Stock rising, if they can play

ESPN’s Jay Bilas takes his first stab at the 2022 NCAA Tournament field, ranking his top 68 in The Bilas Index, Volume I. And he has five Mountain West teams on his list. They range from No. 22 Colorado State to No. 67 Boise State, and those two teams (hopefully) will meet Friday night in ExtraMile Arena. We’ll talk about the matchup—until we can’t. Writes Bilas: “The Rams lead the nation in effective field goal percentage at 61%, and this is one of the better shooting teams in the country. Niko Medved has a pair of star performers in undersized forward David Roddy and guard Isaiah Stevens. Roddy is efficient inside and out, while Stevens is a high-assist, low-error ball-handler. The Rams have been in COVID pause since December but should pick up where they left off.”

The Bilas view of Boise State: “The Broncos carry a seven-game winning streak into what should be a telling meeting against Colorado State in Boise on Friday, a game Leon Rice’s group is more than capable of winning. Senior forward Abu Kigab has been one of the Mountain West’s most effective players. BSU’s free throw issues (60.7%, 353rd in Division I) are worrying, however.” The other teams in the first Bilas Index: No. 43 Wyoming, No. 50 San Diego State and No. 62 Utah State.

A GOOD SIGN FOR FRIDAY?

Colorado State actually got a game in for the first time in 22 days. In the only Mountain West contest to make it through Tuesday night, CSU downed Air Force 67-59 in Fort Collins. The 20th-ranked Rams are now 11-0. They made Bilas look prophetic, as Stevens led the team with 15 points to go over the 1,000-point mark in his career, while Roddy was posting a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. With six players missing due to COVID protocols, the Falcons put up a good fight.

IT’S A HIRING TIME OF THE YEAR

You can’t fault Stacy Collins for this. The Boise State special teams coordinator and edge rushers coach is taking a major step up, having been hired by James Franklin at Penn State. Collins will coordinate special teams for the Nittany Lions, too, and will oversee linebackers and nickelbacks. The Broncos’ special teams were solid this season, even without Avery Williams. They tied for seventh in the country with three blocked punts. And Collins did have the pleasure of coaching Jonah Dalmas, who was seventh in the nation in field goal accuracy. One of the measures of good edge rushers is sacks, and Boise State was in the upper half of FBS teams—ranking 58th with 2.33 sacks per game.

BROKEN THINGS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

And I’m not talking about the transfer portal today. College football’s early signing date in December has been good to Boise State, but it has caused chaos in the sport. Stewart Mandel of The Athletic feels it has reached the boiling point. “The most forceful complaints are coming from school administrators, coaches and players, which is why I think serious consideration will be given to eliminating the early signing period,” writes Mandel. “The original idea behind it was to make life easier for recruits who had chosen their schools and wanted to end the recruiting process.” What has happened is premature firings of coaches to prevent early signing recruiting classes from blowing up.

Everything now is predicated upon getting a new guy in place well before the third week of December. Adds Mandel, “Logically, the place to put such a signing date would be in August, just before the start of the players’ senior seasons in high school. But because athletic directors and school presidents feared it would be more difficult to fire a coach who had 75 percent of a class signed, they pushed the date to December.” There’s still a National Letter of Intent Day in February, but it has become an afterthought (and it is for Boise State this year, as most of the 2022 recruiting class is already aboard). “At this point, a return to one signing date in February for football seems like a compromise most of the involved parties would be willing to accept,” writes Mandel.

YOU’LL NEED A PROGRAM

There’s been unprecedented roster churn for the Idaho Steelheads, a trickle-down effect from the NHL’s current COVID state. But the Steelheads have rolled with the punches and are ready for the three-game series against Utah that opens tonight at Idaho Central Arena. The latest addition is defenseman Aaron Harstad, who appeared in 68 games for the Steelheads from 2016-18 and was a 2017 ECHL All-Star. Harstad last played with the Florida Everblades two seasons ago. The Steelies and Grizzlies play 16 times this season, but tonight’s game will be the first in Boise between the two teams since Opening Night.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

January 5, 2004: The final college football polls for the 2003 season have Boise State finishing 15th in the Coaches Poll and 16th on the AP list after the Broncos’ record 13-1 season. TCU, the team Boise State beat in the Fort Worth Bowl a couple weeks earlier, stayed in the rankings, making the Broncos and the Horned Frogs the first schools from non-BCS conferences to post back-to-back Top 25 seasons in 12 years. They’d meet again in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl and, of course, the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, as well as in a 2011 regular season game in Mountain West play.

(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.)

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