Friday, January 3, 2014.
The pinnacle of Boise State basketball—on the floor and in the stands—was reached 25 years ago during a three-season stretch that saw the Broncos earn one NCAA Tournament berth and two NIT bids. This season presents the best opportunity since then to approach the fever of that era. Granted, there are more entertainment options here than a quarter-century ago. But nothing has the energy of a packed Taco Bell Arena. Until last season, though, there had been just five Boise State home crowds of 10,000-plus in the new century. Then a year ago there were four, with three of them in conference play (versus New Mexico, Colorado State and San Diego State). Can the Broncos set a precedent for this winter by hitting 10,000 for their Mountain West opener against Fresno State tomorrow night? Probably not. But 8,000-plus would be a nice table-setter.
Boise State’s record average for single-season home attendance is a shade under 9,000, set in 1987-88 during the peak of those Bobby Dye years. That’s not going to be broken this season, with the average for non-conference home games sitting at 6,047. But achieving the highest attendance number since Boise State joined the WAC should be a layup with larger crowds during Mountain West play. Last season was the one that finally gave life back to Taco Bell Arena, as the Broncos drew 6,394 per game.
Derrick Marks goes into the Fresno State contest two points shy of becoming the 24th member of Boise State’s 1,000-point club. Tomorrow night’s game will be the 75th of Marks’ career (Anthony Drmic made it to 1,000 in 65 games). It would be the first time two Bronco juniors have passed the 1,000-point plateau in the same season. Marks isn’t the most consistent player in the world, but when he’s good, he’s great. At the Diamond Head Classic he scored eight points against Hawaii, four versus South Carolina, and 23 against Iowa State.
From Jeff Borzello’s “Conference Reset” at CBSSports.com comes this from his “Mountain West player who needs to step up” department. “Among the contenders at the top of the league, Boise State is going to need a bit more from Jeff Elorriaga,” writes Borzello. “He's one of the best shooters in the country, and is capable of getting hot from the perimeter. He just hasn't done it enough this season. He has scored in single-digits in seven of his last nine games and had three points in two of the Broncos' three losses. He needs to be the third option next to Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic.” When opponents have set their minds to stopping Elorriaga’s three-pointing shooting, they’ve been able to. But he does myriad little things for Boise State. There’s a reason he rarely comes out of a game.
It would be nice to do away with those Boise State football games against FCS schools, but if you’re going to play them, it’s better with Idaho State than Tennessee-Martin. The Broncos have announced a home date with the Bengals scheduled for September 19, 2015, filling a date many hoped would house a Boise State-Idaho game (the impasse continues). The Broncos lead the series with ISU 24-6 and have played the Bengals twice since joining the FBS in 1996. BSU won 62-0 in 2003 on the opening night of Idaho State great Jared Allen’s senior year. And the Broncos topped ISU 49-7 in 2008 in Kellen Moore’s debut.
Boise State has also agreed to a home-and-home series with Cincinnati, a school the Broncos would have played this past season had the Big East/American Athletic Conference move not blown up. The Broncos and Bearcats will meet on the blue turf in 2019 and at Cincinnati in 2020. The Bearcats have played in Bronco Stadium once, winning the inaugural Humanitarian Bowl over Utah State in 1997.
If Bryan Harsin wasn’t already newly-rooted in Boise, he’d be in Mobile, AL, right now. Harsin’s former team, Arkansas State, is playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for the third straight season Sunday night, this time against Ball State. While Harsin was still there, the Red Wolves won four of their last five games to finish 7-5 and earn a share of the Sun Belt championship with Louisiana-Lafayette. Incoming Bronco assistants Kent Riddle, Julius Brown, Steve Caldwell and Eliah Drinkwater (as well as strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman) are still with Arkansas State for the bowl game.
The Idaho Steelheads make their first trip of the winter to Alaska this weekend for a pair of games against the Aces. They like that Olympic-sized ice at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage—the Aces have the third-best home record in the ECHL at 10-4. The season series between the rivals is even; Alaska took two out of three games from the Steelheads at CenturyLink Arena in November, and the Steelies did the same to the Aces on the same Boise ice last month.
Back to hoops: the Idaho Stampede basically have three publicity plateaus for individual players this season. Pierre Jackson, the D-League’s leading scorer, is first-level. At the second level are Richard Howell, who’s averaging a double-double, Dallas Lauderdale, with a lights-out shooting percentage of almost 74 percent, and Dee Bost, who’s been solid with 16.5 points and 8.4 assists per game. Little do you hear of what you could call the third level. That’s where Reggie Hearn has been quietly productive, starting all 14 Stampede games this season. The former Northwestern standout is contributing 9.4 points a game. The Stamps hope NBA lottery pick C.J. McCollum, on loan from the Blazer is, like, platinum-level. They’ll all have to be top-drawer this weekend as the Stamps host a pair of games against the league’s best team, Rio Grande Valley.
Idaho’s Connor Hill broke the school record for career three-pointers made last night in an 80-74 loss to Missouri-Kansas City in the WAC opener at Cowan Spectrum. Hill was 3-for-10 from beyond the arc and now has 169 career treys, eclipsing the mark established by Orlando Lightfoot in 1994. Speaking of Lightfoot and 20 years ago, Stephen Madison’s 35-point night against Montana last Saturday was the first such performance by a Vandal since Lightfoot poured in 50 versus Gonzaga in December of 1993.
This Day In Sports…January 3, 2004, 10 years ago today:
What is now the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl gets a one-time-only opportunity—a spot on ESPN’s schedule all by itself on a Saturday in January. Furthermore, it was sandwiched in between the BCS bowls. But the game was a blowout, with Georgia Tech’s P.J. Daniels running for 307 yards in a 52-10 Yellowjacket victory over Tulsa in Bronco Stadium. Helped by seven sacks, Tech held the Golden Hurricane to minus-56 yards rushing.
(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.)