• Basketball BlogDog?

    Thu, November 29, 2007 by admin with 5 comments

    The three questions I’ve heard most this week:

    1) Do you think Bzdelik will get booed?

    2) Who will Air Force play in the bowl?

    3) Does the BlogDog know anything about basketball?

    Answers:

    1) Yes

    2) There are way too many scenarios that all depend on this weekend, so all I can do is guess. Um, Purdue?

    3) We’re going to find out.

    Pressed into service by his fans – most notably Gazette columnist David Ramsey – BlogDog will be making some hoops predictions for selected games this winter. (For those unfamiliar with the BlogDog – it’s my dog, Norm. He predicted Air Force football games this fall and compiled a stellar 8-4 record. Check the archives for any blog post with “BlogDog” in it to see his previous work).

    They don’t get much bigger than tonight’s grudge match against CU, so we decided to start today.

    Note: I went with pretty much the same selection routine that the BlogDog uses for football – I set out a post-it note with “CU” written on it and a post-it note with “AF” written on it. Whichever one BlogDog goes to first (best three out of five times), is who he thinks is going to win. Not sure if this will work for basketball, so the method is under review.

    Anyway, BlogDog went to the CU post-it first, then the AF post-it, then the CU post-it, then the AF post-it twice in a row. So BlogDog is thinking the Falcons will fall behind early, trail at halftime but then prevail late.

    By the way, scroll below his picture for some quotes from fans that didn’t appear in today’s paper regarding Bzdelik’s return.

    Norm’s Pick:
    Air Force 59, Colorado 54
    Norm’s Record: 0-0 in hoops; 8-4 in football

    Basketball?

    TO BOO OR NOT TO BOO?
    That is the question facing the Clune Arena crowd that will greet former Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik tonight when he leads his new team, Colorado, against the Falcons at 7 p.m. Here are some thoughts from those who will be in attendance at Clune Arena.

    “I usually just ignore the other teams, and I’ll probably do the same this time. Although I just might give in and throw a few boos in for good measure. I’m with many of the fans that (Bzdelik) leaving wasn’t the worst part, it was the way he left that was just wrong.”
    -Pam Burton, 42, Denver; Air Force fan who has attended games on and off for 20 years and held season tickets for six years.

    “I will show respect to coach Bzdelik for his contributions to our basketball program. … Some say they are not happy with the way coach Bzdelik left Air Force and intend to show him their displeasure during the game. Others have no animosity and believe it’s merely the nature of the business where a coach chooses to do what he thinks is best for him and his family.”
    -Roger Allison, 66, Colorado Springs; Air Force fan who attends most home and away football and basketball games.

    “I think the crowd will treat Bzdelik as a traitor, but do not think there will be a lot of booing. If I had control of the Cadet Wing, I would give every cadet in Section 8 a sheet of newspaper and would have them hold it up in front of their face when the CU coaches are introduced. I would also make sure the cadets cheered loud for Jeff (Reynolds).”
    -Ted DeRousse, 67, Colorado Springs; Air Force fan

    “I dislike booing in all sports and will not boo him. I’ll politely clap when they comment on him being the former coach, then I’ll yell like heck for our Falcons and against the Buffs.”
    -Rick Pialet, 52, Monument; Air Force graduate and fan.

    “I am not in the habit of booing opposing teams or their coaches unless they do something which is dirty or offensive or are obnoxious (I even clap when they are introduced). But I probably will go with the flow and no doubt will clap for coach Bzdelik and also will boo him at the same time when he is introduced, while yelling, “Show me the money!” And, as the game progresses, I will join the cadets in Section 8 in getting all over Bzdelik as often as possible. I respect him as a coach but I do not like the way that he treated the academy.”
    -O.K. Niess, 72, Colorado Springs; Air Force fan who has attended many Air Force football and basketball games since 1964

    “I know there will be people booing him, but I don’t think that is appropriate. I have heard that some people may wave dollar bills at Coach Bzdelik, but I don’t believe money was the only reason he went to CU, so I won’t do that either. If I have the opportunity to speak to him, I will welcome him back and wish him well.
    -Tori Miller, 43, Colorado Springs; Air Force fan.

    “I’m sure it’s going to be crazy in there. They’ve always had good fans, so I’m sure the atmosphere will be crazy. But we’re going to go out and play our hardest, try to execute our stuff and hopefully get a win. That’s all we can worry about.”
    -Colorado freshman guard Levi Knutson, who was recruited to Air Force by Bzdelik

  • Light from Losses

    Sun, November 25, 2007 by admin with 5 comments

    Air Force fans should feel better about their young and inexperienced men’s basketball team after two losses the past two days than they did during its 5-0 start.

