San Diego State Aztecs (11-7, 3-3 MW) vs Air Force Falcons (9-11, 2-5 MW)
Tip-off: January 24, 6 p.m. PST at Clune Arena, Colorado Springs.
The Aztecs have put together a 3-game win-streak and are suddenly 1.5 games behind the Nevada Wolfpack and the Boise State Broncos. In their winning streak, their offense has come alive beating their opponents by double-digits. Credit some of those victories to the return of Malik Pope in the lineup. Remember him? The Aztec standout who has been an anomaly for seasons with his will-he-leave, won’t-he-leave shtick.
Really it’s the hard work of the regular starters like Trey Kell who put up 24 points against UNLV, Jeremy Hemsley and Matt Shrigley putting up 14 against Utah State, and Zylan Cheatham continuing to shine.
The Aztecs have to watch out at Air Force because it is their first game at elevation. Air Force hasn’t won on the road, but at home in-conference they have been 2-1 with victories against Utah State and Fresno State.
Air Force’s Princeton offense, like football’s triple-option, focuses on movement and the element of surprise, so it’s no surprise that 4 of their starters ( Hayden Graham, Jacob Van, Frank Toohey and Zach Kocur) all average between 10.6 and 12.9 points.
This game for the Aztecs might be tougher in person than on paper because of their vulnerable defense, something that hasn’t been present in a really long time. In their last meeting in the 2015-2016 season at Viejas Arena, the Aztecs were forced to take 3s but made 12. This time at elevation with deeper breaths taken, it’s unsure if those shots go in.
Prediction: San Diego State 70, Air Force 64