Boise State Basketball: Nevada Bound

Photo courtesy Otto Kitsinger

There are some teams in the Mountain West that are difficult to work up rage toward. UNR is emphatically not one of them. The fact that Reno exists is irritating in itself, let alone the dormant coals of a rivalry that finally got blown into a full-on inferno during a football game in 2010 that never happened and must not be recalled.

Boise State is a long way off from meeting the Wolfpack again on the gridiron, but the Basketball Broncos play them Tuesday night at the Lawlor Events Center. Reno is off to an annoyingly good start, currently 4-0 in conference games. Making that stat more infuriating, is the fact that Nevada’s signature OOC wins so far include such perennial powerhouses as Cal Poly and Iona. This is a team that has lost to not only UCLA and Mizzou, but Morehead State and Nebraska-Omaha. What gives, Reno?

Basically, they are Boise’s opposite in that:

-          They are from Reno, and all that entails.

-          They have gotten hot going into conference play.

Most of that heat is coming from one particular player, Deonte Burton. He has been posterizing players forever, but the best example is this filthy dunk against UNLV.

Burton is the biggest weapon for the Pack by far, scoring 21 PPG, and playing almost every minute. However, there are more players for Nevada that hold their own – Jerry Evans Jr. leads the team in assists, and A.J. West is pulling down 7.8 (!) boards per game. In their last outing against Utah State, Cole Huff dumped in 16 points, 12 of those coming from behind the arc. Evans has been in a 3lo like slump for the last few games, but just like Jeff, could break out of that rut at any point and really put a hurting on a team not prepared to defend him.

Going on the road in the Mountain West is kinda like SEC football, except the “Murderer’s Row” thing is real. MWC teams have a tendency to protect their home courts with a ferocity usually reserved for mothers of small children who are in danger. That’s why this upcoming game is so nerve-wracking – The Broncos are a quite talented team whose members aren’t all playing up to their potential. Elloriaga might as well be in Siberia for how cold his shot is right now, Marks and Iggy, while helping the cause, just aren’t taking enough pressure off Drmic and Watkins. Anthony and Ryan have been carrying most of the Bronco’s load as of late, and while it’s pretty awesome to watch them both play like they’re half-possessed by the lingering spirits of Chris Childs and Tanoka Beard, it’s going to be a long conference schedule and a disappointing post-season if something doesn’t change soon.

Luckily, basketball is a game of streaks. Winning streaks, losing streaks, games where it seems like all is lost from the opening tip, and games where everything goes right, the calls go the right way and the rims are friendly. While that at-large bid was very nice last season, all it takes is one hot run through the conference tournament and all of a sudden the guys are dancing again. Can the Broncos take control of their fate, starting with a good ol’ fashioned Wolf stomp on Tuesday night? That depends on if they can do the most difficult task in the MWC – take the home crowd out of the equation, control time of possession, and hit some dang shots. Be careful down there, guys, make sure to measure the basket before ya play, and please wipe the Reno off your shoes before you get home.

The game tips off at 8:05 Boise time and although it will not be televised it will be streamed online at www.broncosports.com/sports/m-baskbl/live-game.html and can also be heard on the radio at 670 AM KBOI.

Gameday Poll: What will be the outcome of Boise State vs. San Diego State?

Boise State takes on the Aztecs tonight in a game that could lock up a spot in the Mountain West Conference Championship game for the Broncos.  Vegas has Boise State as a six point favorite, and here are our Simulations, so what do you think will happen?  Vote below and leave a comment with your score predictions and analysis!

What will be the outcome of Boise State vs. San Diego State

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What We Learned-Week 7

John Zsiray – AP

With week 7 in the rear-view mirror; it’s another step in the right direction for the Broncos.  It was a win, not the prettiest nor the ugliest, but a win. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

“Just win, baby!”- Al Davis.

Utah State, a little beaten up, but overall-a solid football team. The Aggies fought with the Broncos enough, to make it appear to the outside viewer; it was a close game (BSU 34-USU 23). Final scores sliding across the bottom line of ESPN have that effect. The details of the game provide something a box score never can; a visual of what really transpired. Admitted, it was not a dominate performance by the Broncos, but it was perfectly-imperfect.

