Friday, March 8, 2013.
Most consider next year to be Boise State’s zenith, as all five starters return from what has been a surprise team this winter in the Mountain West. For San Diego State the future is now as the Aztecs prepare to meet the Broncos tomorrow afternoon in Taco Bell Arena. These teams are polar opposites right now. The Aztecs are a veteran team, having said goodbye to six seniors Wednesday night at Viejas Arena. Included is Chase Tapley, the fifth-leading scorer in San Diego State history. It was Tapley who hit the desperation three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left last month to beat Boise State, 63-62. Three of the four games between these teams over the past two seasons have been like that—and the Aztecs have won all three. There was a 58-56 matchup last year on Montezuma Mesa, and a 65-62 decision in the Mountain West Tournament.
Yes, it’s Senior Day tomorrow at Boise State. With one senior, Kenny Buckner. He’s been noteworthy as a transfer from College of Southern Idaho. The Broncos haven’t had much of a connection over the years with the junior college powerhouse in Twin Falls. Buckner has had to get used to being more if a role player this winter, starting just two games and averaging 5.3 points and five rebounds a game. Last season the 6-9 forward started 15 games and scored 8.4 points per game with 4.6 rebounds a night. Two years ago Buckner averaged a double-double in helping CSI to the junior college national championship.
There was a time a quarter century ago when basketball was every bit as popular as football in this town, believe it or not. That’s a lot to ask of the hoops program now, but the Broncos’ surge this winter may have them over the hump in terms of relevance with local fans. Boise State should log its fourth game this season with 10,000-plus in Taco Bell Arena tomorrow versus San Diego State, Last Saturday’s sellout crowd of 11,238 represented the third. The total is already the most in a single season since the Broncos had eight 10,000-plus crowds in 1988-89—24 years ago.
Two pieces of news yesterday dealing with how Boise State football and its players will be seen this season. Ironically, sources have told ESPN that ESPN (wow, they have good sources) and the Mountain West are finalizing a seven-year TV rights contract that will put up to 22 football games and 25 men’s basketball games on the Worldwide Leader. The football deal includes all six of Boise State’s home games, so the Mountain West’s “Bronco clause” will kick in, for most of them, at least—$300,000 per game and an extra $200,000 for Saturday games (although you’d expect the Tennessee-Martin matchup to end up on ESPNU, or even ESPN3?). Make no mistake, the high level of Mountain West basketball was no small factor in these negotiations.
When the Broncos play those games on the blue turf, they can wear all-blue after all. There will be no “Boise State rule” forbidding teams to wear jerseys and pants together that are the same color as their turf. The NCAA’s oversight panel denied the Football Rules Committee’s proposal for the solid color ban, “citing concerns that it did not enhance the image of the game.” Could Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson’s letter to the NCAA have really worked?
Well, that didn’t take long. Just over a week into spring football, San Diego State coach Rocky Long has all but conceded that incumbent Adam Dingwell has the quarterback position locked up. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “The rising junior displayed poise and leadership during the first week of practice, and the coaches must also have liked what they saw from him after the Aztecs’ first scrimmage in full pads last Saturday. ‘We’re giving Dingwell a lot more reps now than he got in the first week, and he’s always with the first team too,’ Long said. ‘I would say he’s the starter right now unless someone really plays well.’” That’s playin’ it safe.
The Idaho Steelheads get a return visit from the Gwinnett Gladiators tonight and tomorrow night. The Steelheads split a pair of games against the Gladiators in Georgia in late January. The two teams actually have a history, as the Steelies had to get through Gwinnett to get to the Kelly Cup Finals—and ultimately their first ECHL championship—in 2004. Idaho will have another new face on the ice this weekend with the arrival of the first freshly-minted college player of the season. Rookie forward Chase Schaber just finished his collegiate career at the University of Lethbridge, where he was the leading scorer this season with 18 points in just 19 games.
Justin Holiday remains en fuego for the Idaho Stampede. The 6-6 guard out of Washington struck for another career-high last night, scoring 38 points to lead the Stampede to a 114-107 road win at Reno. Holiday has now surpassed 30 points in four of his last six games, and the Stampede have won three in a row. Tomorrow night the Stamps make their first-ever visit to the California beach community of Santa Cruz to take on the Santa Cruz Warriors. (I remember getting motion sickness on the rollercoaster at the Santa Cruz boardwalk when I was about 10.)
There are seven former Boise Hawks on World Baseball Classic rosters, and two of them were present for an upset victory yesterday. Italy rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth in Phoenix to beat Mexico and San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo, 6-5. Tony Granato, who came out of VCU and spent a month with the Hawks in 2004, went 1-for-3 for the Italians. Granato’s road to the WBC is an interesting one. After being released by the Cubs organization in 2005 and again by the Rockies a year later, Granato spent four seasons bouncing around the independent circuit before heading to Italy, where he became a star in the Italian Baseball League. A native Canadian, Granato recently received his Italian citizenship and thus a spot on the WBC roster. Former Hawk Alex Maestri is also on Italy’s team but did not play yesterday.
Graham DeLaet turned in a serviceable round yesterday to kick off the Puerto Rico Open. The former Boise State star carded a two-under 70 and is five shots off the pace. It was in Puerto Rico that DeLaet recorded one of his three top 10 finishes last year, tying for ninth. He has two top 10 results already this season, including the tie for ninth in the Honda Classic last week. DeLaet is currently 50th in FedEx Cup standings and 42nd on the PGA Tour Money List.
Boise State’s Emma Bates will compete in her first NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship tonight at the Tyson Indoor Track Center on the Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. Bates earned her qualifying spot in the 5000 meters last weekend in Seattle, when she won the UW Final Qualifier in a school record time of 15:50.78. Bates, a junior from Elk River, MN, finished 12th in the 5,000 at the NCAA Outdoors last year.
This Day In Sports…March 8, 1976:
In the championship game of the first-ever Big Sky Tournament in Ogden, Boise State stuns Weber State in double-overtime on the Wildcats’ home floor to earn its first conference title and first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Bus Connor had only one senior to work with, Pat Hoke as the Broncos were sparked by a trio of sophomores: Connor’s son, Steve, future Nevada, Stanford, LSU and TCU head coach Trent Johnson, and Danny Jones.
(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.)