Small arena, high elevation, tough place to play

Is Boise State catching Air Force at the wrong time? The Falcons’ eight-game losing streak is over. Is Boise State catching Air Force at the wrong time? The Falcons had lost eight games in a row going into Tuesday night’s matchup with Wyoming, and they had often looked bad doing it. Then came relief. Air Force dropped the Cowboys 70-62, rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit. That game was at cozy Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, and so is tomorrow’s Broncos-Air Force tilt. Boise State is still fragile despite its thrilling come-from-behind win over Utah State Tuesday. Keep in mind that the Aggies were mired in a three-game losing streak, and that BSU’s only other two wins the past three weeks have come against a sub-par San Jose State team and Josh Adams-less Wyoming. It’s no gimme tomorrow. The Broncos won at the Academy by only nine points last year and were taken down in overtime there by the Falcons two years ago.

There’s an interesting dynamic on the Boise State bench right now, and his name is Chandler Hutchison. By mid-January, Hutchison had become an invaluable sixth-man after relinquishing his starting role. Not so coincidentally, the Broncos had won 10 in a row going into the San Diego State game. Then came a 2-for-11 shooting performance against the Aztecs (not uncommon numbers for the Broncos in the 56-53 loss that night). In the five games since, Hutchison has scored just 19 points combined while playing less than 16 minutes per game. He had just one basket Tuesday night versus Utah State. Is tomorrow that day Hutchison reignites?

Boise State has to play smart tomorrow at Air Force. You can almost equate it to football, as the Broncos are going to be facing the hoops equivalent of the option. It’s assignment basketball, requiring a defense to be patient as the shot clock winds down and prevent the Falcons’ patented back-cuts to the bucket. Stamina will be important at 6,000 feet (pass the beet juice). Boise State is immensely more talented than Air Force, but you can say the same thing in football. Anthony Drmic should be key tomorrow, as he is bullish on defense. Drmic is also coming off his first night shooting over 50 percent since the upset of Oregon in December. The Broncos hope he can lead by example.

How about this celebrity tweet yesterday: “Congrats Jordan Happle on becoming part of the Boise State family. Keep making your pops proud.” The original message came from actor Mark Wahlberg. Happle, a safety from Portland who was part of the Broncos’ signing class Wednesday, looks like Wahlberg (in a roundabout way). But the actor isn’t his pop. Happle’s dad is Reggie Saunders, in charge of the celebrity marketing division for Jordan Brand Shoes, a division of Nike. Part of Saunders’ job is to shoot the breeze with Wahlberg about his family. Good work if you can get it.

The post-National Letter of Intent Day recruiting rankings at Scout.com show Boise State at No. 49 nationally, tops in the Mountain West as well as all Group of 5 schools. The next three after the Broncos are interesting. BYU and Washington State, who both come to Albertsons Stadium next season, are tied for 50th—then at No. 52 comes Houston, the top Group of 5 team on the field last season. The more jaded among Boise State fans will enjoy seeing Missouri at No. 57. As for Chris Petersen, his class at Washington was ranked 23rd by Scout.com. This is the second straight year Coach Pete hasn’t lost a recruit to a decommit or a flip. That was a hallmark of his classes at Boise State. He wouldn’t accept a verbal unless it was pretty much set in stone.

If Jared Allen can play for Carolina Sunday (and I don’t doubt that he will)—and Shiloh Keo is declared active by Denver—they’ll join Matt Paradis as the first Bronco-Vandal-Bengal trio ever in the Super Bowl. I don’t have a list of Idaho State alums to play in the game, but Paradis will be the seventh Boise State representative and Keo (hopefully) the 10th Idaho player in the Super Bowl. Paradis is the first former Bronco in the big one since Daryn Colledge and Korey Hall won rings with the Green Bay Packers five years ago. Keo is the first Vandal rep since Mike Iupati played for the San Francisco 49ers three years back. By the way, Paradis got his third shout-out of the season the other night during Jimmy Fallon’s “Superlatives” bit on the Tonight Show. It’s that hair again. This time he was “Most Likely To Be Called Orange Julius Caesar.”

