The empty feeling permeating Boise State hoops going into tomorrow’s Air Force game stems from the fact the Broncos had a chance to beat somebody Wednesday night—and they didn’t. The problem Boise State has had sticking to the NCAA Tournament bubble is that, in the eyes of those who make postseason decisions, it hasn’t beaten anybody yet. Take Real Time RPI, for example. Nevada is ranked 14th in that computer, while the Broncos are now 46th following their 77-72 loss to the Wolf Pack. Boise State may be 20-6, but the best team it has defeated in terms of RPI is Loyola-Chicago at No. 49. The victory at Oregon on the Lexus Williams halfcourt buzzer-beater was memorable, but the Ducks’ RPI is 83. That’s why the Broncos are looking at a possible all-or-nothing situation in the Mountain West Tournament.
The timing may be torture as bracketology becomes less relevant this weekend, but Boise State fans will get to see the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship trophy up close and personal during tomorrow’s Air Force game at Taco Bell Arena. The trophy will be on display in the Fan Zone, located on the concourse behind section 12. It’s part of the 2018 National Championship Trophy Tour. We’re now one month away from the NCAA Tournament’s first visit to Boise in nine years.
Nevada point guard Lindsey Drew is out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon on a non-contact play in Taco Bell Arena Wednesday, his three-quarter court heave as the halftime buzzer sounded. What rankled the Wolf Pack—and supposedly inspired them in the second half—was a Boise State fan who said to Drew, “I hope it’s broke,” as he was helped off the floor. Later, Nevada star Caleb Martin waited until the final buzzer sounded, then unleashed a dunk to punctuate the win. Fans booed lustily. “It would have been a different story if fans weren’t yelling that (at Lindsey),” said Martin in the Reno Gazette-Journal. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but I sure hope that rude fan comment was an isolated incident, as in, isolated to one bad apple. You know what they say bad apples can do.
Boise State defensive backs seemed to respond positively to Ashley Ambrose’s NFL background, and the Broncos have gone that route to replace him on coach Bryan Harsin’s staff. Jeff Popovich will be the program’s new cornerbacks coach after spending the past two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Harsin consulted with former Indy coach Chuck Pagano, who has family ties to Boise and coached for the Broncos 30 years ago, and Popovich got high marks. He was a defensive quality control coach for Pagano last year. Popovich was previously an assistant for 12 years in the college ranks. He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Miami, serving as a graduate assistant from 2005-06.
With the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame class having been announced, I got to wondering: can it provide a bump in the stands for the Broncos’ Blue & Orange Game on April 14? That’s going to be a festive weekend, with the induction ceremony being held the night before. Nebraska sold out its spring game last week in less than 26 hours, thanks mainly to “Frost Fever” as native son Scott Frost takes over as head coach. Memorial Stadium’s capacity is listed at 85,458. Of course, the Cornhuskers’ dynamic is different—they’ve sold out 361 consecutive regular-season home games. A good spring game crowd at Boise State these days is near 10,000. Maybe the Hall of Fame buzz, combined with last season’s Mountain West championship and 11-3 season, can boost that number.
Former Boise State track athlete Nick Cunningham begins his Olympics competition Sunday in the two-man bobsled at the Pyeongchang Games. The four-man event begins next Friday. Cunningham tweeted this on the first night of competition last week: “During the Olympics, our uniforms will not say Republican or Democrat, our race or religion. They will say ‘USA’ and we as athletes have the opportunity to represent this great country. For the next 17 days, let us all come together—not as individuals but as Americans.” I like it. But it ain’t easy these days.
Local pro things: Troy Merritt birdied his first hole and eagled his second yesterday at the Genesis Open in Pacific Palisades, CA. The hot start carried the former Boise State star to a three-under 68 and a tie for sixth after the first round at Riviera Country Club. Merritt is two shots off the lead. And the Idaho Steelheads try to get back on track tonight against Colorado in CenturyLink Arena. Barring a series in the Kelly Cup Playoffs this spring, these will be the final two games ever between these two teams, as the Eagles franchise is headed to the AHL next season. We’ll see if coach Neil Graham spells goalie Philippe Desrosiers with Carmine Guerriero in one of the two games this weekend. The Steelies picked up Guerriero off waivers from the Brampton Beast the other day.
Campus things: Idaho outran Montana State 88-78 last night in Cowan Spectrum to improve to 18-7 overall and 10-3 in the Big Sky. Brayon Blake produced another huge game for the Vandals with 24 points and 12 rebounds. College of Idaho would like to extend its 13-game winning streak to 15, but there’s very little pressure on the fourth-ranked Coyotes as they host the final two games of the regular season. The Cascade Conference regular season champions play Southern Oregon tonight and Oregon Tech tomorrow night. Northwest Nazarene has Senior Night set tomorrow night in Nampa against Concordia. The Nighthawks’ upset bid against the nation’s No. 4 Division II team, Western Oregon, fell short in a 70-67 loss last night.
The Boise State women’s hoops squad is knocking on the door in the Mountain West race—at 10-4, it’s a half-game behind Wyoming and UNLV going into tomorrow’s game at Air Force. The Falcons are 2-11 in conference and 2-22 overall. And the Boise State women’s gymnastics team hosts longtime rival Utah State tonight in Taco Bell Arena. The 15th-ranked Broncos are 43-55 all-time against the Aggies in gymnastics but have won the last 16 meetings.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE…your car says, “Take me to Maz-Tech!”
February 16, 2005: The National Hockey League becomes the first major professional circuit in sports history to lose an entire season to a work stoppage when commissioner Gary Bettman announces the official cancellation of the 2004-05 campaign. The Stanley Cup was not awarded for the first time since 1919, and considerable damage was done to the already-struggling NHL product. Seems to be doing okay now, though.
(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.)