Ohio State and playing NCAA tournament regulars like Robert Morris and New Mexico State. It won two of those games, and went on the road to notch wins over Denver and UC Davis. Given Air Force’s struggles on the road in recent seasons, those wins were no minor deal. I think it’s particularly surprising that the Falcons have done this without finding a shooting touch as a team, shooting 64 percent from the free throw line through the nonconference and 32 percent from 3-point range.

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UW-Air Force football Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force football for The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Brent Briggeman

Brent Briggeman

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBriggeman

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

What impressions — good or bad — did you get from this Air Force team in its 44-16 win over Nicholls last week?

It’s hard to make any definitive conclusions in what proved to be a mismatch, particularly when Nicholls seemed to tire in the thin Colorado Springs air. Also, it’s a safe bet that Air Force kept the offensive play-calling very close to the vest in advance of a huge matchup this weekend. What I did see was a team that was able to execute the option behind quarterback Kale Pearson and a defense that was willing to be aggressive in bringing blitzes from all over the field.

As usual, Air Force showed can run the ball with 539 yards against Nicholls. What kind of running back is sophomore Jacobi Owens, who had 233 yards, and was he expected to have that big of an impact right away?

He looks like a good one. He had broken out with two long touchdown runs in the spring game. He runs tough at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds and has great speed. We haven’t seen him do anything against a legitimate defense yet, but against the defenses he’s seen in practice and last week’s opener he’s been phenomenal.

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UW-Air Force men’s basketball Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., about Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 7:05 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBriggeman

Are you surprised where Air Force is at this point of the season at 10-15 overall and 4-10 in the Mountain West?

If you’d asked me in October, this record would have been surprisingly good. Given what this team had lost in personnel from last year and with what seemed like a lack of playmakers, I wouldn’t have guessed they would have won four conference games at this point. However, when you saw the strides the team had made into early January and the fact that it started 2-0 in the Mountain West, that 4-10 mark has to be seen as a disappointment.

What have been some of the weaknesses of this team, and what has it done well when things are clicking?

Shooting has been a struggle, particularly lately. When two or three shooters are on from the outside at the same time — generally Tre’ Coggins, Max Yon and Marek Olesinski — this becomes a very good team, because the back-door cuts are more effective. Yon and Kamryn Williams can find lanes to the basket and teams can’t just pack it in and control the inside. However, in most of the recent games only one — or sometimes none — of those shooters have found a rhythm and everything has suffered as a result.

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UW-Air Force men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at the Air Force Academy. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBrigeman

Air Force’s roster turned over quite a bit from last season, but the team has played solid at 9-8 overall and 3-3 in the Mountain West. Who has stepped up their game or role the most so far?

Tre’ Coggins is the obvious answer, as he has turned into something of a revelation as a scorer at the point guard position. But Kamryn Williams has been the biggest difference maker. Wyoming saw the best game of his career last season (25 and 10), so it’s probably not as shocking for the Cowboys’ fan base, but Williams ability to rebound, disrupt shots and defend has helped Air Force compete in ways that it could not last year.

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UW-Air Force Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force football for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., about Saturday night’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

Air Force has struggled on defense in its last two games — losses to Utah State and Boise State — where it was outscored 94-40. What is the problems defensively, or is it more that Utah State and Boise State are that good on offense?

The Falcons have been slow to adjust to particular schemes. Against Utah State, quarterback Chuckie Keeton was able to break the pocket and then wait and see if Air Force’s defensive backs were going to stay in coverage, in which case he would run. When defensive backs would break coverage, he would hit open receivers. Air Force never figured out the best plan to stop him. Against Boise State, the bubble screens — quick-hitting passes to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage — accounted for 17 of the pass completions (on 17 attempts) and routinely went for 6-10 yards. Both of those teams executed extremely well and will have success against most teams, but Air Force’s inability to react certainly played a part.

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UW-Air Force Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Wyoming (18-9 overall, 4-9 Mountain West) plays at Air Force (15-10, 6-6) at 7 tonight at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy.

Question: Air Force won’t win the Mountain West regular-season title, but remains in the hunt for an upper-half finish. Are the Falcons one of the best stories in the conference after being picked to finish last in the preseason?

Answer: The team clearly thinks it is. Coach Dave Pilipovich has used those conference predictions as a constant motivator throughout the season, posting them in the locker room where they are an ever-present reminder of what others think of the team. The improved performance has led to some of the biggest crowds since Air Force’s NCAA Tournament teams of the mid-2000s. It’s always tricky to build programs at the academy between the academic standards, the disadvantage of not being able to add transfers and the post-graduate military commitment, so anytime a revenue sport can enjoy a resurgence it tends to be a big deal around the institution.

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