    Immediately after Sunday’s 71-62 loss to No. 9 Washington State at the Cougar Hispanic College Fund Challenge in Spokane, Wash., Falcons coach Jeff Reynolds said the game “was not a moral victory.” Players also shied away from that term.

    Maybe that’s a good thing. No reason to try to feel good about losses.

    Still, there were things about which the Falcons could feel good. On Saturday they stormed back from a 23-point second half deficit, pulling within one of Montana before losing, 59-57. On Sunday, in front of a hostile crowd, Air Force gave the nation’s ninth-ranked team its toughest test of the tournament.

    For a team that lost an Oct. 31 exhibition game to Brock – a Canadian university with no scholarship players – that’s what you call progress. Big-time progress.

    Now, there still are some significant concerns – most notably the Falcons’ depth. Not including reserves Eric Kenzik and Andrew Henke (a de facto starter), Air Force’s reserves have scored just 24 points this year – 5.5 percent of the team’s total output.

    Reynolds is searching for some more dependable bench players – specifically guards who can ease some of senior Tim Anderson’s burden. Anderson, who played all but two minutes of Sunday’s game, is averaging 34.6 minutes per game. That’s a pace that could wear him out mid-way through conference play.

    In addition, there should be some concern that Air Force plays to the level of its competition – and that’s great against Washington State, but it could come back to bite the Falcons later in their non-conference schedule.

    But this past weekend – especially Sunday – should give fans more hope for the season.

    “I think we played hard,” Henke said. “I guess we can’t be too disappointed in ourselves because we knew we played our butts off the whole game, played hard the whole game and pushed a very, very good team to the limit.”

  • Look Again

    Sat, November 24, 2007 by admin with 1 comment

    Greetings from Spokane.

    My first time in the city.

    First impression on the cab ride into town? I wasn’t a big fan. A bit run-down, cold and dated, I thought. Though some of that, to be sure, might have had to do with the frigid temperatures and gray skies.

    But after seeing some of the new restaurants and cool, old hotels downtown, walking through Riverfront Park and taking a bridge over the picturesque Spokane River, I started coming around a bit. Actually rather charming. Kind of has the feel of an Eastern European city.

    Or maybe I’m just going insane due to the massive amount of turkey I inhaled yesterday and an early flight today.

    Whatever, the point I’m trying to make is you sometimes need to look past your first impression.

    Which brings me to the Air Force men’s basketball team.

    My first impression of the team was its dreadful exhibition loss to Brock of Canada. And I creamed it in this Blog.

    But the Falcons have won five games since and shown some flashes – here and there – of potential. Andrew Henke has shot the ball as well as anyone could have hoped, Anwar Johnson is playing great defense, Keith Maren and Eric Kenzik are combining to give the Falcons solid post play, Evan Washington isn’t looking like a freshman and Tim Anderson has done a little bit of everything without having to carry the team by himself.

    So that’s the good news. The second impression, if you will.

    Tomorrow and Sunday, however, it gets tougher. Air Force’s opponents thus far have been pretty much Division I dregs and a Division II team. Tomorrow the Falcons face a tough Montana squad that has speed and size. The next day it’s a date with unbeaten and ninth-ranked Washington State – a fast, athletic team with a few great shooters.

    In other words, let’s wait until after the third impression. We’ll know a lot more about the Falcons after this weekend.

  • Bzy’s Buffs

    Wed, November 21, 2007 by admin with 3 comments

    With Jeff Bzdelik’s return just more than a week away, I rolled up to Boulder for the Colorado-Colorado Christian game on Tuesday night to check out the former Air Force coach’s new team.

    Initial impressions of the Buffs?

    • They’ve got more athletes and more size than the Falcons – but what else is new?
    • Colorado Christian gave them more of a fight than they probably wanted in the first half, though the Buffaloes put the game away early in the second half.
    • Marcus Hall is a pretty nice player. The 6-foot-1 senior guard made 8 of 11 shots, including 4 of 6 3-pointers, and scored a team-high 21 points. He seemed like the best player on the floor.
    • Senior Richard Roby looks like he’s regressed, big time, from his sophomore year. Roby considered going pro after that season but came back for last year’s strange, lame-duck campaign under Ricardo Patton. He averaged 16.0, 17.0 and 17.3 points in his first three seasons. This year he’s averaging 13.2 and he just looks a little lost.
    • Part of that might be because he and his teammates haven’t quite picked up on the offense Bzdelik has implemented. Sophomore guard Dwight Thorne told me as much after the game. Air Force’s new players are having the same problems at the academy.
    • Levi Knutson – a player Bzdelik recruited to come to Air Force – made his first start and played fairly well: nine points on 4-of-7 shooting.
    • On paper – though certain people at CU will tell you differently – the Buffaloes seem to have an edge. But the game will be at Clune, and something tells me the Air Force players will be up for it.