By that I mean, mistakes were to be found and a lot more than usual, but the Broncos battled and stood their ground-A trait that winning teams possess. Many games throughout the course of the season will be lopsided due to the Broncos talent; albeit not even fully developed. The games that challenge the Broncos – those are the important ones. Just like in life – you learn more when you struggle, not when you succeed without adversity.

The next two weeks will be a tremendous test for the Broncos. This Saturday is a battle at home against the beloved Wolf Pack, our favorite Mountain West opponent (I speak sarcasm fluently…). Nothing needs to be said about the rivalry with Nevada. It’s safe to assume we don’t like them and they don’t like us:  Exhibit A

The following Friday, BSU heads down to Provo, Utah to take on Brigham Young University. BYU is a sound football team; have a great dual-threat quarterback in Taysom Hill and a stout defense. Those two together make a team tough to beat. Their two losses on the year were each by seven points or less. Expect a game that will be tightly contested for all 48 minutes.

Now….What was learned from the Broncos during their victory against the Aggies:

 1. 5’6 is just a height-

Shane Williams-Rhodes is now a play-maker. The 5’6 little man, wearing the legendary #11 jersey is a blast to watch and furthermore a match-up nightmare. Easy resembling a former Bronco (Vinny Perretta, 5’9), Shane is headed for a great career at Boise State. Both do-it-all like players; can be lined up anywhere on offense, and make also make an impact on special teams.

SWR arrived on the scene last year as a true-freshman. His short amount of time on the field was noticed. Frankly it’s hard for him to not stand out, his towering height isn’t quite the reason, but his elusiveness and athleticism is aesthetic. One of the last plays in the 2012 season was a stellar kick-return by SWR setting up a game-winning a field.

It was much anticipated that Williams-Rhodes was going to be a quintessential play-maker coming into this year’s season. And now that hype is coming into fruition. He’s had a few weeks where the stat-sheet was relatively blank; that trend has presumably come to an end.

The last two weeks have been phenomenal performances by SWR. Against Southern Miss, Shane caught one touchdown and ran in another-off the infamous FUMBLEROOSKI play. Last weekend, facing Utah State, he once again impressed. SWR reeled in a career high 13-receptions for a flat 150 yards. Wow. Oh… and he had a touchdown. That is one heck of a game – especially for a sophomore.

Disregarding the statistical value of his game, he’s showcased the shiftiness and dexterity you’d expect from a 5’6, 160lb football player. Constantly juking people out of their shoes and making what would usually be short-yardage gains into game-changing plays (Insert definition of play-maker here). On a team that really hasn’t found a consistent spark this year, it’s exciting to know we may one in SWR for this season and the next two.

 2. Out-Coached-

Add this to the list of things that we already know, but will rehash anyways:

We have the best coach in the country.

Some folks in Alabama and a few other places might have something to say about that statement, but putting bias aside; we all know it’s a fact (Okay…That might be a little bias).

Coach Pete is unparalleled to the rest. Admittedly he is not perfect though, nor is anyone, but it takes a special individual to admit your own faults. In the final minute of the first half last weekend, Petersen decided to do what he usually does if winning by a larger margin – let the clock run out and go to half. Utah State wasn’t allowing of that kind gesture by Boise State. They made a smart move by not letting the clock just dwindle away, forcing Boise State to punt, then…. Oops, it gets blocked. The Broncos did return the favor by blocking the Aggies field goal attempt denying them any points. But something that rarely happens, happened. Coach Pete was out-coached.

Instead of removing blame on himself, he fully accepted. At the half-time interview, Petersen acknowledged that he made a mistake and was out-coached. Also confessed… If the tables were turned, he would have done the same thing.

This speaks volume to what we have in Coach Pete. As Bronco fans we are unbelievably fortunate to have such a brilliant football mind and also, an even better person. Something that is far often over-looked in sports- character. His motto as we all know: “Our Kind of Guy”, the way he evaluates recruits and decides if they are Boise State worthy. Mostly graded on one’s character; who they are on and off the field.

It goes without saying – Boise State has enjoyed its high level of success under his wing and wouldn’t be the same without him leading ‘The Blue’. All you can do is respect and appreciate our great coach and leader.

He is the face of Boise State, hopefully that will never change.

