Friday’s college basketball schedule includes a nightcap in the Mountain West Conference, as the Air Force Falcons play host to the San Diego State Aztecs. If you’re looking to bet online, oddsmakers list the Aztecs as 14½-point favorites on the road, with the over/under listed at 123 1/2 points. More details on the game follow in our Aztecs vs Falcons betting preview.
January has been unkind to Air Force. The Falcons have lost five of their last six games and are 2-6 in conference play.
In their defense, four of those six losses have come against Boise State and Utah State. Those teams are a combined 25-4.
Nevertheless, the Falcons have a lot of work to do if they hope to get on track soon and make some noise in the Mountain West.
As for the Aztecs, they’ve also stumbled a little since the start of conference play. San Diego State started the season 5-0, including wins against UCLA and Arizona State.
But the Aztecs are just 4-4 in their last eight games, losing back-to-back games to Utah State last weekend. As it stands, San Diego State is on the NCAA March Madness bubble and needs to take advantage of a manageable schedule throughout the rest of January and into February.
Aztecs vs Falcons: Missing in Action
The Aztecs will be without leading scorer Matt Mitchell. The senior forward suffered a knee injury last week and is set to miss at least a couple of weeks.
Mitchell was averaging 15.3 points per game and has been the most important offensive player on a team that’s averaging less than 70 points per game.
For what it’s worth, San Diego State only lost to Utah State by five points without Mitchell last Saturday. However, they managed just 59 points and felt his absence.
Without Mitchell, San Diego State will be a lot more reliant on the shooting abilities of guard Jordan Schakel, who averages 12.7 points per game and shoots 41.5% from the perimeter.
Forward Nathan Mensah is also a key figure on the interior, averaging 10.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately for the Aztecs, he only contributed three points and five boards in Saturday’s loss. San Diego State will need more from him if it hopes to survive Mitchell’s absence.
Hot and Cold
Air Force’s hopes for making college basketball news with a mid-season turnaround hinge largely on the play of guards A.J. Walker and Chris Joyce. Walker averages 13.9 points per game, while Joyce contributes 12.3 points.
They are the only two Falcons who average double figures. However, neither is a lock-down shooter, as both have a tendency to be streaky from the perimeter.
For example, Joyce scored 21 points during a win over Wyoming last Saturday, only to go scoreless in a loss to Wyoming two days later. Walker has been a little more consistent, but for a team that averages just 58.9 points per game, the Falcons need their two leading scorers to play well to win.
Occasionally, Air Force gets a little help from the forwards Keaton Van Soelen and Nikc Jackson, with Jackson stepping up with 19 points in Monday’s loss to Wyoming. However, the frontcourt tandem of Van Soelen and Jackson is a little undersized.
As a result, neither is a reliable scorer, and neither is able to give the Falcons a dominant rebounding presence in the post, which is where Air Force can be vulnerable.
Just Good Enough
The 14 1/2-point spread for this game makes sense because most of Air Force’s losses in conference play have come by lopsided margins. However, the Aztecs aren’t a strong offensive team, especially with Mitchell unavailable.
Minus its top scorer, San Diego State doesn’t have the offensive firepower to pull away and cover the 14½-point spread. When making your college basketball picks, take the 14½ points and go with Air Force.