Monday, March 25, 2013.
LaSalle looked really good five days ago in its win over Boise State to open the NCAA Tournament. Were the Explorers that good? Well, they wiped out fourth-seeded Kansas State 63-61 in the West Region Friday (not to forget that game was in Kansas City). Then they got by Ole Miss last night 76-74 to advance to the Sweet 16. The Broncos have to feel at least a little better. Is LaSalle this year’s VCU? The Rams started the 2011 tournament in the First Four in Dayton and made it all the way to the Final Four. This Explorers team has a little bit of magic. And in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles, they’ll play a team they can beat, Wichita State. The Shockers quickly ended Gonzaga’s stay as a No. 1 seed with a 76-70 upset Saturday.
Then there’s the Mountain West. The conference is going to take its shots this week. Five teams in the NCAA Tournament, and not a one made the Sweet 16. Colorado State looked like it had a shot after dominating Missouri last Thursday. But the Rams had to face No. 1 seed Louisville Saturday and got drilled, 82-56. To be fair, the Cardinals may end up winning the whole thing. San Diego State? The Aztecs epitomized the Mountain West’s inconsistency, pulling away from Oklahoma 70-55 Friday night before being taken down historically by Florida Gulf Coast last night, 81-71. San Diego State will be remembered as the victim of the first No. 15 seed ever to make the Sweet 16.
What was really happening this season with Boise State didn’t become evident until the Mountain West schedule started. The Broncos hit the wall when conference games began last year, especially on offense. But there was a major step this winter, probably the biggest one in program history considering the opposition. Scoring increased by from 60.0 to 68.4 points per game. Shooting from the field was up five percentage points, three-point accuracy jumped up 10 percentage points, and there was an amazing turnaround in rebounding margin, from -2.0 to +2.5. And after losing by an average of about 7½ points last year in Mountain West play, they had a positive scoring margin this year. A lot of positive takeaways.
I normally don’t dive into recruiting offers, but there’s an exception today. Scout.com and Fansided 150.com are both reporting that Boise State has offered a scholarship to quarterback Jalen Greene of Serra High in Gardena, CA. Scout.com says Greene, a four-star prospect, was in Boise for a visit this weekend. Greene, a southpaw is listed at 6-1, 175 pounds going into his senior year. He’s ranked by 247Sports as one of the top ten dual-threat QBs in the nation. The offer from the Broncos is Greene’s first, but more than 20 BCS conference schools are listed as interested in him. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.
Idaho spring football began Friday under the watchful eye of Paul Petrino for the first time. The Lewiston Morning Tribune reports that the first practice, in near-freezing temperatures, found Petrino wearing shorts and running up and down the field pushing tempo. At one point, Petrino chased wide receiver Roman Runner in to the end zone after Runner apparently forgot to finish his run. "(Setting the tempo is) important so (the players) understand how we're going to do things," Petrino told the Tribune. "They understand the tempo.”
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, less than two weeks away from the Davis Cup quarterfinals against the U.S. in Taco Bell Arena, is playing loose right now. Yesterday at the Sony Open in Miami, Djokovic advanced to the round of 16 in 69 minutes’ time with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over India’s Somdev Devvarman. The world’s No. 1 player then high-tailed it across town to watch the Miami Heat win their 26th straight game. Sam Querry and John Isner, who will represent the U.S. in singles in Boise, try to reach the round of 16 at the Sony Open today.
The Idaho Steelheads were on both ends of the spectrum this weekend. They posted a sparkling 2-0 shutout over Ontario Friday night—then the Reign rang up a 5-0 whitewash of the Steelheads Saturday night. Idaho would probably have liked to at least switch those two efforts, as Saturday marked the final home game of the regular season, played before a full house of 5,335. Prior to the game, goalie Josh Robinson was named the Steelheads’ Most Valuable Player for 2012-13. Robinson certainly proved that up Friday, recording his fifth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win. Amazingly, all of his shutouts have come in his last 15 starts. The Steelies wrap up the regular season on the road this week, beginning with a test against the San Francisco Bulls Wednesday night.
It was a lively weekend for Boise State Olympic sports. Jason Chamberlain was runnerup at 149 pounds at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Des Moines, IA. Chamberlain lost a 3-2 decision to top-seeded Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State in the championship match but still became a two-time All-American. The Bronco women’s gymnastics team won the final WAC championship Saturday, with sophomore Caitlin Mann winning the all-around and being named WAC Gymnast of the Year. And the Boise State men’s tennis team beat Marquette 6-1 and Idaho 4-2 Saturday at the Boas Bubbles. The Broncos host New Mexico this afternoon at the Appleton Center (looks like the weather will be good enough). BSU and the Lobos have been rivals in tennis since long before the Broncos’ Mountain West era.
One trait of the Idaho Stampede despite a disappointing season: they don’t get down on themselves. After blowing a fourth quarter lead at Santa Cruz Friday and falling to the Warriors in overtime, 102-95, the Stampede went to Reno Saturday and handled the Bighorns, 115-111. The Stampede shot a shade over 50 percent and exploded for 41 points in the third quarter. Carlon Brown came off the bench to score 27 points, and former Boise State star Jason Ellis registered 16 rebounds for the second game in a row. The Stampede are back down in Santa Cruz tonight in a game to be telecast on CBS Sports Network.
Bad timing for the Idaho women’s basketball team—it was Gino Auriemma’s 59th birthday Saturday. The Connecticut women threw a little party on their home floor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies scored off the opening tip four seconds into the game and forced five Vandal turnovers in the first three minutes. UConn led 15-0 five minutes in before Idaho scored and put up a whopping 58 points in the first half for a 41-point lead at the intermission. The final was 105-37. Chalk it up to experience.
College of Idaho athletic director Marty Holly would like to see his men’s basketball program recreate the days of, well, Marty Holly. So he has elected not to renew the contract of coach Rod Jensen. No one would dispute that Jensen, the one-time Boise State coach, is a great guy. He really wanted to make this work when he returned to the Treasure Valley after eight years away at Virginia and UNC-Ashville. But his overall record of 38-51—and especially his home record of 18-25—didn’t get it done.
This Day In Sports…March 25, 1972:
UCLA captures its sixth straight national championship and completes a perfect season with an 81-76 win over Florida State at the L.A. Sports Arena. Bill Walton had 24 points and 20 rebounds, with Keith Wilkes adding 23 points and 10 boards for the invincible Bruins, who finished the season 30-0 with an NCAA record average scoring margin of 30.3 points. It was the last NCAA title game played in the afternoon. The tournament final would move to Monday night in 1973—and UCLA would win again.
(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.)