Rug pulled out from under the Broncos

Maybe it’s fitting that, with everything that has happened this winter, Boise State ended the regular season the way it did. Maybe it’s fitting that, with everything that has happened this winter, Boise State ended the regular season Saturday by laying a colossal egg at San Jose State. The momentum of the miraculous win at San Diego State and the Senior Night searing of Nevada was swept away in the 68-63 loss before only 1,759 fans. These Spartans came into the game 3-14 in Mountain West play, with the bottom seed secured in this week’s conference tournament. They also came in with a 2-27 all-time record against the Broncos. But it was also a team coached by former BSU top assistant Dave Wojcik, who has his own case of euphoria going into the Las Vegas madness.

Boise State has had games like this before this season. But wow. The Broncos shot 38 percent from the field, went 2-for-19 from three-point range, and missed 11 free throws. Mikey Thompson had been the most consistent player of the season for Boise State, but he went 2-for-10 from the floor. True freshman Paris Austin had become increasingly dependable, but he was 1-for-6. And Nick Duncan inexplicably had five turnovers. At least Anthony Drmic was steady. With 13 points, he passed the late Steve Connor into second place on Boise State’s career scoring list and needs 15 points to break Tanoka Beard’s school record. On the James Webb III front, he was named first-team All-Mountain West yesterday in the media vote. The official coaches’ picks come out tomorrow.

One thing is clear going into the Mountain West Tournament this week. Seeding has been rendered almost meaningless. Boise State has the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye in the tourney. The Broncos will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between Colorado State and San Jose State. They’ve lost once to each team this season. That should provide some impetus in practice leading up to Thursday night’s late quarterfinal game at the Thomas & Mack Center. Boise State looked so dominant in its win over Nevada, yet so disjointed in its loss to the Spartans. That speaks to what a wildly uneven season this has been. What stock do you put in a No. 3 seed when that team lost to the last-place team in the league and beat the conference’s top seed on its home floor—in the span of a week?

The other four bye teams in the Mountain West Tournament are No. 1 San Diego State, No. 2 Fresno State, No. 4 New Mexico and No. 5 Nevada. The Aztecs get the winner of Utah State-Wyoming, and the Bulldogs face the UNLV-Air Force winner. The Wolf Pack and Lobos turn around and face each other again after New Mexico picked up a 71-66 win in Reno Saturday night, bumping the Pack down one spot.

With Boise State spring football starting today, we go straight to the crux of the matter: the defensive line. That’s the biggest question mark at the moment for the 2016 Broncos. Between Armand Nance, Tyler Horn, Kamalei Correa and Justin Taimatuia and other departees (Deuce Mataele, Robert Ash, Rondell McNair and the recently-dismissed Dereck Boles), Boise State loses 438 career tackles, 49 sacks (20 of them from Correa) and seven fumble recoveries. Let those numbers settle in as we roll the next paragraph.

Let’s look at the stats from those who are back. The group includes Sam McCaskill and Elliot Hoyte, who are the D-line mainstays with four career sacks apiece. You also have Jabril Frazier, from whom a breakout season would really help. Beyond that: sophomores David Moa and Durrant Miles, and walk-on Andy Silsby. That’s it for guys who saw the field—only 97 tackles (more than half of them from McCaskill) and 11.5 sacks between them. Incoming guys like junior college ttransfer Daniel Auelua are going to have to help.

Joe Basaraba was Mr. Clutch for the Idaho Steelheads over the weekend as they completed a three-game sweep of the Alaska Aces in CenturyLink Arena. The 23-year-old forward produced a pair of game-winning third-period goals, the first breaking a 3-3 tie Friday night in an eventual 5-3 victory, and the second coming after Rob Linsmayer had broken up a scoreless tie in a 2-1 victory Saturday night. Goalies Branden Komm and Philippe Desrosiers each picked up wins—Desrosiers hasn’t lost in regulation in his last nine starts for the Steelheads. The Steelies now hold a six-point lead in the ECHL West Division, their largest of the season.

The Idaho Stampede unloaded Brandon Fields, Jeff Ayres, E.J. Singler and the rights to Pierre Jackson in a two-day period at the end of last week. With them went 39.3 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists per game. The Stampede saw one of those players, Fields, yesterday in Austin. He scored seven points against his old teammates as the Spurs topped the patchwork Stamps, 103-89. Jazz fan site purpleandblues.com sees this wholesale upheaval as the Jazz, through the Stampede, positioning themselves for a plethora of options in the D-League Draft this fall. Writes the site’s Ryan Aston: “The team has put itself in a better position to bring in players it would like to evaluate in-house next season. All things considered, they were forward-thinking deals for an organization that prides itself on finding and developing players.”

Also in hoops, Idaho and Idaho State both earned first-round byes in the Big Sky Tournament in Reno, ISU getting one despite the Vandals’ 80-70 win over the Bengals Saturday night in Cowan Spectrum. The Boise State women closed their regular season with an 81-69 win over San Jose State on Friday night. The Broncos will be the No. 3 seed at the Mountain West Tournament, and tomorrow night they’ll play the winner of today’s play-in game between UNLV and Air Force in Las Vegas. And in the state boys basketball tournaments, the Treasure Valley was left without a 5A champion after crushing semifinal losses in the final seconds by Borah and Centennial. But a local 3A champion was certain, with Parma meeting Fruitland in the final. The Panthers won their first-ever state title, 56-47. And Ambrose won its first 1A Division 1 crown.

Boise’s Brian Scott started in the 32nd spot and finished 27th yesterday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was another middling result for Scott as he tries to get untracked in his first season with Richard Petty Motorsports. Conditions didn’t make things any easier. Rain delayed the start of the race, and high winds and a late-race dust storm made visibility a bugger.

Making the campus rounds: the No. 11 Boise State women’s gymnastics team cruised past Michigan State yesterday in Taco Bell Arena to improve to 10-0. The Broncos scored a 196.575, tied for the 10th-best mark in school history. The College of Idaho baseball team dropped three of four to top-ranked NAIA power Lewis Clark State over the weekend, but the one win was big. It ended the Warriors’ 13-game win streak and was the Coyotes’ first victory over a No. 1 team since 2008. Also NNU took three out of four in its series in Nampa against St. Martin’s.

This Day In Sports…March 7, 2012:

Rather than pay him a $28 million bonus due that week, the Indianapolis Colts release one of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks, Peyton Manning. At an emotional press conference, Manning said goodbye to the Colts after 14 years that saw him transform the franchise into a Super Bowl champion and become the face of Indianapolis itself. The only four-time (now five-time) MVP in NFL history had missed the 2011 season with a neck injury. Manning would choose Denver as his new team 12 days later. Today his spectacular 18-year NFL career comes to an official end.

(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.)