It was clear to Boise State that packing it in for the 2015-16 was the prudent thing to do. When the Vegas 16 was headed for a Vegas 8 lineup that included no power conference teams yesterday, it was clear to Boise State that packing it in for the 2015-16 season was the prudent thing to do. With very little prestige attached to the event, and with an invoice for $50,000 staring them in the face, the Broncos have opted out of the postseason. The first-year tournament will still be held at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay. It was being dubbed “a bowl game for basketball.” Now it looks like it will draw fans like so many of those lower-tier bowl games. As in, not many. Organizers have been shifting on the fly—they changed the dates of the tournament, moving the opening games back two days to March 28. But hey, all the games will now be telecast by CBS Sports Network. At any rate, it’s over. Boise State finishes 20-12.
Here’s the Vegas Half-16 field: Tennessee Tech vs. Old Dominion, Northern Illinois vs. UC Santa Barbara, Oakland vs. Towson, and Louisiana Tech vs. East Tennessee State. The lineup was unveiled 5½ hours late yesterday, and the tournament took some shots on social media. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that “a fake Twitter account even was created with its own ‘leaked’ bracket in a parody of what happened to Sunday’s NCAA Tournament announcement. The bogus Vegas 16 bracket included teams such as the Harlem Globetrotters and ‘NBA Mascots.’”
You know what this turn of events means. Tanoka Beard will remain Boise State’s career scoring leader for years to come. And Anthony Drmic will be second on the career list. For years to come. It has to be difficult for the senior Australian, but he always professed team-first. It was Drmic’s teammates who were pushing hardest for a postseason berth in the hours after last Thursday loss to Colorado State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament in order to get him the record. In fact, I’ll remember how much Drmic harped on defense during this season. He ended up hitting the nail on the head.
Cullen Neal, one of the more polarizing players in the Pit, is leaving the New Mexico basketball program—and his coach and dad, Craig. The younger Neal will graduate this spring and will be eligible immediately, and he’ll have two years left to play. He averaged 12.3 points per game this season, but he shot just 35 percent from the field and turned the ball over 101 times. Craig Neal said during a news conference last month that there had been threats, even death threats, made against his son. Nevertheless, Cullen took the high road in a tweet: “I consider Albuquerque my home, and I love the University of New Mexico. I want to thank our great Lobo fans who have encouraged me and supported our team.”
I did one of those “What’s Gone/What’s Back” features on the Boise State defensive line on the eve of spring football a little over a week ago on Sunday Sports Extra. I left out Gabe Perez on the “What’s Back” page. I overlooked Perez, since he wasn’t active last year while rehabbing a shoulder injury that required surgery last September. Perez must not be overlooked this season. If you see the Boise State defensive line as underachieving a bit in 2015, was Perez the missing link? Would he have pushed Kamalei Correa to a first-team All-Mountain West season instead of a drop to a second-team honor? Perez logged 29 tackles each of his first two seasons, combining for six sacks, a fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. In his last game, the 2014 Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona, he had six tackles, two of them for loss.
The role of Matt Paradis in Denver’s Super Bowl championship was not a mirage. The former Boise State star went from a practice squad member in 2014 to the only Bronco to play every snap last season. That covers 1,110 plays during the regular season and 202 more in the playoffs, including all 60 in the Super Bowl triumph over Carolina. So it’s no surprise that Paradis led all NFL players in performance-based bonuses announced yesterday. He earned a total of $391,647, almost doubling his regular base salary of $435,000. Heck, that’s almost better than the chance to tell your grandkids you were the last guy ever to hike the ball to Peyton Manning. And it’s more than enough for a new pickup.
Chantel Jennings at ESPN.com is running a “State of the Program” series on Pac-12 schools during spring football. Yesterday it was Oregon State, which hosts Boise State at Reser Stadium on September 24. Jennings points out that former Utah State coach Gary Andersen, now the Beavers’ head coach, admits the rebuilding job in Corvallis is “even tougher than he anticipated.” OSU was 2-10 last season—and 0-9 in conference. But the Beavs gave a great effort in the Civil War finale against Oregon, outscoring the Ducks 35-21 in the second half. Oregon State needs a quarterback, and it’ll likely be Darell Garretson. Remember him? He got his first meaningful playing time in 2013 in a 34-23 loss to Boise State at Utah State. He transferred to OSU last year and sat out last season.
More weekend wrap: Brian Scott started 30th and finished 27th Sunday in the Good Sam 500, the Sprint Cup Series event in Phoenix. Jay Pennell at NASCAR.com has handed out driver grades from the Phoenix race, and he gave the Richard Petty Motorsports rookie a C-minus, noting that “Scott recorded his second straight finish of 27th and has yet to finish better than 24th this year.” The Boise driver has to build this thing brick-by-brick—next step would be the top 20.
The Idaho Stampede have been hangin’ in there since deciding to gut their roster a week and a half ago. The Stampede have gone 2-3 since the upheaval, and two of the losses have been by four points and one point. Treveon Graham is a rarity—he’s been on the Idaho roster all season. Graham logged three 20-point performances over his first 36 games. He has now put up at least 20 in each of the last four contests. Coming off a 10-point win over one of the D-League’s division leaders, the Austin Spurs, the Stamps continue their homestand tonight against the Oklahoma City Blue in CenturyLink Arena.
The Idaho women have drawn Baylor for their first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, Friday afternoon on the Bears’ home floor. The Vandals are a No. 16 seed, but this game doesn’t have the feel of a 16 versus a No. 1. The two teams met last season in Waco, and it was far from a blowout, with Baylor winning 88-70. It’s certainly not akin to Idaho’s 2013 trip to the tourney when, as a 16 seed, the Vandals fell to eventual national champion UConn 105-37.
This Day In Sports…March 15, 2001, 15 years ago today:
One of Boise’s finest sports day ever, as the Pavilion hosts the closest first round bracket in the history of the NCAA Tournament. First, Georgia State upset Wisconsin by one…then Maryland held off George Mason by three…then Georgetown beat Arkansas by two at the buzzer. But the last game was the best—Hampton becoming only the fourth number 15 seed to ever upset a number two, bringing the house down with a 59-58 upset of Iowa State and former Idaho and current Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy.
(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.)