Air Force hoops season preview
Can the Falcons improve this season?
At the time I’m writing, the Air Force Falcons upset Tulsa as 15.5 point underdogs. Pretty impressive victory for the youthful Falcons, who struggled in the opener against South Dakota. Since 2006-07 the Falcons haven’t won over 20 games — their highest since then is 18 victories in 2012-13. In the first season of Joe Scott’s second stint, they only went 5-20. Two starters Chris Joyce and Keaton Van Soelen, moved on following the season. With the youthful squad outside of Walker and Jackson it’ll take time to see who’ll be the future of the program
Notable Non-Conference games:
Home against Texas Southern – Nov. 17
The SWAC favorites could pose problems against the Falcons with their size and athleticism. The Tigers top players John Walker III and Joirdon Karl Nichols, a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards who impact the game on both ends of the floor. Texas Southern isn’t good at shooting the ball from deep, so if the Falcons can force three-point shots, they’ll stay competitive. Texas Southern typically forces turnovers and plays fast. If you let Texas Southern play up-and-down the court, the upcoming game will be tough.
At Montana – Dec. 8
Montana is without question top-five in the Big Sky. The Grizzlies aren’t short on talent, with forwards Josh Bannan and Kyle Owens providing versatility, while guards Robbie Beasley and Brandon Whitney can post large scoring numbers. Montana
At Arkansas State – Dec. 19
The Redwolves added longtime Arkansas Razorback Desi Sills from the transfer portal, who becomes an elite player in the Sun Belt. Sills isn’t the only star, as Norchad Omier averaged 12 points and 12 rebounds in 2020-21 as a freshman. Arkansas State provides many unfavorable mismatches for the Falcons.
Air Force Key Players:
A.J. Walker: The Eldest Falcon led the team in scoring last season and will repeat that in 2021-22. Despite entering the transfer portal following the 2019-20 season, Walker decided to stay at AFA. The senior will sneak into the top-10 in career-made three-point field goals in Air Force program history. This team goes as AJ Walker does.
Nikc Jackson: Jackson, the primary decision-maker in Joe Scott’s version of the Princeton offensive scheme, brings immense value with his passing. The 6-foot-9 forward topped all Falcons players with his 24.3 usage rate from last season (per Barttorvik.com.) Meaning, Jackson impacts the game a ton.
Ethan Taylor: It’s touch choosing who besides the main two returnees mentioned above being integral in whatever success comes to the Academy. I’d venture to say freshman Ethan Taylor is the guy. In the first two games of the year, Taylor posted 14 points in the loss to USD and seven against Tulsa. He figures to slide into the role Chris Joyce played in 2020-21.
If the Falcons rattle off wins, expect low-scoring totals. Princeton offense can take with the movement, and trying to find the best look takes time. Joe Scott lead units typically finish in the bottom 50 in adjusted tempo (per KenPom.)
I can’t pinpoint the number of wins Air Force will have, but they’re the clear bottom team in the league. There are numerous winnable games in the remaining non-conference slate. On the conference side of things, winning games could be difficult.
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