Follow me on Twitter @LGJ3630

Blue Turf Nation’s Mountain West Conference Power Rankings

1.) Boise State: Not a lot should have to be said here. But if you read a lot of the publications coming out you might think differently. Fresno State has become the “sexy” choice in the MWC this season, despite the fact that Fresno State has not beaten Boise State since 2005. The Bronco’s on the other hand bring plenty to the table this year in my mind to deserve the number one ranking to start the season. Joe Southwick has a lot to prove entering this season, however as the season ended last year Joe looked poised to have a big Senior campaign. Add to that he returns his top six receivers from last year, picking up where they left off should not be a problem.

The question marks for Boise State really rest on the defense. With the departures of Jamar Taylor, Lee Hightower, Sam Ukwuachu, Michael Atkinson, and J.C. Percy, Boise State has holes to fill, and some new players will have to make an immediate impact. Bottom line however, until Chris Petersen is no longer the coach at Boise State it is hard to start any season in the MWC with Boise State not at #1.

2.) Fresno State: The power of the Bulldogs rests in its passing game. Derek Carr is back and all the attention is on him. Many have him as the best QB in the MWC – some have him even as a possible Heisman candidate (Though I am not personally one of those people). He also returns dynamic WR’s Davante Adams, Issiah Burse, & Josh Harper. If the Bulldogs can replace Robbie Rouse, Tim DeRuyter should find himself another successful season for Fresno State. They return a lot of defensive talent, and the schedule suits them well. Question is – is Fresno a team that can rise to the occasion in conference play? Or, are the ghosts of Pat Hill still lurking in those locker rooms. If the culture has completely changed, they could find themselves in the MWC championship game.

3.) Utah State: I admit, I am likely higher on Utah State than most people. They lost their Head Coach to Wisconsin, they lost all of their top receivers, their RB, and they are coming from the WAC. Last season might have been an enigma for Utah State football. However, I really believe in 3rd year starting QB Chucky Keeton. To help his case, he returns four of five offensive lineman, meaning he will have time to work his magic. He is a dual threat superstar, who last season almost single hand-idly beat Wisconsin. Though I see four near guaranteed losses on their schedule, I believe to start the year these Aggies deserve some respect. If nothing else, Chucky Keeton deserves it.

4.) San Diego State: It is hard to win in college football with defense. However, San Diego State under Rocky Long has done that. This year will likely be no different as they return a projected nine starters from last season on defense.The question is do they have a QB who can win you games when the defense falters? Adam Dingwell never really looked like the guy last season. Though he was 5-1 as a starter he still threw seven picks to only eight touchdowns and completed less than 60% of his passes. The Aztecs have enough talent to be a bowl team, but to be a championship team Dingwell is going to have to take a big step forward. If not, returning RB Adam Muema is going to have to carry this team  through a tough schedule that includes both Ohio State, and Oregon State, in two of their first three games.

5.) San Jose State: What was more surprising last year than Utah State’s turnaround? San Jose’s. What is even crazier, is it is not nuts to think they will have another big year. With a prolific offense that returns its top four receivers and QB David Fales, San Jose has a chance to really start to build something for the much maligned football program. Even more in the Spartans favor is a schedule that gives them the best chance to win, especially during conference play. Utah State, Fresno State, San Diego State, and Air Force all travel to San Jose, meaning if the Spartans can rekindle the fire they had last season, San Jose might be a force in the MWC West. So with all that why are they down at #5? Like Utah State, last season may have been as much about the WAC as it was about the turnaround of these programs. In the MWC they are going to face much better defenses on a consistent basis. Also like Utah State, after a big year last year they lost their head coach as well so you never know what is really going to happen now that MacIntyre is out, and Caragher is in.

6.) Nevada: No more Chris Ault. Seems odd to say but it is true. The Wolfpack are going into this season with a new man running things. Good news for them is QB Cody Fajardo is back. Bad news is, this team lost a lot of pieces and has a tough schedule to manage. Games @ UCLA, @ Florida State, @Fresno State, @ San Diego State and @ Boise State make this year seem like a major up hill battle. If they can manage to win a couple of those games they should be able to return to a bowl game. If not however, this year could be a major rebuilding year with lots of questions marks. They come in at number 6 because of Fajardo, and because you have to believe Ault didn’t leave the cupboards completely empty. But really, only time will tell what this UNR team is made of.

