There has to be a sense of satisfaction around the City of Trees after a successful hosting of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years. Boise usually gets raves for this event, and it did again. Taco Bell Arena is the smallest venue in March Madness this year, but it was filled, and it had energy. The most visible snafu was something out of its control: the high camera position chosen by CBS for the Thursday games. It was corrected Saturday—certainly there will be a special platform in place in the Mezzanine when the tourney returns in 2021. There was also an NCAA mixup, as Gonzaga and Ohio State were both placed at the Grove Hotel (they try to keep teams that may play against each other housed in different locations). But those are the worst things that happened? Congrats to Boise State and all involved.
Gonzaga had a home game Saturday night against Ohio State. Savvy Zags fans secured as many tickets as they could in Taco Bell Arena, and local folks supported them—maybe in the hopes that the Bulldogs would feel good about a possible move to the Mountain West. How far Gonzaga can go in this tournament remains to be seen after its 90-84 victory over the Buckeyes. The Zags busted out to a 15-0 lead but were reminded painfully that games are 40 minutes long. It took OSU 29½ minutes, but the Buckeyes finally took the lead. They held it for five minutes, until Killian Tillie’s three-point play with 5:14 left. The stretch run for the Bulldogs was marked by some gritty rebounding, and the box score was marked by a career-high 28 points from Zach Norvell Jr.
Buffalo had local support reminiscent of Hampton in 2001 when it took the court against Kentucky (which was roundly booed). But the Wildcats are accustomed to playing the villains’ role, and they routed the Bulls 95-75. UB may have underestimated the length and athleticism of UK—and overestimated how far a blue collar mentality could go all by itself against a force like that. The crowd so wanted to explode for Buffalo. The Bulls were within five with eight minutes to go when Jeremy Harris launched a three-pointer that missed. No telling what would have happened to the arena’s roof had it gone in. But from there, Kentucky put on an exhibition, showing off its multitude of future NBA players.
Hard to believe, but the only team from the West other than Gonzaga to make the Sweet 16 is from the Mountain West. What Nevada did yesterday was historic—the second-biggest comeback ever in an NCAA Tournament game as the Wolf Pack shocked Cincinnati 75-73 to make the Sweet 16. The writing seemed to be on the wall when the Pack trailed by 22 points with less than 11 minutes left. Then Nevada ended the game on a 32-8 run and held the Bearcats without a field goal over the final 5:45. An underappreciated stat from this one: the Wolf Pack turned the ball over just two times the entire game. The Pack moves on to Atlanta and a matchup against another Cinderella, Loyola-Chicago.
While the Boise State men’s basketball team can take positives from its second half performance at Washington last Wednesday into the offseason, the Boise State women would rather build on their first half in the NCAA Tournament at Louisville on Friday. As a No. 16 seed, the Broncos went all-out and trailed by just 10 points at the break. Then reality set in, as in, there’s a reason the Cardinals are a No. 1 seed. They outscored Boise State 27-8 in the third quarter and went on to record a 74-42 rout in Lexington. The Broncos seldom got clean shots up against Louisville and went just 14-for-59 from the field and 4-for-30 from three-point range. But it’s still a program on the rise after finishing 23-10 with back-to-back Mountain West titles.
Week 2 of Boise State spring football gets going this morning. One takeaway from last week was a mildly surprising prediction from quarterback Brett Rypien. Damon Cole isn’t a name we’ve heard a lot, but if Rypien drops it, we have to pay attention. “Damon Cole is a guy I’d say to look out for,” said Rypien when asked who he thinks might emerge next season as the Broncos move on from Cedrick Wilson. Cole was part of the 2017 recruiting class. We always forget about guys while they redshirt, like Cole did last fall. So who knows? Rypien must have found a connection with Cole in drills. That’s what spring ball and summer player-run practices are all about. “That’s what I’m trying to do right now—build a rapport with our wide receivers and find that go-to guy,” said Rypien.
One headline seen over the weekend: “Raiders are reportedly planning on partnering Beast Mode with Muscle Hamster.” Never mind that Doug Martin has sworn off that latter nickname. It looks like he will be Marshawn Lynch’s running mate in Oakland, as word is that Lynch will stay with the Raiders. This is a heckuva chance at a fresh start for Martin, who had the biggest game of his career on the Raiders’ home field as a rookie in 2012. That’s the day he became the first player in NFL history to score three rushing touchdowns of 45 yards or more in a single game. Martin ran for a Tampa Bay franchise record 251 yards, the 10th-best NFL mark ever. Needless to say, it was the first 200-yard game ever by a former Boise State running back in the NFL. Those were happier times with the Buccaneers.
Rather than wait for a trade, Dallas has opted for $3 million in salary cap space by releasing Orlando Scandrick. The former Boise State star had requested the release in order to test the free agent market, with the Cowboys clearly looking to the future in the secondary. We’ll see what kind of interest Scandrick attracts at the age of 31. After being drafted by Dallas in the fifth round in 2008, he played in 125 games and started 69, making eight interceptions and logging 11.5 sacks. Scandrick and Ryan Clady were the first two Boise State players ever to leave early for the NFL Draft when they declared following their junior seasons.
The Idaho Steelheads went 2-1 on their Southern swing, finishing it with back-to-back shutouts at South Carolina. How about goalie Tomas Sholl? He earned his first ECHL shutout last Thursday, stopping all 32 Stingrays shots he faced in a 3-0 win. Then Sholl rinsed and repeated, making 28 saves in a 1-0 victory Friday. Sholl has been a Steelie for just two weeks, but he already has an ECHL Goaltender ofnthe Week honor. He is 3-0-1 and has now rejected 114 of the 117 shots on goal he has faced.
This Day In Sports…March 19, 1995:
The most memorable of all moments in the Boise’s NCAA Tournament history (at least until Hampton’s upset of Iowa State in 2001) occurs in the second round game between UCLA and Missouri. With 4.9 seconds left, Mizzou held a 74-73 lead when Bruins guard Tyus Edney drove the length of the floor and nailed a high floater at the buzzer to win the game, 75-74. UCLA would go on to win its 11th national championship two weeks later.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)