    Plenty more thoughts on the CU-Air Force game to come.

    Hope everyone who checks in on the blog has a happy Thanksgiving. I’ll check in from Spokane, Wash., on Friday.

  • Confidence Builder

    Tue, November 20, 2007 by admin with 2 comments

    The crucial victory for the 2007 Air Force football team came in Week 2, when the Falcons made a goal line stand to seal a win over Utah, a team none of the players on the team ever had beaten.

    It showed the players that they could make big plays in big situations, and it gave them a taste of winning.

    Yes, we can do this.

    Monday night’s 52-47 overtime victory over Radford might do the same for this young Air Force men’s basketball team.

    Now, I don’t expect the Falcons to have surprising success akin to the football team’s. While the football team is stocked with experienced seniors, the basketball team has just one player (Tim Anderson) back from last year with any significant playing experience. And Air Force likely will struggle when it faces some of the more difficult teams on its schedule – look no further than the upcoming trip to Spokane.

    But Monday night was a step in the right direction.

    The moment that seemed to make Air Force believe came when Evan Washington splashed two rainbows through the net with 3.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. That’s a freshman on the free throw line in front of 6,008 fans. And when he came through, the burden of doubt seemed to lift.

    Washington’s smile said it all:

    Yes, we can do this.

    “We definitely came into that huddle after Evan hit the free throws and kind of looked at each other and said, ‘All right, let’s take this one from them, let’s take this one,’” junior Andrew Henke said. “And we came out and hit shots early in overtime.”

    Give the coaching staff credit for encouraging its players to keep shooting, keep shooting, keep shooting with confidence. And that had to have been tough after Air Force missed 20 of 24 shots in the first half (including all 14 3-pointers), the worst half of shooting since a March 2, 2000 game against BYU.

    “I think it’s a mental thing with shooters – you either quit shooting, or you continue to shoot,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. “And we kept telling them in the huddle, they’re gonna drop, they’re gonna drop. Just keep believing.”

    The players did. Henke hit a pair of 3-pointers after missing his first six. Anderson hit one in overtime after missing all six of his regulation tries.

    But the Falcons did not just wait until their shots started falling. They also took the ball to the basket more aggressively, played tougher defense and did whatever else they could to get back in the game.

    “Any time you face adversity and you respond to it, it shows the character of a team,” Henke said. “Whether it was Tim hitting shots in overtime or me or Anwar getting to the free throw line to kind of help us get back into the game, it shows those younger guys what it takes – that resilience to win the game and to keep pushing and keep pushing no matter what the situation. We faced that adversity and we responded well to it tonight.”

    Yes, we can do this.

  • Ollis Earns Honor

    Mon, November 19, 2007 by admin with 2 comments

    They won’t have to name the award after Chad Hall after all.

    Air Force senior tailback Jim Ollis was named the Mountain West Conference’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance in the Falcons’ 55-23 victory over San Diego State on Saturday. Hall, Air Force’s receiver/running back/returner, won the award three times in a five-week span earlier this year.

    Ollis, who rushed for a career-high 163 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, shared the honor with BYU quarterback Max Hall. Ollis had touchdown runs of 54 and 31 yards and seven of his carries went for first downs.

  • Bryant and BlogDog

    Fri, November 16, 2007 by admin with 3 comments

    My colleague, Milo Bryant, is too much of a gentleman to gloat and say ‘I told you so.’

    But I’m not. So I’ll do it for him.

    He told you so. While most magazines, radio and TV shows and newspapers were predicting a difficult re-building year for Air Force – most I read and heard called for the Falcons to win about four games – Milo said the Falcons would go 8-4, and he put it in print. Check it out – it’s right here.

    Nobody thought they’d win that many (and when I say “nobody,” I don’t include the members of the team or the team’s fans – they’re supposed to think their team will win that many). Some of his fellow journalists thought he was nuts, but he stuck to his guns.

