I’ve harped forever (probably ad nauseum) about how the big Boise State basketball crowds of today aren’t like those of the late 1980s in what was then the BSU Pavilion. Super loud, with noise on every defensive possession. The throng of 12,208 Tuesday night in ExtraMile Arena reached the mountaintop, working in tandem with a Broncos team that exerted maximum effort and staged a stunning rally to beat No. 18 San Diego State 66-60. Max Rice was the focal point as Boise State finished the game on a 14-0 run. I will say this: when Rice stole a pass at midcourt and laid it in for a 64-60 lead with 2½ minutes left, it was the loudest I’ve heard that place since Utah’s Albert Springs missed two free throws with one second left to give the Broncos a 62-61 win in the NIT in 1987. I never thought I’d say that. So there you go.
UNBUSTING THE BRACKET
Boise State probably played its way into the NCAA Tournament last night with one of the most exhilarating wins in school history (and I go back a long, long way). The Broncos trailed the Aztecs by nine points with six minutes left and by eight with under five minutes remaining. But they went on a 14-0 run to end the game as Rice scored 12 of his 26 points. Boise State had been on the bubble for the Big Dance. Methinks it is not now. No matter what computer or poll you look at, San Diego State is the highest-ranked team the Broncos have defeated this season, and that counts for a lot on Selection Sunday. It’s well-documented that Boise State hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent since topping Oregon in December of 2015. What a time to snap that 14-game losing streak.
REMEMBER THAT REBOUNDING THING?
Maybe, just maybe, there was some talk about rebounding in practice since Boise State’s loss at San Jose State last Saturday. That’s when the Spartans outrebounded the Broncos 53-32. Does that seem like a long time ago? One of the keys to the wildest of Tuesday nights was the job Boise State did on the boards. The Broncos had a 35-24 advantage on the glass, including 14 rebounds on the offensive end. It was really pronounced down the stretch. Six of the offensive boards came in the final six minutes, three of them from Naje Smith on his Senior Night. It was also Marcus Shaver Jr.’s Senior Night. Shaver had a tough go from the field, but it was fitting that he swished a couple free throws for the final points of the game. And with that, this team is set to play into mid-March.
MAX’S SHOT IS WAXING POETIC
To appreciate the senior season Rice is having for Boise State (with one more super-senior season to come), we need to look back at what happened a year ago. Who remembers the nightmare Rice endured from his specialty spot—the three-point line. He missed his first 12 attempts from deep last season and was off on 28 of his first 31. Rice came alive a bit midway through the campaign and shot 36 percent from three the rest of the way. Net result, though: he was still under 27 percent for the season. In 2022-23, Rice is shooting 42 percent from the beyond the arc. He’s now averaging 14.4 points per game, edging out Tyson Degenhart for the team lead—and top 15 in the Mountain West. Rice’s pinnacle, we thought, was his first 30-point game in last week’s 82-77 win over New Mexico. But Tuesday night topped that.
The awards have come fast and furious for College of Idaho after its 31-point rout of Eastern Oregon for the Cascade Conference championship Monday night. Coach Colby Blaine became the first coach in school history to be named the Cascade Conference Coach of the Year three times on Tuesday. Blaine has led the Coyotes to five straight 30-win seasons (excluding the COVID year). He leads the Yotes into the NAIA Tournament next week with a career record of 132-24. Also, Yotes junior guard Charles Elzie has been named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and Jake O’Neil, Johnny Radford and Drew Wyman are all-conference picks. C of I, riding a 30-game winning streak, will host a first-round game in the national tournament next Monday—opponent to be announced.
