Air Force vs. Boise State: Game Preview, How to Watch, Prediction
Watch Air Force take on MW-Leading Boise State on CBSSN @ 9:00 EST
Boise Looks to Extend Win Streak against Falcons
When Air Force and Boise State square off on Tuesday evening, the Broncos will be trying to extend their streak to 10 with a win at ExtraMile Arena. The Broncos are as hot a team as they come in the Mountain West, leading the league with a conference record of 3-0. The Broncos will be happy to be coming home from a win at New Mexico on Saturday, and will be looking to keep the momentum as they take on a healthy Falcons team.
Conversely, the Falcons will be looking to bounce back from their first loss at Clune Arena this season. Prior to Saturday’s game, the Falcons had won 5 contests in a row at home, including an impressive win against a competitive Utah State team. While hampered by illness and injury in previous games, Air Force lost to Nevada 75-68 on Saturday at full strength. The loss to Nevada started a stretch of the season in which the Falcons will play 5 games in 11 days, a shocking change of pace as the conference tries to make up games that were postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.
Boise State will be looking to improve their conference record to 4-0 against a younger, less-experience Air Force team. For Boise State, the key is to stick to their brand of basketball. The Broncos have found massive success in star guard Marcus Shaver Jr., a senior who leads the team in points per game at 14.3. Shaver, in particular, could pose problems for Air Force, who seemed powerless to stop Nevada’s Grant Sherfield on his way to 21 points Saturday. Of all Shaver’s performances so far, his most impressive of the season was against Nevada where he logged 28 points for the Broncos shooting 74% from the field. Expect Shaver to be an integral part of Boise State’s game plan yet again as they seek to exploit a Falcon defense that has struggled against high-caliber shooters. Boise State also holds the advantage in rebounding, an area that Air Force has struggled in lately. Limiting the Falcons’ second-chance points is critical in any game against the Princeton Offense, as Air Force will take every opportunity to lengthen offensive possessions. With strong play from Shaver and an emphasis on rebounding, Boise State should position themselves well to lengthen their win streak to 10.
Conversely, Air Force has a shot to topple the conference leading Broncos and even their own conference ledger at 2-2.To pull off the upset, it’s critical that Air Force finds a way to score in the paint. In Saturday’s loss to Nevada, the Falcons shot well from three but failed to establish any semblance of an offense inside the arc. As a result, the Falcons were stifled once Nevada switched to the zone. Additionally, Air Force needs to find a way to get shooters going early, as freshman guard Ethan Taylor struggled early against Nevada only to finish the game with his first career triple-double. Once Taylor regained his confidence, the Falcons were able to keep pace with Nevada for the remainder of the game. It is important for the Falcons that Taylor, Walker, and Heidbreder all take shots with confidence to lend to their lack of production on the boards.
Air Force should be able to establish more of its identity with a roster nearing full-strength for the second straight game. Joe Scott’s coaching philosophy does not lend itself to a large rotation of players, so expect to see improvement from a now-healthy, core group of Falcons. However, in the second half on Saturday, AJ Walker, Air Force’s leading scorer, appeared to be playing hobbled. A storyline going into the game Tuesday will be whether or not AJ is affected by injury. If the Falcons are looking to upend Boise State, they’ll certainly need the leadership of Air Force’s stellar senior.
Prediction: Boise State 69, Air Force 61
Air Force should keep it close, but I expect the Broncos to pull away at some point. Although an improving team, Air Force may lack the unit cohesion to orchestrate a comeback in a tough road environment. Boise State will remain atop the Mountain West a fairly complete team.
Air Force Basketball, Boise State Basketball