Mar 092004
 
Authors: Vince Blaser Justin Goldman

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

player.

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

run.

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

3-point line.

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

the perimeter.

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

3-pointers.

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

line.

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

Nelson.

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

problem.

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

Ries.

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

defenses.

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