Wouldn't surprise me, it also wouldn't surprise me if Utah won. But until I see them actually win a close game, or a game at all, I'll continue my pessimistic views toward this year's team.
Tonight's game really shows how things have dramatically changed over the past two years. Who would have thought two years ago that Air Force would be ranked and Utah would be the 5-12 team? Certainly not me and it really shows how far this program has fallen.
Air Force comes into this game with a 17-1 record, ranked 11th in the nation and undefeated in conference play. They're a very disciplined and defensive minded team; everything the Utes are not. This probably does not bode well for Utah, though I guess anything can happen. Utah needs this win, or they will continue their worst conference start in 54 years. However realistically, it won't be easy, if at all possible.
The Falcons enter this game scoring 74 points per game on 53% shooting. That shooting percentage is 2nd best in the nation, right behind #1 Florida. What's worse, if you're a Utes fan, Air Force shoots 44.7 from three point range, again ranked 2nd in the nation. This could actually turn into a three point shootout, as the Utes' shoot 44.4% from behind the arc, which ranks 3rd in the NCAA. But in the end, the came will come down to whether or not Utah can defend, something they've not been able to do all season long. Utah allows its opponents to shoot 49.4% from the field, a ranking of 315th -- only ten more teams defend worse than the Utes.
I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but it comes down to basic defensive fundamentals and unless Utah wises up on that end, they're going to lose. They may not get blown out, but the only way Utah is going to pull out a victory, especially a close one, is if they make the critical stops. That has failed them in every close game this season and for that they're 0-8 in every game that went down to the wire.
I honestly don't know how Utah wins this game, but I really didn't think they stood a chance on the road against New Mexico either. This team has talent and they've proven that over the year with wins over Washington State and Virginia and near wins over UNLV and New Mexico -- both on the road. Utah has played up to its opponents this season and I hope this is the case again against Air Force. I thought Utah would lose a close one against CSU and they were blown out and I then thought Utah would get blown out against New Mexico, only to watch them lose a close one. So I don't have a clue what Utah will do tonight. I do know something, David Foster and Curtis Eatmon better see some significant minutes after their peformance Saturday night. Yet neither are predicted to start, so their playing time might be minimal.
I hope Utah can reverse the trend and defeat Air Force, but I'm not hopefull. I expect a close game throughout to give Utah fans just enough hope that Utah might pull out a victory, however Air Force will pull away late and win it by a decent margin.