Army (0-0) at Air Force (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 11th, 9:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Clune Arena (5,858) -- USAFA, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Away Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Neutral Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Conference Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Series Record: Army leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The first round of the All-Military Classic kicks off at Clune Arena in Colorado tonight, as the Air Force Falcons entertain the Army Black Knights.
Air Force, which is 25-30 all-time in season openers, has performed very well in such games at home (19-8), so this tournament certainly works to its advantage. Last year, head coach Jeff Reynolds led his squad to an even 16-16 record and a mark of 6-10 in Mountain West Conference play, which had the team finishing in a tie for sixth place in the standings. The team was bounced by UNLV in the conference tournament (69-53), but before having the entire season draw to a close with a loss to Santa Clara (88-75), the academy was able to log a 77-67 triumph over North Dakota during the CIT Tournament.
As for the Black Knights, a team which represents the Patriot League, they won a total of 11 games last season under head coach Zach Spiker in his second year in West Point. While it doesn't sound like much of a successful run for Spiker, last year he did become the fastest Army coach to 20 wins since Mike Krzyzewski turned the trick in a span of just 36 games during his tenure with the program. Unfortunately, the Black Knights won just three of 14 conference bouts last season and lost in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament.
Despite both of these teams representing service academies, unlike football where the schools meet on an annual basis to compete for the Commander-in- Chief's Trophy, the basketball teams are meeting for just the fourth time. Army holds a 2-1 edge over the Falcons, thanks in part to a 79-70 triumph in the most recent matchup back in 1987.
Both of these teams will be back in action on Saturday against The Citadel and VMI, with the matchups to be determined pending Friday's outcomes. This tournament will be continued for a total of four years, with each school hosting the event in the future and holding the games during Veteran's Day weekend.
Even though the Black Knights have had a hard time earning respect as a basketball team, the good news this season is that they are bringing back four starters from a year ago and that should help the bottom line. Junior forward Ella Ellis is the key performer for the squad, as he is the top returning scorer (14.6 ppg). Ellis was one of only six players in the Patriot League last season to average at least 14.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Senior guard Julian Simmons, after putting up 12.5 ppg last year, is on the verge of reaching 1,000 points for his career, needing just 98 to hit the mark. Josh Herbeck was named to the Patriot League All-Rookie Team last season as he put up 5.2 ppg and grabbed 1.9 rpg, so it is expected that he'll take steps in the right direction this winter.
The Falcons are again coming off a season in which they were one of the weakest rebounding units around, sporting a margin that ranked 321st in the nation at minus-6.0 caroms per contest. Among the probable starters, Air Force has two players who last season averaged better than three rebounds per game in Taylor Broekhuis and Michael Lyons, but beyond them the team will again struggle to establish a uniform front in the paint. Lyons has proven that he can score the ball, having delivered 13.7 ppg a year ago, while Broekhuis accounted for another 7.5 ppg as a starter in all but one of the 30 games in which he appeared. Standing 6-10, Broekhuis breaks the mold of the typical Air Force player which is why the team might be able to contend on the glass this year, just so long as there aren't too many missed shots to always chase after.
This could easily be a game where points are at a premium, but still expect the Falcons to come out on top since they didn't have to travel across the country to take part in the tournament.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 61, Army 52
11/11 10:34:25 ET