For the second straight year, the Air Force men’s basketball team is playing in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas, otherwise known as the “play-in” game.
Having won just one MWC game this season, the Falcons are the No. 9 seed. They’ll face No. 8 Wyoming tomorrow for a chance to play No. 1 New Mexico in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
It’s not necessarily stunning that Air Force is in the play-in game for the second straight year. Most programs have their ups and downs, and for a long time, Air Force was way, way down. Before the 2003-2004 season, the Falcons hadn’t had a winning record in 25 years.
But while lean years are to be expected, it is surprising just how far the Falcons have fallen in the past two years.
In 2007, Air Force made the NIT semifinals. The season before that, the Falcons earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. And two years before that, in 2004, Air Force also earned an at-large bid to the big dance. The Falcons had five staight winning seasons from 2004-2008, and never finished below .500 in the MWC during that time.
But last season everything fell apart. Air Force dropped every single MWC regular season game en route to a 10-21 finish. This year they’ve only managed to win one conference game — against Wyoming, tomorrow’s play-in opponent.
Think that’s a bad two seasons? It could be worse. Just take a look at the Air Force women’s team.
With a 63-40 loss to Utah in the MWC tournament today, the women have now dropped 37 consecutive conference games dating back to 2007-2008. The program hasn’t had a winning season since 1993-1994, and has only won one MWC tournament game since joining the league in 1999-2000.
An interesting stat in yesterday’s (Colorado Springs) Gazette noted that no NCAA Div. I school has more combined men’s and women’s conference losses than Air Force over the last two seasons. The two programs were 1-63 in regular season play.