Capt. Nick Welch played an important role in Air Force’s most successful run of basketball in the Mountain West, helping to lead the Falcons to a share of a regular season conference title in 2004 and winning Mountain West Co-Player of the Year honors. During Welch’s four seasons on the court for Air Force, the Falcons won 78 games and made appearances in both the NCAA tournament and the NIT.
On Friday it was announced that Welch will return to Colorado Springs, as he’s been assigned as an assistant to head coach Dave Pilipovich’s staff.
“We are thrilled that Nick is rejoining the Air Force basketball program,” said Pilipovich in the release announcing the move. “To have a player and officer of his caliber come back and work with our players will be a great benefit to our team as well as the athletic department.”
Since graduating from the Academy in 2007 Welch has worked on Air Force bases in Louisiana and California.
Welch joins the Falcon coaching staff after spending four years at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana as an aircraft maintenance officer and two at Los Angeles Air Force Base as an acquisition program manager for IIF GPS Satellites since his graduation from the Academy in 2007.
His resume doesn’t have the look that one would expect for a college basketball coach, but that isn’t a problem here.
Why? The service academy experience for a student-athlete isn’t similar to what a student athlete at a “conventional” college would have to navigate, and Welch’s past experiences as an athlete at the school will help current players (especially the freshmen) get acclimated to service academy life.
Will Welch’s return help Pilipovich return the Falcons to the status they enjoyed during the mid-2000s? That remains to be seen, with the Mountain West being a much stronger league now (adding Utah State gave the league another boost in competition) than it was when Welch was a player. But it certainly can’t hurt given his past experiences.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: