Thursday, April 4, 2013.
It was going to be interesting to see how Novak Djokovic reacted to Taco Bell Arena once he arrived in Boise for the Davis Cup quarterfinals. The world’s No. 1 player had gone off on match officials over the condition of the courts before Serbia took on Belgium in a Davis Cup first-rounder in February. A red clay court was installed at the Spiroudome de Charleroi, and Djokovic went nuts over its quality. He toned it down a bit in a later tweet: “Being extra careful here. The conditions are quite dangerous 4 all players. I know organisers did their best, but still....#worried.” How does he see Boise’s situation? “We have great conditions for practice, for preparations,” said Djokovic. “And that’s great for us.” Alrightee then.
You’ve heard this event called a “Davis Cup tie.” What the heck does that mean, some wonder? Well, it means “elimination round,” but after a little research I wasn’t able to figure out why. Obviously it doesn’t mean “draw.” The individual matches in competition are called “rubbers.” So the Davis Cup tie between the U.S. and Serbia kicks off tomorrow with the singles rubbers—then the doubles rubber will be held Saturday. And I guess you call Sunday’s competition the “reverse singles rubbers.”
Leon Rice had a Wednesday diametrically opposed to that of Mike Rice. Leon has been given a two-year extension through 2018 on his Boise State contract, pending State Board of Education approval, after leading the Broncos to their first-ever at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. The new deal ups his salary next season to $482,000 and will be extended by a year every time Boise State wins 20 games or makes the NCAA Tournament. Leon Rice’s buyout has been increased to $175,000 (which still isn’t very much if some school comes beatin’ down the door). The other end of the spectrum: Mike Rice was fired by Rutgers yesterday amidst the humiliation brought by national scorn over his abuse of players.
Craig Neal was formally introduced yesterday as the new head basketball coach at New Mexico, replacing UCLA-bound Steve Alford. Neal had been Alford’s top assistant for all of his six years with the Lobos and has been friends with him since the third grade. The 48-year-old nicknamed “Noodles” was strongly supported by New Mexico players. Neal’s promotion may convince star guard Tony Snell to stay for one more year—if he does, the Lobos will have all five starters back next season.
What a way to kick off the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Idaho Steelheads and Colorado went to sudden death overtime last night at CenturyLink Arena, and the end was sudden indeed. Tyler Gron scored off a rebound 26 seconds into overtime to give the Steelheads a 4-3 victory and a one game-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series. The Steelies were swimming uphill all evening—it was Idaho’s only lead of the night. Gron has a flair for the dramatic; he had tallied a game-winner 53 seconds into overtime a week earlier in San Francisco to break a scoreless tie. This one wouldn’t have gone into the extra period had David de Kastrozza not managed a goal with 4:20 left in regulation. Game 2 of the series is coming up tonight.
Coach Chris Petersen casts a critical eye on Boise State spring football practices. He wasn’t thrilled with what he saw Tuesday—the Broncos get another shot this morning. The Hosei Tomahawks are probably impressed with every rep, though, as they look on from the sidelines. For the seventh year, Hosei University of Tokyo has sent a contingent of coaches and players to watch practice and pick the brains of the Bronco coaching staff.
The relationship was established in 2007 through the BSU College of Education via a sister university program. The Hosei Tomahawks’ colors happen to be blue and orange, and last June they dedicated a new training facility at their campus that included a blue practice turf with orange end zones to commemorate the relationship with Boise State. The Tomahawks made it to the Japanese Collegiate National Championship last December before suffering their only defeat of the season. Petersen gets to watch tape of Hosei every spring. “They look much different than they did a couple years ago, said Petersen. “They’re continually evolving.”
A year ago Boise State running back Jay Ajayi was rehabbing a knee injury during spring football. Fans were anxious to see him, and he ultimately lived up to expectations once he cleared a suspension at the beginning of last season. There was some concern that Ajayi would be limited in spring ball this year, to preserve that knee just in case. But the sophomore got more carries than any other back in Tuesday morning’s practice and looked every bit the player who bulled his way to a team-high 6.7 yards per carry last season. Sometimes schools fudge on players’ heights on their rosters, occasionally adding an inch. But I swear Ajayi looks taller than 6-feet-even.
Washington also resumed spring football this week following spring break. The storyline so far for Boise State’s season-opening opponent is the rejuvenation of Husky quarterback Keith Price. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that a true quarterback competition never developed going into spring break. “Price appeared healthier and adapting well to UW’s addition of more no-huddle, up-tempo offense,” writes Condotta. “Couple that with the fact that he simply seemed to be playing better—running stronger, throwing more accurately—than at times last season, and Price did everything he could to extinguish the possibility of a true quarterback competition. Through the first six practices, there was nothing to indicate Price won’t again be the starter in 2013.”
The league soon-to-be-formerly-known as the Big East will be called the American Athletic Conference starting next season. University presidents approved the new name yesterday as the “Catholic 7” basketball schools have broken away and have taken the Big East moniker with them. Wow, Boise State could have been a member of the AAC. No doubt UConn and Cincinnati are thrilled about it.
Justin Holiday, now a former Idaho Stampede star, made his NBA debut last night for the Philadelphia 76ers in an 88-83 loss at Charlotte. In seven minutes of playing time, Holiday scored two points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field and pulled down two rebounds. He had averaged 17.3 points and a league-leading 2.4 steals per game for the Stampede before his callup. Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday must have been distracted by his brother’s debut—Jrue was a miserable 2-of-24 from the field and scored only five points. Justin’s ex- teammates in Idaho close out their season tomorrow night and Saturday night against the L.A. D-Fenders in CenturyLink Arena.
This Day In Sports…April 4, 1983, 30 years ago today:
In one of the great Cinderella stories in NCAA Tournament history, North Carolina State upsets Houston’s phi-slamma-jamma team 54-52 on Lorenzo Charles’ followup dunk of an airball at the buzzer to win the national championship. The lasting image of that game is the late Jim Valvano—ecstatic in victory—running around the court looking for someone to hug.
(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.)