7.) Air Force: The Falcons and Troy Calhoun are that team that is always pretty much the same. You can expect around a .500 record and for the fans who watch them play to be treated to the “dynamic” option offense. Last season the Falcons failed to impress in their bowl game against Rice.  This season they have to replace both their leading rusher, and QB. I expect the option to get the Falcons a few wins. But I won’t be surprised to see another sub .500 season.

8.) Colorado State: This team is going to go as far as the running-game will allow them. To do that, Alexander and Nwoke are going to be the oil that keeps this engine running. Last season the Rams showed signs of life, but they also showed signs of a bad football team. Though I expect more than four wins this season, I also expect some really embarrassing ones….(Especially when they travel to Alabama). If Conner Smith can turn the corner at QB this team could surprise some people. I however, expect that surprise to be another year down the road.

 9.) Wyoming: There is a real chance Wyoming could start the season 5-1 under QB Brett Smith. Only issue is those wins will come against Idaho, Northern Colorado, Texas State, New Mexico, and Air Force. The one loss, will likely come in the opener at Nebraska which means more than likely, Wyoming will rise up this chart as the season goes on. Problem is it will be very hard to evaluate the Cowboys until  they play rival Colorado State on 10/19. With a projected 14 returning starters, Wyoming could be a dark horse this year in the MWC. They find themselves here however because of their early schedule, and the inability to see what they are made of until later in the season.

10.) UNLV: With 19 potential returning starters it is a sad statement I have UNLV at 10. Problem is they are likely to start the season with two quick losses. That means this team is going to have to try to rebound from that mental block that teams that lose all the time have. UNLV has some positives going into this season – experience on the field and a head coach who has been given his chances. It is just up to them to show they can win more than two games a year now.

11.) Hawaii: Like others in the MWC Hawaii starts the season with a really tough schedule. Coming off a 3-9 season under Norm Chow, this season looks to be potentially more of the same. With the very real potential to start the season 0-5, Hawaii is going to have to have a strong second half of the season to really improve on last year. They return plenty of players, but if you watched them play last season, that is not saying much.

12.) New Mexico: It seems unfair to put New Mexico back at the bottom of the MWC. Last season they showed so much improvement that you would think this year will be even better. The problem for Bob Davies and Lobo fans however is that they only return three defensive starters on a defense that was already lackluster at best. Running Back Kasey Carrier is going to get himself numbers in this offense, but the question will be can QB Cole Gautsche become a threat defenses have to care about? Bob Davies has New Mexico on the right path. But like a couple of other MWC teams they may be a year or two away from breaking into that next level.

Blue on Blue here to stay

Otto Kitsinger/Getty Images

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight panel denied the proposal to require that teams have contrasting uniforms, which will allow Boise State to continue wearing all blue uniforms on The Blue.

They did adopt a rule stating that uniform numbers must be one solid color, which would affect the Broncos current uniforms as the numbers fade from light to dark silver on the blue jerseys, and from silver to blue on the black jerseys.  Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman did say in his blog post today that Boise State has new blue and white uniforms planned already.  There may be an exemption that would allow for Boise State to keep its black uniforms.  (The news of new uniforms is exciting to everybody but my wife, who now knows we will have to budget money for new jerseys for me as well!)

The Mountain West Conference previously banned the all blue uniforms as a requirement for entrance, however when Boise State chose to stay with the conference and not join the Big East, the ban was lifted.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson went as far as writing a letter to the panel to oppose the rule stating that, “Boise State Football is known for its signature blue turf. For a majority of their history, they have worn blue pants and blue jerseys when playing at home.”

Although Thompson was a little off by saying we have worn all blue for the majority of our history (it did not become “tradition” until around 2000)  apparently his support helped.  Thanks Hair!