SPRING FOOTBALL IS ABOUT TO BE SPRUNG
It doesn’t feel like it outside, but Boise State football is gathering for spring football this week. There are numerous position battles to watch, especially on defense. One spot that is secure is quarterback, unless you count a competition between Maddux Madsen and true freshman C.J. Tiller for Taylen Green’s backup. It’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan develops Green. Last year’s interim O.C., Dirk Koetter, left us with this in a KTIK interview in January. Koetter doesn’t think it’s any secret that Green has “an elongated throwing motion.” He wants Green to “speed that motion up and get the ball out of his hands quicker” to take advantage of his knack to see the field.
SPEAKING OF HAMDAN…
We found out Tuesday that Hamdan just interviewed with Andy Reid for the Kansas City Chiefs’ QB coach’s job. Reid opted for his pass game analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach, David Girardi, to fill the spot vacated when Matt Nagy was promoted to offensive coordinator. Man, that would have been awkward had Hamdan taken off for K.C. a couple months after being hired at his alma mater. He has NFL experience, though, having worked with Matt Ryan as Atlanta Falcons QB coach. “College football is in good hands with him,” Reid said of Hamdan. “So, Boise State, I’m happy for them.” And congratulations to former Bronco Brandyn Thompson, the 2010 Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP, who’s been named cornerbacks coach at Cal Poly.
A SKINNER-LESS COMBINE
Former Boise State star safety J.L. Skinner tore a pectoral muscle in his chest during a workout last Friday and won’t be able to participate in the bench press and on-field drills at the NFL Combine this week. Skinner is in Indianapolis, though, and will go through measurements and—most importantly—team interviews. Skinner reportedly is scheduled to have surgery next week. Although most prognosticators see Skinner as a second-day pick, Boise State fans have to be ready for anything come draft weekend. Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic just put together a three-round mock draft, and Skinner is not in it. Former Broncos nickel Tyreque Jones and offensive tackle John Ojukwu are also in Indy for the Combine and are scheduled to go through on-field drills.
ALL ABOUT THE GOALIES
The Idaho Steelheads’ stunning success this season has come from a lot of places, but it all starts between the pipes. On Tuesday, Adam Scheel was named ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the second time this season after going 2-0 last week with his second shutout of the campaign. But that’s only the tip of a good iceberg. Jake Kupsky started the season a house afire and was ECHL Goaltender of the Month in November. Then Remi Poirier earned the same honor in both December and January. Before he left for the AHL, Kupsky was 6-1-0 with an amazing 1.15 goals-against average and three shutouts. Poirier is 19-2-1 with a 2.07 GAA and three shutouts, and Scheel is 16-5-1 with a 2.14 GAA and the two goose eggs. The Steelies, now 41-8-3, visit the Kansas City Mavericks Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
STING RAY ROBB’S RACETRACK PROMOTION
Payette driver Sting Ray Robb is set to make his IndyCar Series debut this weekend in the Streets of St. Petersburg event in Florida. Robb snagged the last available full-time seat in this season’s series when he was signed by Dale Coyne Racing and Rick Ware Racing in January. Robb, a 21-year-old Boise native, has quickly risen through the ranks of American motorsport racing and will be one of only 28 full-timers in one of the nation’s most competitive circuits. He competed in the INDY NXT Series the past two seasons, registering 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums, two poles and a victory in the Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca. Robb was second in overall INDY NXT standings.
MERRITT LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK
Troy Merritt does have one top five finish this season on the PGA Tour, but he’s now missed four cuts in a row after coming up short two weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational near L.A. The former Boise State star was off last week—he’ll give it another go this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. After finishing 62nd in FedExCup Standings last year, Merritt is 113th so far in 2022-23. Work to do.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…payroll, process and prosperity for your business.
March 1, 1993, 30 years ago today: Anaheim’s new NHL expansion franchise, founded by the Disney Company, is named “The Mighty Ducks” after the 1992 movie of the same name. It was a lucrative marketing move by Disney, which saw Mighty Ducks merchandise sales shoot up to No. 1 in the NHL. The franchise was sold in 2005, and in 2006, the “Mighty” was dropped from the nickname, making the team the Anaheim Ducks we know today.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)