What has to happen tonight if Boise State, a six-point underdog, is to upset Nevada in Reno? Paris Austin and Chandler Hutchison won’t have to be as lights-out as they were against Wyoming when they combined for 52 points. But they’ll have to be close. And somebody else will need to contribute an A-plus game. Can it be Nick Duncan, whose struggles are well-chronicled? Duncan was 2-for-9 from beyong the arc in the 76-57 loss to the Wolf Pack last month. Can it be David Wacker, who has improved immensely since the first meeting with the Pack? Wacker scored only three points in that January game.
Let’s move to the guard position. How about Justinian Jessup or James Reid, both of whom hit a pair of threes against Nevada. Maybe Alex Hobbs? The true freshman has scored 28 points the past five games, which may not seem like much. But Hobbs scored only 26 points in the first 2½ months of the season and played just one minute in the first Bronco-Wolf Pack game. Someone unexpected will have to be in a zone in the face of a crowd expected to top 10,000 tonight. “First and foremost is ‘tough together,’” said Austin of the trip to Reno following the win over Wyoming, citing a recurring theme among Bronco coaches and players in practice.
Nevada’s Cameron Oliver plans to stand in the way between Boise State and the basket tonight. That what he does—and he sure did it in the first game of the season between these teams. Oliver blocked four Bronco shots in the first seven minutes of the Wolf Pack’s win at Taco Bell Arena. And oh by the way, he also had 17 points and 15 rebounds. Oliver, only a sophomore, is ninth in the nation in total blocks with 73. He remains hot, carrying Mountain West Player of the Week honors into tonight’s game after double-doubles in Nevada’s wins over Air Force and Utah State.
With a 17-8 record, Boise State is not on the NCAA Tournament bubble this year. Not even an upending of Nevada would change that. But if BSU was a candidate, that December win over SMU would be looking pretty good right now. The Mustangs are 24-4 and are ranked No. 17 in the AP Poll. Their four losses are to Michigan, USC, Cincinnati—and the Broncos (the 71-62 defeat in Taco Bell Arena). It is the best non-conference win posted in the Mountain West this season. As it is, Boise State is left to hope for a championship in the MW Tournament to make the Big Dance. The reality of a one-bid league.
Boise State faces San Diego State this fall in Qualcomm Stadium. The next planned trip to San Diego for the Broncos wouldn’t be until 2021. Will they play in a new soccer stadium that doubles as the Aztecs’ home field? There’s increasing support for such a facility, one that would replace Qualcomm once it’s torn down. The group seeking a Major League Soccer franchise is the only one with a concrete financial plan. The stadium would seat 18,000 to 22,000 for soccer and 28,000 to 32,000 for football.
Interestingly enough, San Diego developer Doug Manchester, who once owned massive amounts of property in McCall (including Shore Lodge) and built the town’s Manchester Ice & Events Center, wants to build a privately-financed 70,000-seat NFL stadium in Mission Valley. Manchester says he can provide an alternative for the Raiders if their move to Las Vegas falls through—or even a safety net for the erstwhile Chargers.
The news that the Alaska Aces may cease to exist is a stunner. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen. Longtime beat writer Doyle Woody of the Anchorage Daily News wrote, “The Alaska Aces hockey team is examining its future but has not made a decision whether it will play beyond this year, a co-owner said in response to a televised report that the team may go out of business. ‘The ownership group has been wrestling for quite some time with what our future holds, just due to the economic situation in Alaska,’ co-owner Jerry Mackie said.”
The Aces are a winter staple in Anchorage. Hockey is big up there. The Aces have been a pro organization since they joined the WCHL 21 years ago and became an ECHL member when the Idaho Steelheads did in 2003. The Mountain Division does have a future replacement should Alaska disappear—an ECHL team is expected to debut in Reno in October of 2018.
Back to hoops: the Boise State women try to extend their three-game winning streak with a home date against Nevada tonight in Taco Bell Arena. A 69-62 loss to the Wolf Pack in Reno last month began a stretch that saw the Broncos lose four times in five games. Boise State has its momentum back now. In Eugene last night, the College of Idaho women upset Northwest Christian 85-81 in the first round of the Cascade Conference Champioonships. The Lady Yotes play at top-seeded Southern Oregon tomorrow night.
The College of Idaho men open the Cascade Conference tournament against Northwest University tonight at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. It should be a raucous scene—the Coyotes are 13-1 at home this season and are averaging 1,432 fans per game, second only to Boise State in college basketball attendance in the state of Idaho. The Yotes split with Northwest during the regular season, losing 70-68 on the road on New Year’s Eve and winning 100-89 in overtime last month in Caldwell.
This Day In Sports…February 22, 1980:
The biggest day of all at the memorable Lake Placid Winter Olympics, the day Al Michaels made one of the most famous calls in sports history: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The underdog US Olympic hockey team defeated the seemingly-invincible Soviet Union 4-3 to set off a national celebration. A couple weeks earlier, the Russians had humiliated the Americans by seven goals in a 10-3 shellacking.
(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.)