Two Teams That Could Exceed Expectations in 2019-20

Two Teams That Could Exceed Expectations in 2019-20

Mountain West Basketball

Two Teams That Could Exceed Expectations in 2019-20


Air Force

The Falcons aren’t going to win the league, but they are probably better than their eighth-place position in the preseason poll would suggest. Dave Pilipovich guided this team to a sixth-place finish last year after being tabbed as the conference’s tenth-best team in the 2018-19 preseason voting. So, this team is used to proving their doubters wrong.

It certainly helps that Air Force is returning nearly everybody from last year’s team. Lavelle Scottie was selected to be in the All-MWC preseason team after leading the Falcons with over 15 points per game last year. Scottie has some ability to shoot from downtown but is much better served when he brings the ball inside. He is one of the league’s best mid-range shooters and can also score with ease at the rim. He’ll need to do both in order to help carry the team back toward the top half of the league standings.

Scottie will get plenty of help from teammate Ryan Swan, who was second on the team in scoring last year and was the Falcons’ top rebounder. Swan was a much more efficient shooter from long range, knocking down just three fewer deep shots than Scottie, while attempting thirty fewer. Swan spent more time on the interior, with nearly half of his shot attempts coming at the rim. On a team that lacks elite size, he has shown a willingness to bang around inside. He’ll need to continue doing that for this team to compete down low against the scores of talented big men in the Mountain West.

Another bright spot for the team last year was freshman point guard AJ Walker. In his first year with the Falcons, Walker started 22 games, played over 26 minutes nightly, led the team in assists, and shot 40% from three-point range. Not too shabby. One area for improvement, though, is in the mid-range game. Nearly a third of Walker’s shots fell into this category last year, but he shot just 32.9% on these attempts. He’s not exactly an elite finisher at the rim, either, converting just over half of those shots. If this team is going to outplay its expectations, Walker must either get more efficient on his two-pointers or settle into more of a deep-threat role.

Again, this team outplayed its second-to-last prediction from last season’s preseason poll. With almost everyone back this year, including one of the league’s top players in Lavelle Scottie, it’s quite reasonable to expect that they will be able to do it again in 2019-20.


Neither of these teams should be considered threats to win the league and, truthfully, neither has a very realistic shot at making the NCAA Tournament. But these teams have considerable talent at the top of their rosters and shouldn’t be overlooked completely.

Both of these squads were better than expected last year, partially because teams that were picked ahead of them in the preseason polls — namely New Mexico and Boise State — struggled mightily. If Fresno State and Air Force can once again get a little lucky with other teams stumbling, it won’t be a surprise to see both of these schools exceed expectations again this season.

Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.



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