Boise State followed two of its best road halves of the season (the second at Utah and the first at Illinois) with its absolute worst. And that’s the way the season ended Monday night in the loss to the Fighting Illini. But that doesn’t take away from an overachieving season. Admittedly, it would have been a little empty without the impressive win at Utah last week. But whatever had happened against the Utes, the Broncos still would have had a semi-surprising NIT bid to put on the 2016-17 resume. And with the victory, the Broncos did get their 20-win season and a first-ever postseason road win. And all those freshmen are about to be sophomores.
So what stands between Boise State and another Mountain West regular season championship—more importantly, a tournament title? I’d say a consistent inside presence. It’s been said that what the Broncos are lacking is a Ryan Watkins-type guy, a big man with strong, soft hands, if that makes sense. Watkins, whose career ended in 2014, was a double-double machine during his junior and senior years. He’d seldom have a rebound swiped out of his hands, and he was a master of the putback on the offensive boards. Watkins averaged 11.9 points and 10.6 rebounds as a senior. David Wacker improved steadily this season, and Zach Haney had his moments. Robin Jorch? Not so many. To be sure, players like Ryan Watkins are hard to find. But just imagine.
Anyone who watched the 1998 NCAA Tournament in the BSU Pavilion probably didn’t mind seeing West Virginia coach Bob Huggins taken down last night. It was scary for Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs got it done 61-58 and are now in the Elite Eight. Huggins was with Cincinnati when he and the Bearcats were upset in a tantrum-filled second round game in Boise by…West Virginia. In women’s hoops, former Mountain View star Destiny Slocum and No. 3 seed Maryland move into the Sweet 16 tomorrow versus No. 10 seed Oregon in Bridgeport, CT. Slocum is still the buzz of the tournament after her stunning 70-foot swish to end the first half of the Terps’ win over West Virginia Monday night. The crazy thing is, Slocum intended to make it all along (watch how she leaves her hand in the air and follows the flight of the ball).
Michael Young and Marques Evans are exhaling a collective deep breath this weekend. Spring break is coming to an end for both after a whirlwind two weeks of Boise State spring football, with the session resuming Monday. Both are getting a good look at cornerback, with the starting spot opposite Tyler Horton wide open following the graduation of Jonathan Moxey. Coach Bryan Harsin is hopeful that one or both can be part of the plan. Young is a JC transfer from Kansas City by way of Dodge City Community College. “We think he’s going to come in and compete,” says Harsin. Evans, Scout.com’s 11th-ranked corner recruit in the West, was an early enrollee who graduated from high school in December. Harsin expects a full spring football experience and further growth during fall camp to have Evans ready on September 2.
Kellen Moore’s patience has always been a virtue, and he’s putting it to work again. Now that the former Boise State great has re-upped for another year with Dallas, he waits to see what the Cowboys do with expendable veteran Tony Romo. With no downside to keeping Romo for now, and no upside to cutting him, Dallas can wait it out all the way until June 1 and see if another NFL team gets antsy and offers an attractive trade option. It seems ludicrous that the Cowboys would still keep Romo—he’s slated to make $14 million this year—but they’re calling Denver’s and Houston’s bluff. Regardless of the Romo outcome, Moore has a $775,000 job this year, and Dak Prescott has his personal assistant coach.
The remainder of the Idaho Steelheads’ road series at Wheeling this weekend is being somewhat overshadowed by the novelty of the Steelies’ 20th Anniversary Reunion Game tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena. It features everyone from Cal Ingraham to Scott Burt to Jeremy Mylymok to Marty Flichel. But in the games that count, the Nailers are playing for their playoff lives right now—in the North Division, they’re currently on the outside looking in—and they’ll be nails in Wheeling, WV. They were Wednesday night, when they posted a dominating 4-1 win over the Steelheads. “Keeping up with the Kerbashians” is one of the themes for Idaho. Kale Kerbashian assisted on Wheeling’s first goal in that 4-1 Nailers win and has nine points in five games since being acquired in a trade with Allen.
When we last saw Borah High grad Stephen Fife in a big league uniform, he was an L.A. Dodger in 2014. We thought Fife might get a shot with the Chicago Cubs last year—after all, he caught on with the Cubs organization under guru general manager Theo Epstein, the guy who drafted him with the Red Sox before he was traded to the Dodgers. Fife was assigned to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. So what happened? “I made two starts, strained my oblique, made one start, tore my oblique, then made four starts at the end of the year,” said Fife. Then he was released by Chicago last November. Now, at the age of 30, he’s getting a chance with the Miami Marlins, and spring training is going well. Fife is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five appearances and threw four shutout innings Monday in a start versus Atlanta.
While the cream of the crop plays the World Golf Championships match play event this week, the rest of the PGA Tour field (so to speak) is working at the Puerto Rico Open. Graham DeLaet is there, and so is Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge. Troy Merritt is off this week. DeLaet opened with a one-over 73 yesterday, but Aldridge was four-under through 14 holes before the first round was suspended by lightning. This is Aldridge’s first tournament since he missed the cut by one shot at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am six weeks ago.
And congratulations to Boise State swimming and diving head coach Jeremy Kipp, who has been garnered Mountain West Swimming Coach of the Year honors for the second straight season. Kipp led the Broncos to their third Mountain West championship in six years and sent three individual swimmers, a diver and all five Bronco relay teams to the NCAA Championships.
This Day In Sports…March 24, 2013:
Florida Gulf Coast becomes the first No. 15 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to make the Sweet 16 by upending seventh-seeded San Diego State, 81-71. FGCU had been in existence for only 15 years as a university and was in only its second year of eligibility for the tournament. Two nights earlier the Eagles had become only the seventh No. 15 seed ever to beat a No. 2 when they knocked off Georgetown, 78-68. The Aztecs’ loss, meanwhile, ensured that none of the Mountain West’s five teams invited to the Dance (including Boise State) would make the Sweet 16.
(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.)