Falcons, with force

Dec 5, 2006 12:45 AM

We’re betting when you see 36-24-36, you’re not fantasizing margins of victory in three Air Force home basketball games.

But, it’s a pretty darn good tease to the Falcons’ stunning 7-1 start that includes a most impressive 94-58 rout of previously unbeaten Wake Forest.

Yes, Wake Forest, an ACC team. Quite a feather in the cap for Coach Jeff Bzdelik, military basketball and the Mountain West Conference. Best of all, the Las Vegas wiseguys have a moneymaker in the Falcons, now 4-2 against the spread.

"I think we’ve gotten over playing high-profile competition," Bzdelik told The Denver Post following the victory over Wake Forest. "Just going out there and playing teams like Duke, Texas Tech, Colorado, Wake Forest shows our schedule is tough, and that helps us get over that awe."

Bzdelik is now becoming a hot coaching commodity after a three-year stint as head coach for the NBA Denver Nuggets. He was 60-104 at Denver, but 31-8 since joining the Falcons. Last year Bzdelik led Air Force to the NCAA tournament with a 24-7 record.

In fact, success has bred success for Bzdelik. The Academy gave him what amounted to a 10 percent raise after last season and his former team, the Nuggets, offered an assistant role to head coach George Karl. Bzdelik turned that offer down, which may have been the best decision he’s made this season.

Air Force is what you would figure a military team to be — well disciplined, fundamentally sound and solid shooters from 3-point land. The Falcons blew Wake away with 11-of-23 from 3-point range. And, the Falcons distribute the basketball. All five starters finished in double figures.

Falcons basketball, according to senior guard Matt McCraw, is "slow the game down and execute our offense to the best of our ability."

Princeton and Northwestern employ similar slow down strategies to control tempo, but Air Force is able to support that tempo with a team that looks to be the best of a balanced Mountain West Conference.

As of last Saturday, every MWC team except for Utah (2-3 straight up) was at .500 and over. Air Force’s main competition for the league title figures to come from New Mexico, San Diego State and BYU.