Follow me on Twitter @Keleka24

Boise State tops Mountain West recruiting; Final signing list, and other notes

Signing day is past us now so it is time to see where Boise State ended up in the recruiting rankings now that the dust has settled.   Here are the Scout.com rankings for the MWC courtesy of Bronco Country:

Rank School Commits Conf Points Top
100


Off Def SpT HS JC Avg
43. Boise State 26 MWC 2091 0 0 0 19 11 14 1 20 6 2.73
65. San Diego State 23 MWC 1429 0 0 0 9 11 12 0 21 2 2.39
76. Fresno State 30 MWC 1166 0 0 0 5 16 13 1 18 12 2.17
82. Colorado State 24 MWC 1009 0 0 0 4 13 11 0 20 4 2.17
83. Hawaii 31 MWC 976 0 0 0 3 16 15 0 22 9 2.10
87. Air Force 46 MWC 892 0 0 0 1 26 20 0 46 0 2.02
94. New Mexico 27 MWC 795 0 0 0 1 12 15 0 22 5 2.04
101. Nevada 20 MWC 696 0 0 0 2 12 8 0 13 7 2.10
107. Utah State 24 MWC 659 0 0 0 0 14 9 1 18 6 2.00
t112. Wyoming 20 MWC 603 0 0 0 0 9 10 1 13 7 2.00
118. San Jose State 19 MWC 534 0 0 0 1 10 9 0 15 4 1.89
119. UNLV 16 MWC 520 0 0 0 2 8 8 0 8 8 2.13

As you can see this is the highest ranking ever for the Broncos, and a good 22 points ahead of San Diego State.  Of course we all know that recruiting rankings and stars do not translate to on field success, but it is fun to look at!

Also courtesy of Bronco Country and Scout, here is the final commit and signing list for Boise State:

Pos Nat’l
Rank
Nat’l
Rating
Name
School, Hometown
Video HT/ WT/ 40 Commit Date Signed LOI? Commit School
WR 50 A.J. Richardson
(Nathaniel Narbonne HS)
Harbor City, CA
6-1/185 02/06/2013 Boise State
CB 197 Cameron Hartsfield
(Allen HS)
Allen, TX
5-9/180/4.46 02/02/2013 Boise State
WR 170 Tanner Shipley
(Wilsonville HS)
Wilsonville, OR
6-2/185/4.50 01/27/2013 Boise State
CB NR Jonathan Moxey
(William T. Dwyer HS)
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
5-10/170/4.50 01/22/2013 Boise State
CB 109 Dionza Blue
(Bishop Amat HS)
La Puente, CA
6-0/175 01/05/2013 Boise State
WR 132 Jake Roh
(Chaparral HS)
Scottsdale, AZ
6-3/210 12/22/2012 Boise State
DT JC Tutulepeata Mataele
(Mount San Antonio)
Walnut, CA
6-3/285 12/19/2012 Boise State
S 115 Thomas Sperbeck
(Jesuit HS)
Carmichael, CA
6-1/175/4.44 12/18/2012 Boise State
CB JC Cleshawn Page
(Los Angeles Harbor)
Wilmington, CA
5-10/187 12/17/2012 Boise State
RB JC Derrick Thomas
(Butler County (KS))
El Dorado, KS
6-2/215 12/16/2012 Boise State
WR 95 Kendal Keys
(Helix HS)
La Mesa, CA
6-3/195 12/10/2012 Boise State
OLB 76 Gabe Perez
(Valencia HS)
Placentia, CA
6-5/215 12/08/2012 Boise State
DE 54 Kamalei Correa
(St. Louis School)
Honolulu, HI
6-3/240 11/22/2012 Boise State
DT 57 Nick Terry
(Pleasant Grove HS)
Elk Grove, CA
6-4/270 11/17/2012 Boise State
K JC Tyler Rausa
(Riverside)
Riverside, CA
5-10/180 11/02/2012 Boise State
CB JC Mercy Maston
(Bakersfield)
Bakersfield, CA
5-11/190 10/16/2012 Boise State
RB 49 Aaron Baltazar
(Eastlake HS)
Chula Vista, CA
5-11/190 09/06/2012 Boise State
DT JC Justin Taimatuia
(Fort Scott)
Fort Scott, KS
6-2/300 09/02/2012 Boise State
TE 54 Mat Boesen
(West HS)
Torrance, CA
6-4/220/4.70 06/28/2012 Boise State
DE 140 Durrant Miles
(Bingham HS)
South Jordan, UT
6-4/225 06/19/2012 Boise State
MLB 27 Tanner Vallejo
(Nevada Union HS)
Grass Valley, CA
6-2/225 06/17/2012 Boise State
C 21 Andrew Tercek
(East Central HS)
San Antonio, TX
6-3/285 06/08/2012 Boise State
OT 108 Eli McCullough
(Rocky Mountain HS)
Meridian, ID
6-5/260 05/30/2012 Boise State
QB 49 Ryan Finley
(Paradise Valley HS)
Phoenix, AZ
6-4/180 03/09/2012 Boise State
TE 43 Alec Dhaenens
(Fruitland HS)
Fruitland, ID
6-4/235 02/17/2012 Boise State
OLB 37 Joe Martarano
(Fruitland HS)
Fruitland, ID
6-3/230 06/28/2011 Boise State

