GT @ AFA
This is going to be one of the better OOC tests for the Jackets this year, especially in the mental aspects of the game. Air Force is a dangerous team anywhere, but having to play them on their home court in the thin air of Colorado Springs makes it an even tougher row to hoe. This is a game that will key more on the ability of one team to force tempo than on almost anything else, making for a very interesting contrast in styles.
Air Force has now won 24 OOC home games in a row, and is 10-1 on the season albeit against a very week schedule. While they are on their 3rd head coach in 3 seasons, Jeff Bzdelik is no slouch coming off several successful years as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets before being fired in midseason last year. Air Force is still playing the "Princeton" style of methodical offense focusing on backcuts, crisp passing and excellent shooting, so there will not be a huge noticeable difference between this years team and the one we saw in Atlanta last year.
Keys for AFA:
- Keep shooting the ball well from the outside, as they are up to 43% as a team on the season. Every player in the starting linuep outside of center Jeff Frye is an excellent shooter and AFA will work their methodical offense until they get a good luck.
- Turn GT over. AFA is excellent at forcing TO's and especially at stealing the ball on the perimeter - combined with GT's young and inexperienced guards, this could be a huge advantage in keeping GT from exploiting the interior advantage Smith, Dickey and Tarver will have.
- AFA has to rebound the ball well on the defensive end, they are a small team and without a high scoring offensive attack really cannot afford to give up points on the offensive glass. Somebody has to find Smith each play and try to put a body on him.
- Antione Hood has to play well, he's the leading scorer on the team and a deadly shooter. If Mario West is able to frustrate him, it could be a long night for the Falcons.
Keys for GT:
- Pound it inside to Smith and Dickey. Dickey absolutely has to show up to play in this game, he should be way too much to handle for AFA's frontcourt, but he can't just loaf around.
- If Morrow and Zam/West can shoot the 3 effectively, they will prevent AFA from packing it in on the interior and really help out the flow of the offense. Morrow should get some open looks, he's going to have to make them. It'd be really nice to see the white hot AMo from the Michigan State game, that's for sure.
- Turnovers, especially in the backcourt, will kill this team. Paco/Zam/? can't make those bad TO's 30ft from the basket.
- Mental toughness on the defensive end, and playing the full 35 seconds of every shotclock. You can stop the Princeton offense with better athletes, but they gotta really be consistent on each trip down the floor. Young teams often struggle with this, lets hope Hewitt has it drilled into this team.
Air Force is a 5 point favorite, and that's about where I expected the line. They are a good team, they shoot the ball very well and they have a nasty home court advantage. They also happen to be a sentimental favorite of mine (my father and uncle were both fighter pilots - and until my eyesight went south, AFA was my first choice in schools), and it's good matchup between two well coached teams - this should be a fun game tonight. I expect Jeremis to just dominate the smaller and less physical AFA frontline, but it might not be enough unless Dickey and Morrow also bring their 'A' games. If GT keeps it under 15 turnovers and gets good games out of those three, this should be a Jacket win. If not, or if the young guards just fall asleep on perimeter defense, this could very easily be a loss.