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Air Force Falcons

by Special Feature | January 20th, 2007

Editor’s Note: Bracketography.com will feature in-depth looks at potential Bubble teams from now through Selection Sunday. Each capsule will focus on that team’s positives and negatives, and will attempt to give readers an informed opinion on the Selection Committee’s final decisions on whom to reward with at-large bids.

We begin with Air Force, a team whose seed has generated quite a bit of interest (and emails) from fans of Bracketography.

The Air Force Falcons enter this weekend’s game at New Mexico with an impressive record of 16-2 (4-1), with two of those 16 wins coming against non D-I schools. In Mountain West Conference play, the Falcons are in good position to secure the regular-season title and what could be the league’s only at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. An early season win over recently-improved Miami (FL) in mid-November is the cornerstone of the Falcons’ nonconference resume. Air Force also downed another ACC bubble team, Georgia Tech, which could be a difference maker to Committee members on the fence on Selection Sunday.

Sadly for the Falcons, they blew what would’ve been their biggest nonconference win when they faltered in the second half of the Black Coaches Association Classic championship game. Air Force held a six point lead on Pac-10 favorite Washington at the end of the first half before the Huskies took control in half number two en route to an 11-point victory.

Despite a strong nonconference showing from Colorado State, Air Force has quickly asserted itself as the best team in the Mountain West. A decisive victory over Brigham Young to start the season was followed with a close victory over MWC pre-season favorite San Diego St. Despite a five-point loss to Wyoming in Laramie, the Falcons look poised to start another big win streak. To do so, they’ll have to improve their play on the road, where they have lost their only conference test so far.

The Falcons are led by senior guard Antoine Hood (14.9 ppg) and junior guard Dan Nwaelele (13.2 ppg). Hood is coming off an impressive season that saw him start every game, and he was rewarded with a selection to the MWC’s second team all-conference. In 2005-2006, Hood has solidified his leadership role in his final season with the Falcons. Nwaelele is trying to improve on a sophomore campaign which saw him miss 11 games due a suspension and injury. So far so good, as he has nearly doubled his scoring output of a year ago.

Head coach Jeff Bzeldik is trying to return his team to the NCAA tournament (the Falcons’ last appearance was in the 2004). That season, Air Force finished the season as the MWC regular season champion, before being ousted by eighth-seeded Colorado State in the conference tournament. That loss was immediately followed by another, this time to to North Carolina, in the first-round of the NCAA tournament.

While the Falcons currently project as solidly “in” the bracket, Air Force cannot afford many more losses to RPI anchor teams in a down MWC. One notable exception is the aforementioned Colorado State, which will travel to Colorado Springs on February 1st. The return date is the final regular-season conference game for both teams on March 4th, and a victory in Fort Collins would surely make a statement to the Committee that the Falcons are deserving of an at-large selection even with a slip-up in the MWC Tournament.

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