The only player on this list that was not on the pre-signing day list is A.J. Richardson, who officially committed yesterday, but can not sign until he gets some academic issues cleared up.

A couple of other notes from yesterday:

Chris Petersen confirmed that Hayden Plinke and Lee Hightower were indeed done for good as Broncos.  Plinke was listed by Portland State as part of their 2013 signing class.

Also Petersen announced defensive tackle Jeff Worthy was no longer with the team.

Here is the link to Coach Pete’s press conference from The Idaho Statesman.

And if you missed it, Coach Pete spoke with CBS Sports as well yesterday.

One thing these players moving on means:  Although on paper this is a great recruiting class, filled with OKG’s (yes that is our term, Rich Rod), the sad reality is that more than likely some of these guys will not make it at Boise State.  But as my friend Drew Roberts said, that will be “countered by the walk-ons or nobodies who make a huge impact”.

One thing is for sure – as always it will be fun to watch their progress and see who becomes the stars of the class.

Follow me on Twitter @Keleka24

 

Rapid Reaction: The Mountain and The West Divisions

http://static7.businessinsider.com/image/4def9a1049e2aeb11c090000/logo-mountain-west.jpg

Boise State’s future in football is starting to become clear as today the divisions were announced in the new 12 team Mountain West Conference. The conference announced the Mountain & the West divisions as follows.

The Mountain Division: Boise State, Utah State, Air Force, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado State.

The West Division: Fresno State, San Diego State, UNLV, Nevada, San Jose, and Hawaii.

So what does this leave us with? I thought I would go ahead and let you guys know how I see it.

Pros: This is not exactly a tough division, the biggest threats are Air Force and Utah State at the moment. But as you read this I can guarantee most of you laughed at the idea of these schools being perennial contenders. I would caution that Utah State certainly looks on the rise and should have a very good team next year. I would also caution that you never know what will happen when you play an option team like Air Force. That being said, it is hard to look at this division and say Boise State won’t be favored to be in the Mountain West Championship game most years. Meaning, if the MWC can establish itself as the “best of the rest” conference, access bowls – or what we know now as BCS bowls – will be a lot more obtainable based on how we should match up well in our division.

Cons: The overall reaction to this announcement is this sucks…. fans have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and the local radio to voice their anger. Why? The future home schedule is simply put, going to be bad. How do you sell season tickets when you don’t have a single big draw in your division? The honest answer is Mark Coyle has a tough job ahead of him. Big non-conference games at home will be needed to boost tickets sales. Utah State does not draw like Fresno, Nevada, or San Diego State. Then you have the questions surrounding the new TV deal. If Boise State is paid well for big national games how are they going to make money playing a division schedule like this? Is it to be assumed Boise State is big enough on their own to draw big television regardless of who they play? Then lastly you have this little nugget, no more protected rivalries. Boise State will no longer face Fresno or Nevada every year. Instead, they will try to forge a rivalry with mighty Wyoming?
The whole thing comes as a shock, most fans came back and thought to themselves, “hey at least BSU still gets to beat up Nevada, and Fresno.” Or at the very least they thought, “I can’t wait until BSU meets San Diego this year.” Now we are left with “well, hopefully Utah State doesn’t suck like normal.”

The important thing to note here though is in the end, Boise State had no real control over this. In fact, I think @Mike_BTN summed it up real well when he stated, “The divisions are surely not Boise State friendly. With recruiting in Cali, season ticket holder’s problems, the home TV deal – I understand why Boise State fans are upset. However, people need to understand that this was not Boise State’s call. Thompson and company decided to do this thing based on location – which is pretty unbiased and fair.” That is the harsh reality, this wasn’t Boise State’s call, and right now, I guess we just have to make the best out of it.

