Tuesday, March 26, 2013.
Boise State is bound and determined to get back to the NCAA Tournament next year, and—to be sure—it’s more likely than it ever used to be with the Broncos in a multi-bid league. But what happened to the Mountain West the past week makes you wonder if it’ll ever get five invites to the Dance again. The conference, of course, went 0-for-5 in its effort to reach the Sweet 16. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to hear demands for change to the RPI formula. Numerous naysayers claim the MW was rated artificially high, reaching No. 1 this season in some computations.
The Mountain West played 14 games against non-Division I schools in non-conference play, so those didn’t count against the RPI. Other leagues complain that their RPI numbers were unfairly dragged down by games against bottom-feeder Division I teams while the Mountain West was jobbing the system. I’d expect someone to propose that—with 347 Division I institutions out there—any team scheduling a non-Division I school be computed as having played a game against No. 348.
This is one problem Boise State doesn’t have—yet, at least: having to replace players who declare early for the NBA Draft. UNLV star Anthony Bennett declared early, alright (according to CBSSports.com). He just finished his freshman year with the Rebels, averaging more than 16 points and eight rebounds per game. If you saw Bennett play at Taco Bell Arena in February, you remember what a handful the 6-8, 240-pounder was during a 25-point night in the Rebels’ 77-70 loss to Boise State. Some see him as a high lottery pick in June. Bennett is a Canadian from Ontario, but he played high school ball at Findlay Prep outside Las Vegas for current Idaho Stampede coach Michael Peck.
Speaking of Peck, he and the Stampede let an eight-point halftime lead slip away last night in an 89-84 loss at Santa Cruz. The Stamps were plagued by poor shooting, managing just 36 percent from the field, and an astounding 25 turnovers. Justin Holiday was back to his old tricks, though, pouring in 28 points and making three steals for Idaho. Former Boise State standout Coby Karl had another strong offensive showing, adding 18 points. The loss was the 30th of the season for the Stampede, their most in 10 years, and dropped them back into last place in the D-League West Division. The Stamps stay in Santa Cruz for another matchup against the Warriors tomorrow night.
It might not be over for former Boise State star Quintin Mikell in St. Louis. The veteran safety was released by the Rams two weeks ago to make salary cap room, but coach Jeff Fisher says the team would like to bring him back. "We have interest," Fisher told Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week. "He played very well for us last year. It's just one of those things that you have to do once you get in the process (of free agency) and you start making moves. But we have interest. The defensive staff was really happy with him last year." Fisher told the newspaper the Rams were negotiating with Mikell before his release but simply ran out of time.
No official invitation from the Sun Belt yet, but Idaho is expecting one. The Vandals are planning to go before a special meeting of the State Board of Education tomorrow to ask permission to join the conference as a football-only member in 2014. New Mexico State is likely to get a Sun Belt invite as well. The league is no more geographically attractive than when Idaho played football in it from 2001-04, but it allows the Vandals to remain in the FBS—and it’s far more desirable than playing as an independent, as is the case this year. Idaho plays one Sun Belt team this season, going on the road to face Arkansas State and its new head coach, former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. The RedHawks were already set to go to the Kibbie Dome next year; now that will become a conference game.
This was inevitable. After one of the best seasons ever by an Idaho Steelheads netminder, Josh Robinson has been called up by the AHL’s Texas Stars. Robinson, just named the Steelheads’ 2012-13 MVP, is among the ECHL’s leaders with 27 wins, five shutouts, and a .925 save percentage. This is the second time the rookie out of Michigan Tech has been recalled to Texas, but he hasn’t appeared in an AHL game yet. The move appeared to leave the Steelheads without a goalie going into tomorrow night’s game at San Francisco, but Tyler Beskorowany has been reassigned to Idaho from Texas just in time.
Taking care of tennis: Boise State blanked New Mexico yesterday 7-0, the Broncos’ sixth straight victory and their 26th consecutive win at home. Boise State hosts UC Santa Barbara (coach Greg Patton’s alma mater) Thursday and Utah State Friday at the Appleton Center. Davis Cup prep: at the Sony Open in Miami, American Sam Querrey advanced to the round of 16 by forfeit over Milos Raonic of Canada. But fellow U.S. Davis Cup participant John Isner was ousted by Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 7-6. Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 player who will lead Serbia against the U.S. next week, is already in the round of 16.
The Boise State women’s gymnastics team has been selected to the NCAA West Regional in Corvallis a week from Saturday. The 21st-ranked Broncos will be seeded fourth in the competition—behind Georgia, host Oregon State and Arkansas and ahead of Arizona State and Cal. Boise State has never made the NCAA Championship meet as a team. The top two schools from regionals earn automatic berths at nationals; the Broncos have finished third in three of the past four years.
Graham DeLaet has now made five straight cuts on the PGA Tour, and suffice to say he’s making a nice living. DeLaet tied for 50th yesterday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a challenging finish at Bay Hill. The former Boise State star took home $14,738. On the Web.com Tour, one-time Bronco Troy Merritt was in contention for a win at the Louisiana Open until a disastrous six-over 77 in the final round Sunday. Merritt finished in a tie for 28th and earned $3,806. And on the Symetra Tour, the women’s golf satellite circuit, former Bishop Kelly and Nebraska standout Maddie Sheils shot 10-over through the first two rounds and missed the cut Friday.
This Day In Sports…March 26, 1979:
The night that is generally considered to be responsible for making the NCAA Tournament what it is today. It was sophomore Magic Johnson against senior Larry Bird, as the fast-breaking Michigan State Spartans snapped Indiana State’s 33-game winning streak to claim the national title with a 75-64 victory. Magic outscored Bird, 24-19, and would come out early for the NBA Draft. The rivalry continued the next season with Johnson playing for the Lakers and Bird for the Celtics.
(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.)