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Air Force men’s basketball preview: Falcons look to reload, surprise in the Mountain West

Dave Pilipovich is in his seventh season leading the Falcons, but the team hasn’t had a winning record since 2012-13. Can Air Force turn things around and contend in the MWC?

NCAA Basketball: Air Force at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Pilipovich begins his seventh season in Colorado Springs on Tuesday night, as the Air Force Falcons host Johnson & Wales. While a game against an lower-level side is typically a lock-win for a Division I team, that isn’t the case for Air Force. The Falcons fell by three points in an exhibition against Division II Western Colorado a few days ago.

The rest of the Mountain West Conference doesn’t think too highly of Air Force this season, predicting the Falcons to finish 10th in the preseason poll. The Falcons haven’t had a winning season since 2012-13, Pilipovich’s first full season at the helm.

Can the Falcons turn things around and prove some folks wrong in a very competitive Mountain West? After losing four starters from the previous season, that’s a task easier said than done.

The Basics

2017-18 Record: 12-19 (6-12 Mountain West), lost to UNLV in MWC tournament.
Key Returners: Ryan Swan (Junior, Forward), Lavelle Scottie (Junior, Forward), Keaton Van Soelen (Sophomore, Guard), Caleb Morris (Junior, Guard), Sid Tomes (Junior, Guard)
Key Losses: Trevor Lyons, Ryan Manning, CJ Siples, Frank Toohey, Jacob Van
2017-18 KenPom: 237th
Preseason KenPom: 212th

Key Non-Conference Games

With the likes of Nevada, San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State, UNLV and others, the Mountain West Conference slate can be a tough run. It would bode well for the Falcons to capture a few non-conference wins to build their confidence heading into the second half of the season.

Nov. 16 vs. UMBC (in Bahamas)
Nov. 24 vs. Colorado
Nov. 28 vs. Missouri State
Dec. 8 vs. Army
Dec. 22 at Michigan

Two Things

Ryan Swan should shoot more from three-point range this season. As a sophomore. The 6-foot-7 Aurora, Colorado native shot 43 percent from behind the arc, but only attempted 48 shots from that far out. Swan also led the team in field goal percentage, making 47 percent of all of his shots. With a handful of starters gone, Swan should have more opportunities to shoot this season.

Keep an eye on Lavelle Scottie. The 6-foot-7 forward from Fort Worth, Texas led the Falcons in scoring as a sophomore, notching 12.2 points per-game. He was also one of the Falcons leading rebounders, grabbing 4.4 boards per-game. He shot 45 percent from the floor and 35 percent from outside the arc. If the versatile forward keeps improving, he could be a handful for other MWC teams to contain.

Required Reading

Colorado Springs Gazette: Air Force throttled by Division II Western Colorado in exhibition

Mid-Major Madness: Mountain West preseason power rankings

Casper Star Tribune: 2018-19 Mountain West Conference men’s basketball capsules