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Air Force Falcons: Keys To Mountain West Tournament Success

The Air Force Falcons will enter the Mountain West Tournament as a nine seed matching up with the eighth seeded New Mexico Lobos Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas. The winner of the game will advance to play top seeded Boise State Thursday.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Teams entering their conferences tournaments as a ninth seed don't usually last very long in those tournaments. They either lose to the eight seed or advance to meet the top team in the conference and bow out at that point. The Air Force Falcons enter the Mountain West Tournament this week with no great illusions of grandeur, but they do have some advantages and opportunities that can help them overcome the odds and win the Mountain West Tournament.

A Shooters Chance

The Falcons have some long range gunners that can really stretch defenses opening up the backdoor Princeton-style offensive game Air Force likes to execute. The Falcons make the second most three-pointers per game (7.6) in the conference and shoot the third highest percentage (37.2%) for the season as well in the league. Zach Kocur leads the team with 52 three-pointers made and shooting 48.6 percent from deep. That is currently the third best shooting performance in program history and gives Falcons fans hope that Kocur can get hot and lead this team to one or more upset victories. Mix in seniors Max Yon and Marek Olesinski who shoot 38% and 39% respectively with a high number of three-point attempts and the Falcons are a hot shooting week away from a possible championship.

Seniors Last Stand

AIr Force entered this season with high hopes for a senior-laden basketball team that had a ton of experience. Injuries have severely limited the playing time for Ethan Michaels (missed entire season), Kamryn Williams (18 missed games), DeLovell Earls (12 missed games) and Justin Hammonds (6 games). On top of the injuries, senior Yon missed about three weeks of action on a personal leave that was not injury or school related. In all, the Falcons have missed 128 possible games due to injury or other reasons. But Yon is back providing a spark off the bench, Hammonds and Earls are playing and forward Olesinski continues to be the rock of the team as the only player to start every game for Air Force this season. The seniors can make one final push to finish this season on the right note by winning the tournament championship and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Falcons will need three wins to guarantee a .500 record to earn a postseason invite to one of the lesser tournaments.

The Falcons have missed some golden opportunities this season, and starting Wednesday when they face the New Mexico Lobos it will be the last chance for four seniors still playing to make their final mark on what have been up-and-down careers as Falcons. The future of the Air Force basketball program appears to be in good shape with the younger players who have had to play big minutes all season. It is the seniors who will have to make this weekend special however, as the Falcons enter the conference tournament with one final chance to make history.