Air Force (0-0) vs. Army (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cameron Hall (5,800) -- Lexington, Virginia. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Air Force 0-0, Army 0-0. Away Record: Air Force 0-0, Army 0-0. Neutral Record: Air Force 0-0, Army 0-0. Conference Record: Air Force 0-0, Army 0-0. Series Record: Air Force leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The third annual All-Military Classic tips off a full day of college basketball on Friday, as the Army Black Knights clash with the Air Force Falcons at Cameron Hall in Virginia.
Now entering his second full season with the Falcons, head coach Dave Pilipovich guided the squad to one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2012-13 as they finished with a record of 18-14. The win total was the fourth-highest in school history and it certainly didn't hurt that the team was able to break even in 16 Mountain West Conference outings.
Another major accomplishment for Pilipovich was his two wins over nationally- ranked opponents last season, the first head coach in Air Force history to achieve that feat.
As for the Black Knights, members of the Patriot League and directed by Zach Spiker, they are considered the third-best program in their conference behind only Boston University and Lafayette. Sporting a record of 16-15 a year ago overall, the Knights have not finished higher than fourth in the Patriot since joining the league more than two decades ago.
The Falcons own a 3-2 edge in the all-time series between the programs, with two of those wins coming on a neutral floor. The latest victory for Air Force was a 76-65 triumph in this event last season.
Both teams will be back in action on Saturday, with matchups against The Citadel and VMI being determined by Friday's outcomes.
Pilipovich had a tremendous player in Michael Lyons last year, the only double-digit scorer on the roster (17.7 ppg), hut he is no longer around. The same goes for Mike Fitzgerald (9.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Todd Fletcher (9.5 ppg, 117 assists), and Taylor Broekhuis (8.3 ppg), which means it will be a huge uphill battle for a team that doesn't resemble the 2012-13 version whatsoever.
Of the probable starters for the Falcons, not a single one averaged even four points per game last season, the most production coming from Marek Olesinski (3.5 ppg), seconded by Kamryn Williams (3.3 ppg).
Because Air Force again lacked the height to hold its ground in the paint, particularly on offense, the team did show growth when it came to 3-point field goals, sinking 8.5 shots beyond the arc per game to rank 12th in the country, an effort that the staff hopes will continue moving forward.
The Knights have to find a way to not let the loss of Ella Ellis, an all- conference performer who was a 1,500-point scorer, get in the way of their development. Coach Spiker cautions that his team is younger than most people might realize, which might be another way for him to lift some of the burden off Patriot League Rookie of the Year Kyle Wilson, the first for the program in two decades. A member of the all-rookie team, Wilson was the team's second- leading scorer with 13.0 ppg and was even better when it came to league outings, but that just means the rest of the Patriot is well aware of his capabilities.
Wilson will continue to learn much from point guard Dylan Cox who was the only player to start every game last season and used the time to lead Army in both assists (100) and rebounding (5.0 rpg). However, even with youth and energy being served in the backcourt, the Knights still can work on their defense after averaging just 5.2 steals per game a year ago, ranking 308th in the country.
There is simply far too much youth on the Falcons to make them a threat against many opponents this season, even one such as Army even after the Knights lost their top performer from last year as well.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Army 69, Air Force 58
11/08 10:40:12 ET