    His first inclination was to say 9-3, but he eventually backed off of that – and I take some of the responsibility for that because I told him emphatically I thought a nine-win season was just about impossible.

    Then again, I don’t make predictions in print. I leave it to my dog, Norm.

    In his first year as a certified football prognosticator, the BlogDog has been nothing short of brilliant. Not even Milo could have foreseen the success that he’s had. Heading into the final week of the regular season, the BlogDog is 8-3 and has posted five consecutive correct predictions.

    What I like best about the BlogDog’s work this season is that, like Milo, he hasn’t been afraid to go out on a limb. He took the Falcons when they were eight-point underdogs at Utah, and he thought they would blow out CSU in Fort Collins when they were three-point underdogs. He was right both times.

    He’s taking a chance and thinking outside the box again this week. Air Force has won five of its past six games and is an 11-point favorite at home Saturday against San Diego State. But BlogDog likes the Aztecs.

    (Norm chooses between mini helmets of each team. If he picks the same helmet three times in a row, he’s thinking blowout. If he chooses one three times and the other once, he’s thinking the game will be decided by about seven to 10 points. If he chooses one three times and the other one twice, he’s predicting a close game.)

    This week, Norm went to the San Diego State helmet first, then the Air Force helmet, then the San Diego State helmet two more times.

    Norm’s Pick: San Diego State 31, Air Force 23
    Norm’s Record: 9-3
    Who does Milo like in this game?

  • Anderson named Player of the Week

    Mon, November 12, 2007 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force senior guard Tim Anderson was named the Mountain West Conference Men’s Basketball Co-Player of the Week along with San Diego State junior Kyle Spain on Monday.

    Anderson, the lone returning starter from last year’s record-setting Falcon squad, helped lead Air Force to the 2007 Air Force Classic title with victories over Dartmouth and Northern Colorado.

    Anderson, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored 13 points and added three steals, two assists and two rebounds in the Falcons’ 67-38 semifinal victory over Dartmouth. In the championship victory over Northern Colorado, Anderson scored a career-high 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, including 6-for-12 shooting from 3-point range.

  • Trifecta?

    Sun, November 11, 2007 by admin with 7 comments

    So how does this sound: An Air Force Mountain West Conference Trifecta.

    Troy Calhoun, MWC Coach of the Year.

    Chad Hall, MWC Offensive Player of the Year.

    John Rabold, MWC Defensive Player of the Year.

    Let’s break them down one by one, from most likely to least likely.

    Hall
    He’s just about locked it up with the most impressive stretch of offensive performances in academy history. In the last seven weeks he’s averaged 244.9 all-purpose yards per game, rushed for 1,135 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.

    He leads the conference in rushing yards per game (114.9) and all-purpose yards per game (203.0). He ranks ninth in receptions per game (3.91), third in punt return average (12.3) and ninth in kickoff return average (23.6).

    No single player is more important to any team in the Mountain West Conference than Hall is to Air Force. It should be a lock.

    Toughest Competition: I think the New Mexico skilled position players (quarterback Donovan Porterie, receivers Marcus Smith and Travis Brown and running back Rodney Ferguson) all are candidates, but they’ll probably take votes from each other. So Hall’s biggest competition is his namesake – BYU’s Max Hall, who has averaged 310 yards passing in nine games. But that might say as much about the BYU offense as it does about Hall.

    Calhoun
    If Air Force wins Saturday, he’s got a great case. The Falcons will be 9-3 and 6-2 in the league (which will be – at worst – tied for second). That’s a five-game turnaround. And Calhoun’s done it without an influx of talent.

    Think about it: Inside linebacker Aaron Shanor is back after sitting out last year to boost his grades. And freshmen Reggie Rembert, Savier Stephens and Andre Morris all have played some. But none of the members of the Class of 2011 has made a huge impact. And, of course, there have been no impact transfers.

    In fact, the argument can be made that Air Force lost more talent in the seniors that graduated from last year’s team than it added in freshmen.

    It’s a point that most of the folks at Air Force won’t make out loud because it can be interpreted as a swipe at former coach Fisher DeBerry. But it cannot be ignored. Calhoun has taken a team that won four games last season and has doubled that total with one game to play.

    His assistants deserve a lot of the credit, but assistants usually get a piece of head coaches’ coach of the year awards.

    Toughest competition: Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. The Utes have won six straight to improve to 7-3. He kept his team from quitting despite a 1-3 start and a slew of injuries – most notably to standout quarterback Brian Johnson. Right now, Utah might be playing better than any team in the conference (see the Utes’ 50-0 drubbing of Wyoming yesterday). If Utah can knock off BYU, Whittingham might be the choice. Then again, if BYU goes unbeaten and wins a second straight crown, Bronco Mendenhall would be a natural choice too.

