Vegas charting
powerful Force

Jan 9, 2007 2:47 AM

Las Vegas oddsmakers may be catching up with Air Force, but they’re about the only ones.

The Falcons (15-1) should break into the AP top 20 college basketball poll this week after a 56-50 victory over UNLV in what could go a long way to determining the Mountain West Conference regular season champion.

Both the Force and Running Rebels entered the matchup at the Academy with 10-game win streaks. Starting this week, Air Force has now reached 11 straight even if the last two wins did not cover the spread. The Falcons were favored by 7½ against UNLV and 7 in an 81-75 victory at Colorado State.

That’s about the only negative about the fabulous season being produced in Colorado Springs. Air Force has lost only to Duke (71-56 at a neutral site) and is still a respectable 6-4 ATS. The Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook reduced the odds on Air Force winning the national championship to 50/1. Caesars Palace had opened the Falcons at 1500/1 to win the NCAA title.

Air Force wins games with a stifling defense, balanced scoring and the usual smart, disciplined play that typifies any athletic program at a military school.

"Air Force is a very good defensive team," UNLV coach Lon Kruger told the Associated Press following the game. "We weren’t able to convert the opportunities that we were given."

The Falcons held a hot Rebels squad to a dismal 1-for-18 from 3-point range. Had the Rebels played a bit smarter and shot from inside the line (19-of-38, 50 percent), Air Force may not have kept its lead in conference play. The Falcons improved to 8-0 straight up at home, 4-0 on the road and 3-1 at neutral sites.

Coach Jeff Bzdelik’s crew are already a lock for a berth in the Big Dance, with quality nonconference wins over Wake Forest, George Washington, Texas Tech and Stanford. This week the Falcons host New Mexico on Tuesday and visit Laramie for a Saturday matchup against Wyoming. Air Force will be favored in both contests.

Matt McCraw was one of three Falcons were total 13 points in the win over UNLV. That low for a high scorer, but Air Force is not your ordinary team.