For Loyola Chicago, it’s so very irrelevant right now. For Boise State, it’s just confounding now. How many times are we going to end up saying it? The Broncos beat the Ramblers by 34 points the week after Thanksgiving. And now Loyola Chicago is going to the Final Four after its 78-62 Elite Eight thumping of Kansas State Saturday. The Ramblers are riding a 14-game winning streak and are now 32-5, and the first—and by far the worst—of those five defeats was in Taco Bell Arena. Loyola next-biggest margin of defeat was by 17 at Milwaukee, just half as many as in the Boise debacle. The Ramblers now face Michigan in the first game of the day Saturday in San Antonio.
So how did that happen back on November 28? Boise State got out to an 11-0 lead while holding Loyola Chicago without a bucket on its first eight attempts. The Ramblers’ Clayton Custer and Aundre Jackson combined for 26 points on 11-for-22 shooting; the rest of the team was 10-for-35. The Broncos drained 16 three-pointers on a night when Chandler Hutchison scored just two points. Here’s the heart of the matter: Boise State won the battle on the boards 41-23. There have been excuses advanced as to how BSU could beat Loyola Chicago 87-53. I think people need to quit looking for the fluke factor and recognize that when the Broncos were good this season, they were really, really good. They just don’t have a shiny object to show for it.
The Gonzaga/Mountain West watch continues. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reports that Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said “in a perfect world” the Zags will make a decision about their conference affiliation in the next two weeks. If the Bulldogs are going to move all their sports into the Mountain West in time for the 2018-19 season, that has to be the timeline. Dodd contends it’s more about competition than money. The MW is No. 9 in CBS Sports’ RPI, while the West Coast Conference is No. 14. Other notes from the conversation with CBS Sports: Roth shot down rumors that Gonzaga and BYU would be a package deal for the Mountain West. And don’t forget the American Athletic Conference and the Big East. “The reality is where we’re located,” Roth said. “(But) it doesn’t mean now people aren’t thinking more out of the box.”
Th injury situation at running back—one, anyway, that of Alexander Mattison—has affected the backfield in Boise State spring football. The guys who do the blocking are relatively healthy, though, and the Broncos should get some smoke cleared on the offensive line this spring. One spot that is set is at left tackle, where Ezra Cleveland was the only Bronco to play every snap last season. The right tackle post is open, with John Ojukwu an interesting prospect as he battles Andres Preciado. Ojukwu, the Boise High grad, is still in the formative stages of his football life, but he made major progress during his redshirt year and now carries 299 pounds on his 6-6 frame. Ojukwu is one to watch as drills resume next week following spring break.
It’s transition time as Idaho spring football opens today in Moscow. On a larger scale, it’s about preparing for a new world in the FBS with this year’s move back to the Big Sky. The more immediate issue is deciding Matt Linehan’s successor at quarterback, and that process begins in earnest today. The candidates are Colton Richardson and Dylan Lemle (and Mason Petrino if he doesn’t fully concentrate on being a wide receiver). Richardson’s the one with experience. He had to burn his redshirt year in the second-to-last game of the season last year when Petrino was injured (Linehan had already been lost for the season). Richardson was 16-of-28 for 228 yards and a touchdown while leading the Vandals past Georgia State 24-10 on the road in Idaho’s Sun Belt and FBS finale.
Sure, there have been years when every team in a division made the playoffs, but this is a remarkable streak nonetheless. And these days, only four out of the seven teams in the Mountain Division get spots in the ECHL postseason. The Idaho Steelheads are in, clinching a berth Friday night in a 5-0 rout of Rapid City in CenturyLink Arena. This will be the Steelheads’ 21st consecutive playoff appearance, the longest active streak in pro hockey. They also clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs and reached the 40-win plateau for the 11th time in 15 ECHL seasons. And the Steelies are playing well at the right time. Goalie Tomas Sholl picked up two more victories over the weekend—his shutout Friday night was his third in four games. Sholl is 6-0-1 since coming to Boise.
Troy Merritt slipped by one stroke per day at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, but he still finished tied for 35th yesterday and earned $13,856. The Meridian resident’s card went 69-70-71-72, six-under for the tournament. And from the greens to the slopes again—the US Alpine Ski Championships wrap up today in Sun Valley with the women’s giant slalom. Olympian Tommy Ford won the men’s GS yesterday. Ford finished 20th in the event last month at the Pyeongchang Olympics. On Saturday, Nina O’Brien took the women’s slalom. The 20-year-old from Edwards, CO, also won the national title in 2015. Hig Roberts of Steamboat Springs, CO, won the men’s slalom.
It’s a quad-crown for Boise State, as the Broncos won the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Championship for the fourth straight year Saturday night in Cedar City, UT. Boise State, ranked 15th in the country, scored a solid 196.875 to easily outdistance runnerup BYU. The Broncos’ Shani Remme won MRGC Gymnast of the Year honors for the second straight year, and she and six of her teammates were first-team all-conference. Boise State will find out where it goes for NCAA Regionals this afternoon.
Back to hoops, College of Southern Idaho came within one three-pointer, or three free throws, of winning its fourth all-time NJCAA national championship Saturday night. The Golden Eagles fell 98-95 to South Plains College of Texas in Hutchinson, KS, despite popping in 14 three-balls for the game. What CSI needed were free throws. South Plains got 45 of them and made 35, and that was the difference in the game. The Eagles finished the season 31-6.
This Day In Sports…March 26, 1974:
George Foreman successfully defends his world heavyweight title with a second-round knockout of Ken Norton in Caracas, Venezuela. Foreman staggered Norton with a series of blows in the second round before the referee stopped the fight, giving Foreman a professional record of 40-0. He would lose his crown to Muhammad Ali seven months later at the “Rumble In The Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire.
(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.)