Entirely different teams—same target

Let’s get into this matter of a showdown for first place in the Mountain West between Boise State and Nevada in Taco Bell Arena tomorrow night. The Wolf Pack is going to have the decided edge in talent. The Broncos will need to out-think, out-execute and out-effort the Pack. It’s happened before this season against a more athletic team—in Boise State’s 71-62 win over SMU last month. But the Broncos won’t be able to afford off-nights from any of their key pieces-parts. Nick Duncan has hit just 4-of-23 three-pointers over the last three games. The Aussie can be a game-changer when he’s hitting treys. Duncan’s box score line in Saturday’s win at San Jose State didn’t look so hot; he scored just two points and got only three shots off from the field, missing all three. But he was disruptive on the defensive end.

Nevada, currently 16-4 overall, is packed with skilled four-year transfers, led by Marcus Marshall out of Missouri State. Marshall is far and away the Mountain West’s leading scorer at 21.7 points per game. He’s the one who canned four three-pointers in the final minute of regulation to cap the Wolf Pack’s miraculous 25-point comeback at New Mexico earlier this month. Jordan Caroline, a former Southern Illinois Saluki, is averaging 14 points and 9.6 rebounds. The Pack also has three redshirts sitting out after transferring from power conference schools, one from Purdue and two from North Carolina State.

Little-known fact: New Mexico last week became the first team in Mountain West history to win road games at San Diego State, Colorado State and Boise State in the same season. What does that mean? Not much this year. Except to say that this conference is still wide open a third of the way through the league schedule. And that—as competitive as it is—it’ll be a one-bid league come NCAA Tournament time. Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports reminds us that the Mountain West was 2-18 against KenPom top 50 non-conference opponents, 4-25 against the top 100, and 27-42 versus top 200. The only solid non-conference wins were Boise State over SMU and San Diego State over Cal. In the NCAA RPI ratings, Nevada is the only top 50 team, currently No. 44.

Oregon is back in the top 10—No. 10 in both polls after extending its school-record winning streak to 16 games with a home sweep of Cal and Stanford. Boise State was notch No. 3 on the Ducks’ belt during this run, as the Broncos were edged 68-63 in Eugene on November 28. If there’s such a category as “best loss,” that was it for Boise State this season. In fact, it’s the “best loss” in a non-conference season full of losses against upper-echelon teams for the Mountain West.

After the previous two paragraphs, you probably get the feeling this is as close as you’ll get to the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship trophy. The hardware will be on display tomorrow night at the Boise State-Nevada game, complete with photo ops. Taco Bell Arena was chosen as a stop on the 2017 National Championship Trophy Tour, one year ahead of the NCAA Tournament’s next visit to Boise.

Gerald Alexander was a redshirt freshman during Justin Wilcox’s final year as a graduate assistant at Boise State—and a senior leader in Wilcox’s first year as Bronco defensive coordinator. The latter season saw Alexander cap his career wih an interception in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. Wilcox obviously hasn’t forgotten, as he has hired Alexander to be his secondary coach at Cal. There are many ties that will forever bind Alexander to the Broncos. He was a grad assistant under Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State in 2013 and under Chris Petersen at Washington in 2014. Alexander was secondary coach under Mike Sanford’s dad, Mike Sr., at Indiana State in 2015 and spent the past season coaching the secondary for former Boise State assistant Jeff Choate, now the head coach at Montana State.

A couple notes from San Diego, where Boise State revisits Qualcomm Stadium this fall. The city of San Diego still isn’t sure whether it will keep Qualcomm open beyond 2018, when San Diego State’s lease expires at the 49-year-old Charger-less facility. Now a $200 million MLS soccer stadium that could also house Aztec football has been proposed as part of a $1 billion redevelopment of the Qualcomm property. A citizens ballot initiative drive would be the vehicle to bring it about. The facility would seat 20,000 to 30,000 and would have a projected completion date of 2020. Hopefully its capacity would be upwards of 30,000 if San Diego State is going to play there.

With the Chargers gone, San Diego State is striking while the iron is hot. The Aztecs are already utilizing the slogan, “One city, one team” and are planning a campaign around it. Can they command the attention of a very distracted populace, even with the NFL headed out? Wicker said San Diego State has already sold more new season tickets for the 2017 season than it did new season packages for all of 2016—and that “hundreds” of new season tickets were sold in the hours following the Chargers’ announcement. There were 14,000 season ticket holders in 2016, and the Aztecs’ average attendance led the Mountain West at 37,289 per game (boosted by the traditionally large turnout for Fireworks Night: 46,486).

Garrett Patton won’t soon forget his first match as a college tennis assistant coach. Patton’s Cal Poly Mustangs stopped his dad, Greg, and the Boise State Broncos 6-1 yesterday at the Eagle Tennis Club. It was Cal Poly’s season opener, while the Broncos fell to 1-2 on the young season. The only Boise State win came from Jack Heslin at No. 3 singles in a 10-point third-set tiebreaker. The Week 1 national indoor track team computer rankings among NCAA Division I schools are out, and the Broncos women’s team moved up two spots from the preseason list and is now ranked 18th. That’s thanks mainly to Sadi Henderson , who has the fastest 800-meter time in the country so far this season.

This Day In Sports…January 24, 2015:

Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors scores 37 points in one quarter, the most in NBA history, in a 126-101 win over the Sacramento Kings. Thompson went off in the third quarter, going 13-for-13 from the field, 9-for-9 from beyond the arc, and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. The none three-pointers were also an NBA record for one quarter. The former Washington State Cougar finished with 52 points before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter.

(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.)