 

-@HeathBTN / @TheBTN

The Wild, Wild (Mountain) West

Jeff

On a cold Wednesday night in Laramie, Wyoming, junior guard Jeff Elorriaga found himself in an interview with ROOT Sports following the Broncos game against the Wyoming Cowboys. This is what Jeff had to say. “Mountain West basketball is here, we’re ready to go.” But what could possibly elicit such confident exuberance in one of the most difficult conferences in NCAA Basketball.

Needless to say there was a healthy amount of drama leading up to the Broncos face-off against the Cowboys Wednesday night. Let me make a list for you:

  1. Cowboys were ranked #25 in the coaches’ poll and were 1 of the 4 remaining unbeaten teams in the country.
  2. Laramie, WY is at a very high elevation.
  3. Wyoming is considered one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
  4. Wyoming’s star senior guard Luke Martinez broke his hand in a bar-fight and would be sitting out against Boise State.
  5. Broncos were on the road.
  6. BSU had already handed 3 teams (Texas Southern, Creighton, LSU) their first loss of the season.
  7. THE KICKER: 28 hours prior to tip-off Coach Rice suspended 4 Broncos, Darrious Hamilton, Kenny Buckner, Mikey Thompson, and leading scorer Derrick Marks due to certain “character decisions”. *

Playing on the road is never easy. Playing on the road against a ranked team is even harder. Defeating the undefeated, on the road, 7,200 feet of elevation, missing 3 of your best players, nearly impossible. It was as if the basketball-powers-that-be were testing this young team, I mean the chips were entirely stacked in Wyoming’s favor (except for Luke Martinez’s hooligan antics). Wednesday night was a chance for the Broncos to show their true colors and truly make a statement to the college basketball world, and that they did. Without the likes of Marks and Thompson, the Bronco were forced to change up their usual high-speed, fast-scoring offense and instead try to pick apart the top ranked Cowboy defense. This worked out in favor of the Broncos who were able to consistently remain on top throughout the duration of the first half, but the Cowboy’s were hot on their tails only down by 5 heading to the lockers.

With Buckner out, there was a lot of pressure on starting big man Ryan Watkins to control the paint. However after receiving 2 fouls in the first half, and another 2 in the first 4 minutes of the second, Watkins was limited to 22 minutes and opened the door for walk-on sophomore Jake Ness to try his best at controlling WYO’s beast of a 4 man Leonard Washington. Entering the game, Ness realized that he had 2 jobs, set screens, and get in Washington’s face, in fact the walk-on didn’t even take a shot. Jake was able to get the job done though despite the mismatch, racking up 3 rebounds of his own while holding Washington to 4 rebounds and a below average 12 points.

The game shifted quickly into the Cowboys favor in the second half with a 19-3 run, leaving the Broncos down 10 with just over 11 minutes remaining. From then on it was a tight race between the two teams up until the games closing seconds.

The scene is set; 57 all with under a minute to go, Wyoming ball. A set of free throws from Riley Grabau puts the Cowboys up by 2 with :44 remaining. Broncos drive down court and get the ball to Jeff Elorriaga who drills a 3 pointer to put his team up 1 with precious time running out. Wyoming inbounds the ball and holds, hoping to run the clock out and snag the games last shot, but a smart foul by Elorriaga sends Freshman Josh Adams to line. He makes them both, Broncos trail 61-60, 9.1 seconds left. Bropleh inbounds the ball to Hadziomerovic, Iggy goes baseline to baseline, drives to the hoop, and passes out to Elorriaga behind the arc. Bronco fans everywhere feel their heart stop as Jeff pulls up for one of his signature 3 pointers. Release, buzzer, swish, slience.

Now back to the interview from the beginning. Why was this kid so confident? For one, he has the hottest hand in the NCAA, shooting 49.5% from behind the arc. But also, he had just accomplished what many saw impossible. Facing the #25 ranked team in the nation, on the road, missing crucial players, the Broncos left Laramie on top, and in dramatic fashion. Yes, I believe such a win constitutes a bit of confidence.

