With all the hype surrounding Nevada basketball for next season (top 5…national champion?), why would the Mountain West even need to play its conference schedule? Well, the show will go on, of course, and yesterday the league released its slate for next winter. Boise State will open on the road Wednesday, January 2 at Wyoming and will close Saturday, March 9, at home against Air Force. Those are the only two dates set—the rest are listed as Tuesday/Wednesday and Saturday/Sunday, depending on which games are cherry-picked by ESPN, CBS Sports Network and ROOT Sports. The rotation dictates that the Broncos will not have a road game at Utah State, nor a home game versus New Mexico. The latter is a slight bummer, as it always draws well (Boise State averaged 8,614 fans per game in MW play last season).
That leaves San Diego State and Nevada as the marquee home games. The Broncos get the Aztecs right out of the gate the first weekend in January. As for Nevada, Boise State will have seen the Wolf Pack twice by the time the first weekend of February is over. The Broncos have the Pack in Taco Bell Arena on the weeknight cycle January 15 or 16 and will go to Reno February 2 or 3. It’s anyone’s guess as to where Nevada will be ranked by then, but most preseason polls has it as a top 10 team. The Wolf Pack has drawn the most money and the most tickets—both by a wide margin—in early national championship betting in Nevada’s sports books, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. That has reduced the Pack’s odds of winning it all to 12-to-1.
Random thoughts on coach Bryan Harsin’s revelation last week that Boise State could play both of its true freshman running backs, Andrew Van Buren and Danny Smith, this season begs the question: could there be a committee at work? That’s difficult to imagine with Alexander Mattison coming off a 1,086-yard season. Ryan Wolpin is gone, but Robert Mahone is back. The Broncos would want to give both Van Buren and Smith enough carries to make it worthwhile. Boise State has strung together nine straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher, so there’s long been a chairman of the board in the backfield. The last time there was really a committee was during Ian Johnson’s senior year in 2008, when Johnson shared carries with Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper and—late in the season—redshirt freshman Doug Martin.
Boise State has had its share of track and field standouts. Gabe Wallin, for example, the new BSU Athletic Hall of Famer who won back-to-back NCAA men’s javelin titles in 2004-05. But Allie Ostrander is next-echelon after becoming only the second athlete in NCAA history to take consecutive national championships in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. Ostrander finished eighth in the 5,000-meters less than an hour and a half later Saturday night in Eugene. In the steeple, she was dominant, pulling away on the final lap to win by more than six seconds. We may never see another one like Allie O.
There was a special celebration on the blue turf yesterday for Ostrander, who thought she was just there to do a TV interview. She ran through a tunnel made up of the Boise State football team, women’s basketball team, track teammates, youth campers and Bronco staffers. Ostrander was awarded the Hammer and was fairly blown away by it all. “A lot of time I feel like track and cross country are under the radar,” said Ostrander. “All the basketball girls and the football guys—it was pretty special.” How did Allie celebrate after the meet in Eugene? With a peanut butter cheesecake blizzard.
What’s next for Ostrander? Well, there’s a couple of cross country and indoor and outdoor track seasons to come. And (although I haven’t heard her talk about it), what about the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo? Actually, Bronco coach Corey Ihmels said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk that the Olympics have been part of the conversation since he started recruiting Allie when she was a superstar high schooler in Kenai, AK. Ostrander is now 21, and Ihmels pointed out she’ll really be at a prime runner’s age for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris and the 2028 Olympiad in Los Angeles. She ran in the Olympic Trials in Eugene in 2016 in the 5,000-meters, finishing eighth. Ostrander did not pick up the 3,000-meter steeplechase until early 2017.
You may have heard that with the Washington Capitals’ triumph over the Vegas Golden Knights last Thursday, former Idaho Steelhead Jay Beagle has become the first player in professional hockey history to win a Stanley Cup, a Calder Cup in the American Hockey League, and a Kelly Cup in the ECHL. Beagle will also be the first Steelheads alum to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. It’s actually a great story. Back in 2007, college wasn’t for him, and he withdrew from Alaska-Anchorage to concentrate on pro hockey. Beagle’s first stop was with the Steelheads in the playoffs, and he helped them to the Kelly Cup championship.
During the run, the Steelheads were playing, ironically, the Las Vegas Wranglers in Orleans Arena, about two miles from where T-Mobile Arena is now (where the Caps clinched the Cup). The Capitals scouted him in Vegas during that series and invited him to their summer developmental camp. “The Steelheads were awesome,” Beagle told WTOP-TV in Washington. “It was great exposure. If I went to a team that missed the playoffs, or barely got in and lost in the first round, you don’t get exposure and who knows where you go from there with your career.” By the start of the 2011-12 season, Beagle was a full time NHLer. He has gone on to play more than 550 regular-season and playoff games for Washington, and has quietly become the Caps’ third longest-tenured player, behind only Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
On the PGA Tour front, one shaky round Saturday kept Troy Merritt from a top 10 finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. A two-over 72 on Saturday was the only blip in an otherwise solid week of golf for the former Boise State star, who ended with a flourish Sunday via a three-under 67. Merritt still tied for 12th and earned $125,400, his second-biggest check of the season next to the $185,000 he pocketed in February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That’ll feel pretty good as Merritt gets some down time during U.S. Open week.
This Day In Sports…June 12, 2011:
Trailing at one point two games-to-one in the NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks win their third straight game to claim their first championship in a 105-95 win over the Miami Heat. And heat is what LeBron James took after consistently fading in the fourth quarter. James, in his first season in Miami after “The Decision,” scored almost nine points per game less in the Finals than he did during the regular season. Conversely, the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki was outstanding, taking Finals MVP honors as he hugged an NBA championship trophy for the first time in his 13-year career.
(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.)