Here’s my cart-before-the-horse starting lineup for Boise State basketball in the 2015-16 season. The first guy to mention is Anthony Drmic, the senior whose medical redshirt approval by the NCAA is merely a formality. Remember that Drmic scored more than Derrick Marks last season, so there’s no reason to think he can’t come close to replacing Marks’ production next season.
The other obvious pieces of the puzzle are James Webb III and Nick Duncan. Webb will have an entire offseason to embrace his established role as a starter. If Duncan improves as much between his sophomore and junior years as he did between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, he’s going to be one of the most difficult players to defend in the Mountain West.
My other two starters are Chandler Hutchison and Montigo Alford. Hutchison started the final 18 games of the season (Boise State won 15 of them), although he didn’t play starter-type minutes until the Mountain West Tournament. You could see Hutchison’s potential about to bust out down the stretch. I roll the dice with Alford, but he plays with such energy and confidence, and he can be the type of field general Igor Hadziomerovic was—with better prospects of scoring. That would bring Mikey Thompson off the bench as a senior, but maybe that’ll give him a chance to absorb the flow of the game, and then create a change of pace.
While we’re doing season wraps and forecasts, there was a prevailing theory that Idaho’s basketball attendance would rise with its return to the Big Sky, especially after having to endure a watered-down WAC last year. Well, it didn’t happen. The Vandals averaged 1,430 fans per game in 2013-14 and just 1,157 this season. They didn’t get to fully test the waters, though—what could have been their biggest homestand of the season versus Montana State and Montana was moved to Memorial Gym four weeks ago due to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival’s takeover of the Kibbie Dome, and attendance was listed as “1500” for each game. Idaho’s season-high was 1,858 for Sacramento State.
Nevada has landed a new basketball coach with a wealth of experience at all levels. Eric Musselman has been a head coach in the NBA, D-League, CBA and even a couple national teams, and he’ll be David Carter’s successor with the Wolf Pack pending approval by the Nevada Board of Regents today. Musselman was coach of the Golden State Warriors from 2002-04 and the Sacramento Kings in 2006-07. His D-League head coaching job was in Reno with the Bighorns. Musselman spent this past season as an assistant at LSU and the previous two on the staff at Arizona State.
One position of great anticipation for Boise State in spring football is tight end, for fans and for coach Bryan Harsin. The position made a comeback last season after an off-year in 2013—Jake Roh was the breakout performer with 35 catches. Added to the mix this spring are a couple of last year’s redshirts, Chase Blakley and David Lucero. Blakley, the former Coeur d’Alene High star, is 6-4 and Lucero is 6-5. “You’re going to see a little bit different player (at that position) with that size out there,” said Harsin. The Broncos are anxious for the tight end group to add road-grading back into its repertoire, with run-blocking a spring focus. “This’ll be some mental overload for them,” Harsin said.
What did you see out of Garrett Grayson in Colorado State’s 37-24 loss to Boise State on the blue turf last September? Well, the now-former CSU quarterback is sure confident going into the NFL Draft. After the Rams’ Pro Day Monday, Grayson said he has “no doubt” he can be the No. 3 quarterback on the board behind Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. In fact, Grayson doesn’t necessarily concede either of those top two spots. The Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year couldn’t compete at the NFL Combine due to a hamstring injury, but he completed 70-of-74 passes in his Pro Day workout. Grayson was just 31-of-58 against the Broncos last year with two interceptions, but he did cover 434 yards and connect for three touchdowns.
If the Idaho Steelheads can peak in April the way they’re peaking in March, they’ll be in good shape in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelheads picked up a 5-3 road win at Utah last night, their 15th victory in the last 17 games. Goalie Chris Rawlings, who arrived in Boise the first week of March with all of one game under his belt, made 25 saves and recorded his seventh victory in seven starts as a Steelie. Wade McLeod was the offensive catalyst against the Grizzlies, scoring his 33rd and 34th goals of the season, including the ultimate game-winner. The Steelheads managed only three shots on goal in the third period, but they scored on two of them. Idaho and Utah play again tomorrow night and Saturday night.
Troy Merritt carries some serious momentum into the Texas Valero Open today. Hopefully taking last week off didn’t mess him up. The former Boise State star is coming off a sixth-place finish at the Valspar Championship that earned him $212,400, his third-best finish ever on the PGA Tour. Merritt’s best result was a second-place at the 2014 St. Jude’s Classic in Memphis, where he won $626,400. His next-best finish was a third at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans during his rookie year in 2010, when his check totaled $435,200. Fellow former Bronco Graham DeLaet is also in the field today after missing the cut last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Around the horn with other things: the Baseball Battle of Canyon County was a pitcher’s duel yesterday, with seven Northwest Nazarene hurlers getting the best of their College of Idaho counterparts in a 3-2 victory at Wolfe Field. The breakthrough hitter was NNU’s Andrew Helmstadter, who went 3-for-4, finishing a home run shy of the cycle. Boise State’s marquis men’s tennis match of the 2015 home season resulted in a 6-1 loss to Stanford yesterday at the Appleton Center. The Broncos got their only win from freshman Englishman Lewis Roskilly at No. 5 singles. And Boise State got a rare Mountain West Golfer of the Week award yesterday. Junior Logan France was honored for shooting a seven-under 209 and tying for 10th at the Desert Classic in Goodyear, AZ.
This Day In Sports…March 26, 2010, five years ago today:
Longtime Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice is introduced as Boise State’s seventh head basketball coach, replacing the fired Greg Graham. Rice had been part of 11 straight NCAA Tournaments with the Zags staff, including four Sweet Sixteens. He was assigned with building consistency with the Broncos, both on the court (BSU had four winning seasons and four losing ones under Graham), and in the stands (Boise State averaged just 3,061 fans a game in the season that had just ended, a record low in Taco Bell Arena). Rice immediately embraced Bronco football as his blueprint.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)