Army (0-0) vs. Air Force (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 10, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: McAlister Field House (6,000) -- Charleston, South Carolina. Television: None. Home Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Away Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Neutral Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Conference Record: Army 0-0, Air Force 0-0. Series Record: Series tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: The second annual All-Military Classic tips off in South Carolina today as the Army Black Knights clash with the Air Force Falcons at McAlister Field House in Charleston.
The Falcons, members of the Mountain West Conference, are under the direction of head coach Dave Pilipovich, who stepped in for Jeff Reynolds late last season after the latter was relieved of his duties. Picked to finish ninth in the conference this season, Air Force is coming off a 2011-12 campaign in which it delivered a 13-16 record overall, but was a mere 3-11 in league play which left the group in a tie for seventh place in the standings.
Over on the other side of the country in New York, the Black Knights finished up 5-9 in their Patriot League outings last season and were 12-18 overall as they open this campaign on a four-game slide after losing to American (57-40) during the league tournament in the nation's capital. Army is coached by Zach Spiker, who is entering his fourth season at the helm and has a combined record of 37-52 to show for his efforts.
Last season the teams matched up in this same tournament, with the Falcons posting an impressive 87-71 victory in order to tie the all-time series at two games apiece. Air Force hosted the event last season and won the title with a 75-65 victory over VMI.
On Sunday the programs will play once more against VMI and The Citadel, with the matchups being based on the outcomes today.
In the Patriot League, most of the attention is being given to C.J. McCollum over at Lehigh, but the Black Knights have a talented guard of their own in Ella Ellis who was also named First-Team All-Patriot last season. Ellis led Army and was third in the league in scoring last season with 17.5 ppg and was one of only two performers in the Patriot to average at least 15 points, four rebounds and two assists per outing. Always forcing the action, Ellis made good on 140-of-169 at the free-throw line and also second on the unit with 63 three-pointers made. Fellow guard Josh Herbeck (10.3 ppg) is also a key figure on offense because he's the one who ranks among the best in the league in three-point shooting after making good on 75-of-187 (.401). Maxwell Lenox (6.4 ppg) doesn't have nearly the same accuracy on the perimeter (4-of-24), but he is the one who gets the ball to teammates at the right time (96 assists).
Although he missed a handful of games in 2011-12, Michael Lyons was still the top offensive threat for the Falcons with his 15.6 ppg and he is now just three points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career, a milestone he should reach in the early moments of today's game. Forward Mike Fitzgerald is the other double-digit returning scorer for the Academy, putting up 10.4 ppg as he started all 29 games for the program. Even though the Falcons are typically an under-sized group from year to year, the team does have Taylor Broekhuis settled in at the center position where his 6-10 frame should give opponents pause before attacking the rim. One of five seniors in the starting lineup, Broekhuis was good for 9.0 ppg and 4.8 rpg last season for a unit that ranked 316th in the country in rebound margin with minus-5.4 per game. However, the Falcons still do what they can to limit scoring, holding foes to just 62.0 ppg which was 48th in the nation.
Ellis will absolutely be a matchup problem for the Falcons today, but at the same time the star guard doesn't have teammates who have the same level of experience as Air Force and that will count against Army this time out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 71, Army 59
11/10 10:32:21 ET