Alright Bronco Nation, conference play has finally begun and Boise State opens with a marquee win, time to breathe right? Wrong. This is the Mountain West people. With 6 projected tournament teams, Mountain West play will be a grind week in and week out, all the way until March. The Broncos follow up their tough conference opener this coming Wednesday against the currently ranked #25 University of New Mexico Lobos, at Taco Bell Arena. I would say that this is a big game for the Broncos, but who am I kidding, every conference game is a big game when you’re playing in the MWC. Need some perspective on this game, the Broncos, who just beat unbeaten WYO on the road, play their conference home-opener against the #25 UNM Lobos, who just beat #24 UNLV at home this past Wednesday. If that doesn’t get you excited for this game then I don’t know what will. Expect the Lobos to move up in the rankings on Monday, setting the stage for the Broncos to once again take their shot at another Top 25 opponent. After playing the likes of #14 Michigan St. (loss by 4), #11 Creighton (won by 13), and #25 Wyoming (won by 2) on the road, Wednesday night will be the Broncos first chance, and certainly not the last, to take on a ranked opponent at home. With ranked teams such as UNLV and SDSU on the horizon, Wednesday night’s home opener will be an excellent chance for Bronco Nation to get a taste of what Mountain West play is going to be like. One thing is for sure, Taco Bell Arena will be rockin as thousands of crazed fans will fill the seats to cheer on their Broncos. Mountain West basketball is here my friends, our team is ready, are you?

Oh, and here is a clip of Jeff’s buzzer beater:

*A couple updates on the status of the suspended players. According to Coach Rice, all 4 players will be practicing with the team this week. Additionally, Rice stated that the suspensions were not related to any drugs or violence. Therefore, it is safe to presume that it was an academic related incident seeing as the decision came immediately following the release of fall semester grades. Hopefully we see them back by Wednesday to take on New Mexico.

Boise State staying in the Mountain West Conference

Boise State University President Dr. Robert Kustra announced today that the Broncos will keep their football program, along with the majority of their other athletic programs (including basketball) in the Mountain West Conference.  The football program was scheduled to join the Big East Conference in 2013, with the remaining sports to join the Big West Conference.

Said Kustra, “Mountain West presidents made it official earlier today when they accepted the terms of the agreement for Boise State to stay in the league….Without question, conference affiliation has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggest.  The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue, and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment.  I am confident that our Mountain West membership is the very best decision for Boise State University, our student-athletes and our incredible fan base.”

As part of the deal. Boise State will retain rights to all of its home football games, and will not be a part of any MWC television contract.

Boise State will also be able to resume wearing their all blue uniforms at home, a practice that was previously banned by the conference.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Short term, losing the 2013 Big East schedule, with Rutgers and Louisville traveling to The Blue hurts. Boise State also loses its only opportunity to compete as a BCS team before the distinction goes away in 2014.
  • The TV deal is huge.  Although the conference will retain revenue, the fact that Boise State can negotiate a deal with its own TV partner will be great for exposure.  Not sure exactly how the money thing will work out yet, but it seems like a plus.
  • Blue on Blue is back.  Although a minor concession, it was a petty rule and a point of disdain among Bronco fans towards the Mountain West.  Glad to see it go
  • Will BYU rejoin now?  With the deal for Boise State to retain its own tv rights, the thought is that BYU could do the same.  This would be a huge gain for the conference and make it a national player once again.
  • Will the MWC expand east?  Houston and SMU are now left out in the cold, and getting into Texas could be huge for the conference.  Would the MWC want to expand to 16, something that originally caused them to split from the Western Athletic Conference?
  • Can I please use my cow bell again?  Although it is  a small issue, the noise of cowbells clanging was part of the game day atmosphere on The Blue.  I was a little bitter the MWC banned them right after I had a custom one made!
  • Please get rid of that ugly purple logo.  T least let us change it to orange.

All in all it sounds like a great long-term move for Boise State – regional rivalries, perhaps better TV money, and our growing basketball program will be able to compete at a high level as well.  Let’s hope it all works out.

Stay tuned as the details will undoubtedly become clearer in the next few days.

Gameday Poll: Boise State vs Nevada

Boise State and Nevada will clash in Reno today with the Mountain West Conference championship on the line for the Broncos, as well as keeping their slim BCS hopes alive.  What do you think will be the outcome?

What will be the outcome of Boise State vs Nevada?

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