The road to recovery may or may not be underway for Graham DeLaet. The former Boise State star didn’t exactly blow the doors off in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, carding a one-over 72 yesterday. But that was sure an improvement compared to the 10-over 82 in the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open last Saturday at Torrey Pines. That round included seven bogeys and one triple-bogey and equaled the worst round of DeLaet’s PGA Tour career, set last year at the Valero Open. Troy Merritt must feel like DeLaet did last weekend. The fellow former Bronco is in dead last among those in the clubhouse after a six-over 77 yesterday. Tyler Aldridge? He was just one shot better.

I don’t know how chippy the rest of the Idaho Steelheads-Alaska series will be this weekend in Century Link Arena, but there’s a couple of things in play. One is the humiliation of the 6-1 loss absorbed by the Steelheads on home ice Wednesday night. The other is the cheap shot the Aces’ Collin Valcourt laid on the Steelies’ Torin Snydeman late in the third period. Valcourt blindsided Snyderman with a head-check at mid-ice, earning a game misconduct. Yesterday that turned into a two-game suspension from the ECHL—and Valcourt won’t be seen again this weekend. The most pressing issue for Idaho, though, is just picking up the pieces from Wednesday’s surprising debacle.

The Idaho Stampede are in Reno for a pair tonight and tomorrow night against the Bighorns, hoping to snap a two-game losing streak. The Stampede thought they’d be without center Tibor Pleiss, who was called back up by the Utah Jazz Wednesday. The 7-1 German returned to Salt Lake City in time for Wednesday night’s Jazz win over Denver but did not play. Now Pleiss has been assigned to the Stampede again. It’s yo-yo season.

Other hoops notes: Idaho avenged a loss to Southern Utah last month in Moscow by routing the Thunderbirds on the road last night, 68-44. The Vandals head to Northern Arizona tomorrow. From the “time flies” department, College of Idaho is already closing out its regular-season home schedule, hosting Warner Pacific tonight and Multnomah University tomorrow night in Caldwell. Consequently, tomorrow serves as Senior Night, with the Yotes honoring starting guard Marck Coffin, the former Caldwell High standout, Bishop Kelly grad Andrew Bruce, Ryan Davis, and Teejay Gordon (who gained fame as a C of I quarterback). And the Boise State women, seeking their eighth consecutive victory, host Air Force tomorrow afternoon at Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos, now 15-6 overall, are in third place in the Mountain West with an 8-2 record.

Boise State men’s tennis coach Greg Patton calls it a “Super Bowl Bronco Sunday” at the Boise Racquet & Swim Club. Patton’s Broncos will be hosting the Santa Clara Broncos, who cleared out of their home base in the Bay Area to make room for the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Bronco-Bronco match starts at noon, after which the NFL Broncos and the Panthers will be shown on the big screen. Here’s Patton’s current assessment of his team: “A mix of hardened veterans (seniors Toby Mitchell, Brian Foley, and junior Abe Hewko) are leading the charge of our sophomore (Lewis Roskilly) and three wide-eyed freshmen (Kyle Butters, Tillman Haynes, and Pedro Platzeck). Go Broncos—whichever Broncos you choose.

This Day In Sports…February 5, 2006, 10 years ago today:

Seattle’s first trip to the Super Bowl is undone by bad decisions, bad calls, and bad karma in a 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Seahawks appeared to dominate the game but couldn’t make the big play, while the Steelers did—the final nail being a 43-yard touchdown pass on a reverse from wide receiver Antwaan Randel-El to the game’s MVP, Hines Ward. But most scrutinized was the officiating that took away, at best, all of Seattle’s momentum—and, at worst, two potential Seahawks touchdowns. Meanwhile, former Boise State standout Kimo von Oelhoffen took home a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers.

(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.)