AIR FORCE (22-5, 12-2)
Playbook: Air Force likes to slow down the pace as much as
possible. Screens and backdoor cuts are their bread and butter.
Defensively, Air Force employs a 2-3 zone to compensate for its
lack of size.
They’ll Win If: They slow down the game and smother the
opponent. If all five Falcon starters contribute and they hit some
3-pointers, AFA will be NCAA bound.
They’ll Lose If: A big man like CSU’s Matt Nelson dominates
inside and beats the zone defense.
Players to Watch: Junior Guard Tim Keller, with 11.3 points per
game. He hit almost 40 percent of his 3-pointers (49-for-134) and
averages two steals per game. Sophomore center Nick Welch also
averages just over 11 points per game and 4.0 rebounds.
Brigham Young (20-7, 10-4)
Playbook: BYU likes to run the court and press the defense into
making bad decisions.
They’ll Win If: Center Rafael Araujo is dominant inside and at
the free-throw line. If senior Mark Bigelow gets hot from the
outside, BYU is tough to beat.
They’ll Lose If: Araujo is contained and forced into foul
trouble. Keeping the ball on the perimeter is a good way to control
the inside game.
Players to Watch: Araujo averaged 18.4 points per game and just
over 10 rebounds. His size and strength make him almost impossible
to stop. Bigelow is a good outside shooter and is a clutch
UTAH (21-8, 9-5)
Playbook: Utah has a balanced attack and works on spreading out
its scoring. Constant offensive movement forces opposing defenses
out of position.
They’ll Win If: Senior guard Nick Jacobson gets hot shooting the
ball and they ride their emotions of losing former head coach Rick
Majerus, who retired due to heart ailments.
They’ll Lose If: A lack of coaching experience cannot calm a
heated team and bench.
Players to Watch: Nick Jacobson is devastating behind the
3-point line, burying 80-of-182 (44 percent), and averages over 16
points a game. Freshman center Andrew Bogut shoots over 60 percent
from the field and averaged 12 points per game.
UNLV (16-11, 7-7)
Playbook: True to their name, the Runnin’ Rebels like to
They’ll Win If: Junior forward Odartey Blankson has game inside
and the Rebels run their opponent up and down the floor.
They’ll Lose If: They fail to minimize turnovers, protect a lead
and compensate for poor free throw shooting.
Players to Watch: Blankson averages 17.4 points per game and
10.4 rebounds per game and scored under 10 points in only two games
all season. Junior guard Romel Beck shoots 40 percent from the
NEW MEXICO (14-13, 5-9)
Playbook: New Mexico runs a half-court offense that relies on
conference leading scorer Danny Granger’s inside game to open up
They’ll Win If: They get hot from 3-point land and Granger has a
big game inside.
They’ll Lose If: Senior Javin Tindall fails to control the ball
and Granger is shut down on the glass and from the field.
Players to Watch: The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Granger averaged 19.8
points and 10 rebounds in just 21 games this season and Tindall
averages over 12 points a game and hits 42-percent of his
SAN DIEGO STATE (14-15, 5-9)
Playbook: San Diego State relies heavily on the guard tandem of
Wesley Stokes and Marcus Slaughter, who draw the defense and allow
for an influx of low-post offense.
They’ll Win If: The guard tandem takes control and if freshman
guard Brandon Heath can get good looks.
They’ll Lose If: Stokes and Slaughter are not allowed to control
the flow of the game. Sanders must be kept off the free-throw
Players to Watch: Senior forward Aerick Sanders averages 16
points and 10 rebounds a game. The guard tandem Slaughter and
Stokes is one of the best one-two punches in the MWC.
COLORADO STATE (12-15, 4-10)
Playbook: A half-court offense centered on 7-foot junior Matt
They’ll Win If: Nelson is a force inside and strong from the
free-throw line. They must use their size against Air Force, which
has yet to face Nelson this season.
They’ll Lose If: Turnovers and foul trouble becomes a
Players to Watch: Center Matt Nelson and freshman Dwight Boatner
have been hot for the Rams as of late.
WYOMING (11-16, 4-10)
Playbook: A half-court set that relies on outside shooting from
the big men.
They’ll Win If: Senior guard Jay Straight can penetrate the
defense and add points from the inside, along with big man Joe
They’ll Lose If: Straight, the team’s only source of consistent
offense, is held under 15 points
Players to Watch: David Rottinghaus comes off the bench to help
the perimeter game and Straight likes to slash through zone