When Boise first hosted the NCAA Tournament 35 years ago, Boise State was, despite a Division I-AA football championship, an anonymous Big Sky school as far as the rest of the country was concerned. There was no blue turf, and the City of Trees was just an isolated outpost in the West. We’ve come a long way, baby. Or have we? Kentucky coach John Calipari had some lines Sunday we may have expected in the 1980’s. “Anchorage or Boise?” Calipari quipped. “It is what it is. They’re not going to make it easy for us.” UK’s Hamidou Diallo said he’s in the dark about the Wildcats’ destination. “I’ve never been there and I never thought I would be going there,” said Diallo. “I didn’t even know Boise was in Idaho.” To his credit, Calipari said he enjoyed a trip to Jackpot while recruiting one time at CSI in Twin Falls.
As if there wasn’t enough talent on the Gonzaga roster, here comes Killian Tillie as the Bulldogs prep for their NCAA Tournament opener Thursday against UNC Greensboro. Last week, long before we knew the Zags were in the Boise bracket, people were buzzing about the West Coast Conference Tournament. “Did you see Killian Tillie for Gonzaga?” they asked. I did see him drain some of his three-pointers. I don’t think I saw him miss. Well, it turns out he only missed one from beyond the arc. Tillie is a 6-10 forward from Paris. Yes, France. And he was tournament MVP in Las Vegas. Tillie averaged 24 points in the three Zags wins. He made 78 percent of his attempts from the field and was 13-of-14 on three-point tries.
Wondering aloud about the effect of the NIT’s experimental three-point line on Boise State’s shooters tomorrow night when the Broncos visit Washington. During the NIT this year, the arc will be moved back to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches. That’s one foot, eight inches deeper than the current line in college hoops. Boise State has connected on plenty of deep threes this season. But now all of them will have to be. The Broncos have already set a school record for single-season treys with 299, with Justinian Jessup just five makes short of the individual season standard. Other NIT experiments: 10-minute quarters, an expanded NBA-sized lane (16 feet) and resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound as opposed to the full 30 seconds.
Chandler Hutchison deserves some positive closure with the Boise State basketball program, although he hopes it doesn’t come tomorrow night in Seattle. Hutchison has another chance to end his Bronco career on a peak instead of in a valley, and a good performance would be fitting against a Pac-12 team. As opponents have sold out their game plans to stop Hutchison, he has cooled off noticeably. In the past three games, the All-Mountain West guard has gone just 12-for-38 from the field, a tough stat for a guy who spends as much time in the paint as he does. Boise State needs multiple players to present themselves as offensive threats tomorrow night so Hutchison can get back to doing what he does best: create, score and convert from the free throw line.
College of Idaho’s magic ran out last night in the semifinals of the NAIA Championships in Sioux Falls, SD. The Coyotes led Saint Francis of Indiana by five points at halftime and extended the margin to seven early in the second half. But everything started working for Saint Francis, who pulled away for a 70-59 win and advances to tonight’s title game against Indiana Wesleyan. The Yotes end the season at 30-7 with a third-place finish at nationals and a Cascade Conference championship in the trophy case.
The Boise State women were handed a shocking No. 16 seed yesterday in the NCAA Tournament, forcing them to travel to top-seeded Louisville and play on the Cardinals’ home floor Friday morning on ESPN2. Maybe the committee pointed to the Broncos’ body of work, which included non-conference losses to Northern Arizona and Cal State Bakersfield. But there are far worse portfolios (and RPIs) out there with better seeds. It’s a gut-punch for the Mountain West. Boise State has won 10 games in a row, but there’s not a chip on the shoulder big enough to overcome this matchup.
There are two more men’s hoops openings in the Mountain West. Turns out that Tim Duryea’s final win at Utah State was the upset of Boise State last Thursday, as the Aggies fired him Sunday. Duryea, who was 48-49 over the past three seasons, was unable to sustain the success of legendary coach Stew Morrill. He had been on Morrill’s staff for 14 seasons prior to being promoted. And Rodney Terry has left Fresno State for what might be seen as a lateral move to UTEP. That has fans decrying the Bulldogs’ lack of financial commitment —critics point out that UTEP has, among other things, a dedicated practice facility and a men’s basketball budget that is $850,000 higher than Fresno State’s. Terry ended his eight-year Bulldogs run with three consecutive 20-win seasons, going 126-108 overall.
Bryan Harsin held his “preparatory” Boise State spring football press conference yesterday, and he prepared people for all the players they’re unlikely to see. Among those still rehabbing injuries from last season are running back Alexander Mattison, wide receiver Akilian Butler, safeties Jordan Happle and Evan Tyler, and defensive ends Sam Whitney and Durrant Miles. That happens every spring, and that’s what opens the door for redshirts and backups to make their marks. Harsin takes it seriously. “What you’re putting on tape is really important, and it needs to show up in a positive way,” said the fifth-year Bronco coach. “The goal in the spring is to get your name on the game plan for summer.”
The youth movement in the Dallas secondary has apparently taken a toll on Orlando Scandrick, and the former Boise State star has asked for his release from the Cowboys in order to become a free agent. There are two flies in the ointment. One is that Dallas would rather trade Scandrick to get something in return for him and will try to do that. The other is that the 10-year NFL veteran is now 31 years old and is coming off a 2017 season that saw him suffer two transverse process fractures in his back. Scandrick logged 38 tackles and no interceptions in 11 games for the Cowboys last year.
This Day In Sports…March 13, 2015:
The Boise State women’s basketball team wins its first Mountain West championship and earns only its third NCAA Tournament berth ever with a 66-60 win over New Mexico in the MW Tournament final. Bronco sophomore Brooke Pahukoa was named tournament MVP as Gordy Presnell won his second title as BSU coach—the other came in 2007 in the WAC. Boise State would draw the legendary Tennessee Lady Vols in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the following week and would stay with UT before falling 72-61 in Knoxville.
(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.)