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A lot of hoops left to play

A lot of hoops left to play

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on February 15, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Friday, February 15, 2013.

The task at hand is brutal enough for Boise State basketball.  The Broncos have to contend with a road game at No. 19 New Mexico tomorrow night without worrying about the outside noise from March Madness prognosticators.  I see where Jerry Palm predicts Boise State to be a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament in his latest projections.  But the cart is way before the horse.  I agree with Bob Behler’s contention that to get to the Dance as an at-large selection, the Broncos will have to go at least 8-8 in the Mountain West (they’re 4-5 right now) and win at least one game in the Mountain West Tournament.  If even that sounds far-fetched, you have the new ratings that have the Mountain West as the No. 1 basketball conference in the nation to tell you it’s possible.

If Boise State can dial in—if Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks can maintain, and if the Broncos can get a big offensive night from another player (Jeff Elorriaga or Mikey Thompson or Ryan Watkins), they could make a game of it tomorrow night.  Let’s look at Watkins in particular.  He had a double-double in the first meeting between these two teams last month and kept New Mexico seven-footer Alex Kirk reasonably in check.  And Watkins did it with Kenny Buckner still on the suspension shelf.

The crowd at The Pit can wear you down.  New Mexico averages a shade under 15,000 per game, and they’re knowledgeable hoops fans.  Last year’s game in Albuquerque was a sellout, but Boise State led 54-51 with 6½ minutes left before the huge throng willed the Lobos to a 25-7 run to close the game for a 76-61 win.  By the way, New Mexico has played 100 games in The Pit under coach Steve Alford and has won 89 of them.

This keeps sticking out like a sore thumb to me.  Boise State now knows how many football games it’ll play this year and next.  Since there’s no road game at Hawaii either season, there will be 12—eight of them Mountain West matchups and four of the non-conference variety.  For a long time, the Broncos had three non-league games set in 2014: versus Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, home against BYU, and on the road at Utah State.  With the game against the Aggies now a Mountain West tilt, Boise State has two dates to fill next year, one of them a home game.  Could the Bronco-Vandal rivalry be revived, or is it too far gone?  And do both sides still have their heels dug in (Idaho wants home-and-home; Boise State says blue turf only, when the time comes)?

Ha!  I knew it.  It wasn’t necessarily Boise State that was the impetus behind the proposed NCAA rule banning jerseys and pants combinations that match the color of the turf.  It came out of the Big Sky, where officials have complained often about Eastern Washington’s red-on-red.  Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, a member of the NCAA rules committee, explained it yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk.  Easy for us to say down here, but that red turf is hard to handle. 

There’ll be a memorial service tomorrow at Bulldog Stadium for revered former Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney, who died last Friday.  In the new century, Fresno’s been all about Pat Hill for Boise State fans.  But the first three times the Broncos and Bulldogs played, it was Sweeney who was head coach.  Sweeney’s defense held Boise State to what is still the worst offensive output in school history, 69 yards in a 42-7 Fresno State win in 1977.  Sweeney’s son, Kevin, quarterbacked the Bulldogs past the Broncos 37-21 in 1984 in Boise.  And in Sweeney’s final season at Fresno State, the ‘Dogs rolled past the downtrodden Broncos 41-7 in 1996.  That was near the tail-end of a school-record eight-game losing streak while coach Pokey Allen was away for cancer treatment during a 2-10 season.

It’s a fascinating move for Dan Hawkins.  The former Boise State and Colorado coach is going to be the head man for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.  For Hawkins, it’s a second chance after his six woeful seasons with the Buffaloes.  But he was 53-11 in five seasons with the Broncos, and he can probably still conjur up some magic.  Hawk sometimes has a different method of motivation with players—we’ll see how that resonates with guys who are paid to play.  Montreal general manager Jim Popp says Hawkins beat out five other finalists, including former Colorado State coach Steve Fairchield (against whom Hawk went 1-1 at CU), and former Washington Redskins head coach and one-time Boise State assistant Jim Zorn.  One familiar face awaits in Montreal: Andrew Woodruff, who played for Hawkins as a freshman at Boise State.

The Idaho Steelheads will clinch a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with their next win, and they’ll be all over the place trying to get it.  It’s one of those painfully weird scheduling weeks, with the Steelheads visiting Las Vegas tonight, jumping over to Ontario tomorrow, and returning to Sin City for a midnight face-off Sunday night.  The Wranglers will be a tough nut to crack in Vegas—they’ve won eight games in a row and boast the reigning ECHL Player of the Week, Andrew Sarauer, and Goaltender of the Week, Joe Fallon.  Steelies netminder Josh Robinson is looking for a bounce-back this weekend after allowing five goals to San Francisco Wednesday night.  Robinson had been third in the ECHL in save percentage going into the 6-3 loss.

Graham DeLaet is on the cut bubble going into today’s second round of the Northern Trust Open near Los Angeles.  DeLaet opened with a one-over 72 yesterday on the famed Riviera Country Club course.  The former Boise State star took last week’s AT&T Pro-Am off, so he should be rested.  DeLaet started the week 93rd on the FedEx Cup standings with $157,824, most of it coming from his ninth-place finish in the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines.

The NBA All-Star break has the Idaho Stampede on the shelf until the Springfield Armor come to Boise next Wednesday.  The D-League season is just over halfway through, with the Stampede still in last place in the West Division at 10-18.  But thanks to four wins in their past five games, the Stampede are a half-game out of fourth place and 1½ games out of third.  Two Stamps have plans this weekend—Idaho’s Josh Owens will compete in the D-League Slam Dunk contest and Justin Holiday will be featured in the NBADL Three-Point Contest tomorrow afternoon in Houston.

This Day In Sports…February 15, 1978:

In one of boxing’s big upsets, Leon Spinks wins a 15-round decision over Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas to take the world heavyweight title.  Ali was 36 at the time, but had held the title for over three years.  He would get it back from Spinks seven months later in a rematch in New Orleans.

(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.)