Boise State has its second-round NIT date now—Monday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. What an interesting time for the Broncos to be playing Illinois. The Illini are being held together right now by interim coach Jamall Walker, pressed into service when John Groce was fired following an exit in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Groce’s job seemed secure at the beginning of January. Illinois started the season 10-3 in non-conference play and began the Big Ten schedule a respectable 2-2. Then the Illini dropped six of their next seven games. They seem pretty comfortable in the NIT, though, having routed Valparaiso 82-57 Tuesday night in Champaign. The Broncos lost their only previous meeting with Illinois, falling 84-77 on the road in December of 2009 in Greg Graham’s final season as head coach.
It may be the victory that was responsible for getting Boise State into the NIT—the 71-62 upset of SMU on November 30 in Taco Bell Arena. It was one of only four losses this season for the Mustangs, who go into the NCAA Tournament Friday with 30 wins and an American Conference championship. SMU, a No. 6 seed, now knows its opponent tomorrow in Tulsa. It’ll be USC, who rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Providence 75-71 last night at the First Four in Dayton. The Mustangs have lost only one game since that night in Boise and have run off 16 victories in a row.
With Lorenzo Romar having been fired as head coach at Washington yesterday, you know whose name is being floated out there. That’s right, Boise State’s Leon Rice is one of eight possible candidates speculated upon by the Seattle Times. But at the top of the list, complete with photo, is Nevada’s Eric Musselman, who takes the Wolf Pack into the NCAA Tournament tonight against Iowa State. The Times notes, however that Musselman has already been linked to the head coaching job at Cal, which also came open Wednesday when Cuonzo Martin left for Missouri.
Colorado State gets a second home game in the NIT, thanks to Cal State Bakersfield’s first-round upset of Cal Tuesday night. As the higher seed, the Rams will host the Roadrunners late Monday night in Moby Arena. In the NIT last night, Fresno State’s season ended with a 66-59 loss at TCU. In the CBI, Wyoming ran past Eastern Washington 91-81 in Laramie. And in the CIT at Memorial Gym in Moscow, Idaho romped over Stephen F. Austin 73-50 with the help of 10 three-pointers. Chad Sherwood led the Vandals with 17 points.
Brad Bedell is settling in as Boise State’s new offensive line coach—just in time for spring break next week. Presumably he knows all his players’ names now. Every guy in the unit begins with a blank canvas as Bedell evaluates talent with a new set of eyes. With well-chronicled injuries trimming the O-line numbers this spring, Ezra Cleveland can only approach it as a golden opportunity to make a bid for a starting spot. Cleveland, a 6-6, 304-pound redshirt freshman, had a lot of equity when Scott Huff was offensive line coach, to the extent that he was Boise State’s 2016 Offensive Scout team Player of the Year. That’s almost always a precursor to major contributions as an active player.
College of Idaho will have two games in the books before its first home date in Simplot Stadium this September, and both have their storylines. The Coyotes released their 2017 schedule yesterday, and they jump right into Frontier Conference play in their opener, August 26 at Montana Western. The following week the Yotes take on an NCAA Division I opponent for the first time in the modern era, as they travel to Northern Colorado of the Big Sky. C of I’s home opener is September 9 against Southern Oregon. The other home games will be versus Eastern Oregon, Montana Western (the back end of a conference home-and-home), Montana Tech and Montana State-Northern.
This might be the best title name left on a PGA Tour event: the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The tournament tees off today at Bay Hill in Orlando, and former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt are in the field. DeLaet is rolling nicely right now, with four straight top 25 finishes. He was living dangerously last week, making the cut at the Valspar Championship right on the number. But he gained 27 spots on the leaderboard by the end of the tournament and tied for 22nd. Merritt is hoping to play the weekend for the first time in six weeks. He’s missed seven cuts in his last eight events.
The Idaho Steelheads put another one away in the third period last night, getting goals from Aaron Harstad and Brian Nugent to best Rapid City 3-1. It was Branden Komm’s night between the pipes, as fellow goalie Landon Bow was recalled earlier in the day by the AHL’s Texas Stars. It was Bow’s second callup to the AHL club this season. He has gone 15-5-2 with a 2.24 goals-against average this season for the Steelies. Komm made 30 saves in 31 attempts last night to register his fourth straight victory. The Steelheads and Rush resume their series tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena.
There’ll be a send-off party for the Boise State women’s basketball team outside Taco Bell Arena at 4 p.m. today as the Broncos load their bus and head for the airport. BSU faces UCLA Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Boise State opened the 2017 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships yesterday with a 23rd-place finish in the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay. Do you think the Broncos were happy with that? “We have to deal with it. We have to get over it, put it in the past, have a team meeting and move on,” said coach Jeremy Kipp. Also today, Boise State’s Austin Dewey wrestles in the first round of the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. The Centennial High grad faces second-seeded Alex Meyer of Iowa in the 174-pound classification.
This Day In Sports…March 16, 2012, five years ago today:
It had happened only four times in history, and not since Hampton stunned Iowa State in the BSU Pavilion in 2001. But on this historic night, not one, but two No. 15 seeds topple No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Norfolk State, in its first-ever appearance in the Big Dance, brought down Missouri, 86-84, in what would prematurely be the Tigers’ final game as a Big 12 school before moving to the SEC. Then Lehigh rocked Duke, 75-70, in Greensboro, NC—just 55 miles from the Blue Devils’ campus. Neither Norfolk State nor Lehigh made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
(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.)