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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

October 2nd, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball

 

Air Force Falcons

 

Overall Rank: #38

Conference Rank: #1 MWC

 

2005-06: 24-7, 12-4, 2nd (t)

2005-06 postseason: NCAA

 

Picking Air Force to make the NCAAs last year was a risky proposition.  The Falcons were coming off of a good season, but with a new coach and lacking a history of success, many wrote off Air Force during the 2005-2006 campaign and described the recent success of Air Force as lucky.  Yet, there were the Falcons once again towards the top of the Mountain West and in the NCAA Tournament.  With four starters back and the return of the injured Nick Welch, Air Force won’t accept anything less than another trip to the big dance this season.  And the rest of the country better be paying attention by now.

 

Who’s Out: The loss of last year’s leading scorer Antoine Hood will leave some questions at the two guard spot.  Hood averaged 14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals during his senior season in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Seldom used forward Marc Holum has also run out of eligibility. 

 

Who’s In: Nick Welch averaged 12.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game two years ago before missing last season due to a foot injury.  Back and healthy, the 6-8 center should return to his form that earned him Co-Player of the year honors as a sophomore in 2004.  Welch is a solid three point shooter, passer and defender and his presence will drastically change the teams look.  Incoming freshmen Grant Parker and Zach Walker will add some more depth at the forward spots.  Parker, a 6-7 Aurora, Colorado native, is a versatile team player.  His range takes him out to the three point line, but he’s not afraid to mix it up under the basket either.  Walker earned all-conference accolades during his senior campaign at St. Mark’s School in Dallas, Texas.  The 6-8, 185 pounder can stand to bulk up a bit, but will contribute before his time is up at Air Force.

 

Who to Watch: The frontcourt may be the strength of the team, but the backcourt is underappreciated and will have some interesting battles for playing time in the fall.  Matt McCraw averaged 10.8 points per game and will once again be starting on the perimeter.  Dan Nwaelele is a tremendous outside shooter, but his defensive liabilities mean the 6-5 wing is best suited to play at the small forward spot.  Replacing Antoine Hood is where it gets interesting.  Tim Anderson has the experience, but would ironically be the worst long range shooter in the starting five.  Sophomores Anwar Johnson and Andrew Henke have the potential to see a drastic increase in minutes.  Antoine’s brother, Adam Hood, has seen little playing time over his two seasons at Air Force, but is a candidate to help replace his brother’s production.

 

Final Projection: Heading into last year John Frye had scored one point during his collegiate career.  Frye took over for the injured Welch and averaged 5.7 points and 3.3 rebounds while starting all 31 games.  Frye is expected to return to the bench with Welch back, but at least the Falcons will have some experienced depth up front for the first time in a while.  Jacob Burtschi earned second-team all MWC honors last year, averaging 12.4 points and a team high 6.1 boards.  The 6-6 senior will be starting beside Welch at the power forward spot.  The depth up front is a huge asset and will allow the Falcons to remain fresh down the stretch.  The only concern is replacing Antoine Hood, but there are plenty of options and Coach Jeff Bzdelik won’t take long to find who fits best with his system. 

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA

 

Projected Starting Five:

Matt McCraw, Senior, Guard, 10.8 points per game

Tim Anderson, Junior, Guard, 4.5 points per game

Dan Nwaelele, Senior, Forward, 11.8 points per game

Jacob Burtschi, Senior, Forward, 12.4 points per game

Nick Welch, Senior, Center, DNP last season

39 USC » Complete List » 37 Missouri State

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