    Rabold
    One could argue that inside linebacker Drew Fowler, strong safety Chris Thomas and cornerback Carson Bird are playing just as big a role for the Falcons.

    But you can’t argue with Rabold’s stats. He’s made 70 tackles, including 15.5 for losses, forced three fumbles and recovered three – including one he took for a touchdown against Notre Dame.

    He’s been a bit unsung this year, which could hurt him in voting, but for all-around defensive performance, few if any have been better than Rabold.

    Toughest Competition: Defense is always harder to read. UNLV’s Beau Bell, the conference’s leading tackler, BYU’s Jan Jorgensen and TCU’s Chase Ortiz all probably will be in the mix.

  • Below the Radar BlogDog

    Fri, November 9, 2007 by admin with 5 comments

    On my flight to Chicago this afternoon, I was watching ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. Both of the show’s hosts – Mike Wilbon and Bob Ryan – gave Air Force a better-than-50-percent chance of winning tomorrow’s game at Notre Dame in the show’s oddsmaker segment.

    Now, I think both Wilbon (who said there’s an 80 percent chance) and Ryan (who went with 68 percent) were basing their predictions more upon what they know about Notre Dame than what they do about Air Force. And that’s fine. Because they probably have no idea what Air Force has done this year.

    That’s neither of their faults. Most people who don’t actively follow Air Force or the Mountain West Conference have zero idea that the Falcons are 7-3. They have no idea Air Force has a first-year coach that likely will be the league’s coach of the year and – with two more wins – should be in the discussion for national coach of the year. And they are clueless that Air Force has a player who – all kidding aside – probably at least should be mentioned in Heisman Trophy chatter. Honestly, is there any player on a bowl-eligible Division I-A football team that means more to his squad than Chad Hall?

    So why doesn’t anybody know about this stuff? At least part of it has to do with the conference’s much-maligned television contract. It’s great that so many more games are televised than in the past and – more selfishly than anything – I love that games are (mostly) on Saturday afternoons instead of Monday and Tuesday nights.

    But outside of fans of Mountain West Conference teams who actively seek out the games – nobody is watching. My parents wanted to watch Air Force’s game against New Mexico, but they don’t have Versus on their satellite package (they found this out after I explained to them that “Versus” was indeed an actual network).

    What made me think about all this was the feeling of utter shock that I got when I saw Air Force highlights on PTI. While Wilbon and Ryan were talking, several plays were shown, including a Chad Hall touchdown run against New Mexico and Jimmy Ollis’ fourth-and-1 touchdown run against TCU.

    I was legitimately stunned seeing the Falcons on the Worldwide Leader.

    Earlier this week, I was talking to somebody at Air Force about this and he told me that on the morning after Air Force’s huge, thrilling OT victory over TCU, there was one highlight of the game on SportsCenter. Just Ryan Harrison’s game-winning field goal. Not Carson Bird’s key interception – with discussion about TCU’s decision to throw the ball instead of setting up for a field goal. Not Ollis’ run. Just Harrison’s kick.

    Now, certainly some of this is a backlash to the Mountain West leaving ESPN to go it alone. Naturally, the network is going to give a little more love to conferences and sports with which it has agreements. Fair? Probably not. But the fact remains – if you ain’t on ESPN, people just don’t know about you.

    Ask the NHL.

    Speaking of not getting enough TV time, where’s the love for the BlogDog? Norm has nailed four straight games to improve to 7-3 and guarantee a winning season. But I don’t see any pundits talking about the BlogDog – even on The Mtn. I think Norm, at 7-3, deserves his own show.

    Maybe that would convince the satellite providers to add the channel.

    Since I do not have a Notre Dame helmet, Norm picked between a piece of paper with “AF” written on it in blue and a piece of paper with “ND” written on it in blue and gold. (Remember, if Norm picks the same team three times in a row, he’s thinking blowout. If he chooses one team three times and the other team once, he’s thinking the game will be decided by about seven to 10 points. If he chooses one team three times and the other one twice, he’s predicting a close game).

    This week Norm went to Air Force, then Notre Dame twice, then Air Force twice.

    Norm’s Pick: Air Force 27, Notre Dame 21
    Norm’s Record: 7-3

    I’m taking the Falcons. Now where’s my TV contract?