January 17, 2014 Updated: January 17, 2014 at 10:33 pm
For the first time in a long time, Air Force might be able match up with Colorado State.
Both teams feature revamped rosters and, if you look at four common conference opponents, they've faired basically the team - each going 2-2 in those games with home losses to San Diego State (Air Force by 7, CSU by 10) and wins over San Jose State (the Falcons at home by 15, CSU on the road by 2).
Yet, when the betting line settled into place for this game, the Rams were favored by 9.5 points for Saturday's 4:05 p.m. game at CSU's Moby Arena.
"It's a game I'd really like to win," Air Force junior Marek Olesinski said. "It's the only team I haven't beaten in conference. In fact, nobody in the locker room has beat them."
That's not quite true. Senior Chase Kammerer was a freshman when Air Force last beat the Rams, 74-57 on Feb. 26, 2011. Kammerer didn't play in that game. Since then, it's been a one-sided affair, with CSU taking four straight by an average of 12.5 points. Air Force hasn't won since 2009.
So, yes, it's been a while. But this year could be different. Tre' Coggins is on a run of four straight 20-point games for Air Force and his 3-point field goal percentage (46.9) ranks eighth in the nation. The Falcons were embarrassed on the glass in two games against the Rams last season by a margin of 79-42. But rebounding is the area in which Air Force is most improved, led by Kamryn Williams, Justin Hammonds, DeLovell Earls and Olesinski.
CSU lost all five of its starters from last year's team that went 26-9 and made the NCAA Tournament. But while last year's team started five seniors in 33 of 35 games, coach Larry Eustachy has given five starts to true freshman David Cohn, four to his classmate Carlton Hurst and nine to sophomore Joe De Ciman.
"They still have the same style of play," Olesinski said. "Shoot and crash the boards. That's what they do."
All but untouchable at home last year, CSU has home losses to Colorado and Denver this year in addition to San Diego State. If Air Force is to make it four home losses it will require a far cleaner game than a 23-turnover effort than Wednesday's victory over San Jose State.
If nothing else, the Falcons should keep this one close. Since Earls and Williams rejoined the lineup, the Falcons are 3-3.
But again, this one is at Moby Arena. And old habits do die hard.