#4 San Diego State Aztecs (23-0/12-0) at Air Force Falcons (9-14/3-8)
Clune Arena- Colorado Springs, Colorado
Saturday, February 8th- 5:00 pm CBS Sports
The San Diego State Aztecs travel to Colorado Springs to play against the Air Force Falcons.
Saturday’s game is the first, and only time this season the Aztecs will play the Falcons during the regular season. The Aztecs are 3-2 against Air Force in their last five games in Colorado Springs. Air Force won the game in Colorado Springs last year 62-48.
The Aztecs, with a record of 23-0, are coming off of a “bye week” where they haven’t played since last Saturday, in a very emotional game where San Diego State beat Utah State 80-68. Kawhi Leonard’s jersey was hung in the rafters at halftime. They are currently ranked #4 in the AP Poll, # 1 in the NET, and #2 in Strength of Record.
The Falcons (9-14) are 3-8 in conference play. They are on a five-game losing streak, with their last game being an 88-54 loss to the Nevada Wolfpack.
The defense will be crucial in this game. Air Force runs a unique “Princeton” offense that has given the Aztecs trouble before. Their offense ranks 60th in the nation out of 353 teams according to KenPom, and when they get hot, they can score with anyone in the country.
On the other hand, the Aztecs should be able to score whenever they want against this team. The Falcons rank 324th in the nation on the defensive side, according to KenPom, and last in the conference. They allow their opponents to shoot 37.6 percent from behind the arc, good for 331st in the country.
Factors that are harder to quantify are travel and elevation. The Aztecs were delayed at San Diego Airport on their way to Denver, according to player development coach JD Pollock’s twitter account, and after arriving in Denver need to bus to Colorado Springs. Air Force also has the second-highest elevation of any basketball arena in the country (behind Wyoming, where the Aztecs already won.) The compounding effects of those factors can throw off expectations.
Air Force is led by Lavelle Scottie, preseason all-conference selection, who scores 15.3 points per game, on 45.7 percent shooting. Aztecs’ coach Brian Dutcher has also raved about the abilities of Air Force forward Ryan Swan-Ford, who scores 13.2 points a game and shoots 36.5 percent from behind the 3 point arc as a center on 3.7 attempts a game. Swan-Ford can cause major match-up problems as he pulls Aztec centers out of the paint, which in turn opens up driving lanes and easy layups.
The Aztecs are led by Malachi Flynn, as they have been all year, who is scoring 16.5 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting. He is also contributing five assists, 1.8 steals and was recently named a finalist for the Bob Cousy award, given to the Nation’s top Point Guard. (Click Here to vote for Malachi Flynn to receive the award. Fans can vote once a day.)
Another Aztec to keep an eye on will be Aguek Arop, who is reportedly now healthy after suffering his second shoulder injury of the season. He is averaging 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds coming off the bench, but he is one of the team’s best rebounders and is described by coach Dutcher as a “Swiss Army Knife” on defense.
San Diego State at Air Force will be aired on CBS Sports Network at 5 pm Pacific Time on Saturday. A win against Air Force would stretch the longest winning streak and best start in program history to 24 wins, and bring the Aztecs one step closer to an undefeated regular season, and possibly a #1 seed in the March Madness Tournament.