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NCAA Tourney or NIT—what’s your preference?

NCAA Tourney or NIT—what’s your preference?

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 7:20 AM

Friday, March 15, 2013.

Possibilities in the little one, prestige in the big one.  At first glance, Boise State would have a better chance to make some kind of run in the NIT if it ends up in that event Sunday instead of the NCAA Tournament.  But the Dance is the Dance, and it would be a landmark moment for the Broncos to be selected for an at-large berth, even if it’s in the “First Four” in Dayton.  A play-in game would actually provide better TV exposure than an opening game in the round of 64 later in the week.  That would be really valuable to this program, which is still trying to sell itself regionally and nationally.  It’s still early in the progression, as coach Leon Rice has crafted a 21-10 record with a team that returns all five starters next season.

If Boise State is relegated to the NIT Sunday, fans have to embrace it.  Live for the moment.  Aside from the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the Broncos haven’t played in anything even that big in nine years, since they won two games in the 2004 NIT.  And speaking of TV exposure, there would be a lot of it should Boise State get past the first round, as ESPN is chock full of NIT games. 

Boise State dropped to No. 44 at RealTimeRPI.com after Wednesday night’s 73-67 loss to San Diego State.  Some perspective?  The Broncos were No. 181 in NCAA RPI at the end of last season.  They have four wins over teams in the top 50 of the RPI this season and eight wins over teams in the top 100.  Boise State wouldn’t have an opportunity at that report card were it not for the Mountain West.  You still shudder to think what hoops life would have been like next winter without it in the Big West.

A couple more one-and-dones in Las Vegas: the Idaho men were squelched by New Mexico State 65-49 in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament.  Kyle Barone finished his Vandal career with a 19-point effort.  And the Boise State women fell to Fresno State 72-55 in the Mountain West Tournament, the Bulldogs’ ninth straight win over the Broncos.  Lauren Lenhardt posted 13 points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots in the final game of her career.  The Eagle High grad finishes as the sixth-leading scorer in school history with 1,370 points—and the 10th-leading rebounder with 632 boards.

There’ll be extra buzz in CenturyLink Arena this weekend as the Idaho Stampede host the Tulsa 66ers for a pair of games.  It was announced yesterday that the facility will host an NBA exhibition game for the first time—the first one played in Boise in 10 years—when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Utah Jazz October 11.  Stampede managing investor Bill Ilett has been working on this since he first started talking to Portland about a single-affiliate NBA hybrid agreement with Idaho.  The Blazers haven’t played an exhibition in Boise since 1983.  The last NBA preseason game in Boise was in the BSU Pavilion in 2003—a Utah-New York matchup back when the Jazz held their traing camp here.

SI.com’s Stewart Mandel answers a question about parallels between Gonzaga basketball and Boise State football in his College Football Mailbag this week.  While he says the Zags schedule tougher out-of-conference, Mandel writes, “I will go to my grave believing that 2010 team with Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, Austin Pettis, Titus Young, Shea McClellin and company could have won the national championship.  Subsequent draft numbers bore out that there were more pros on that Boise team than either Auburn or Oregon, and its one loss came on a missed field goal to a Nevada team quarterbacked by Colin Kaepernick.  On the flip side, however, last year's rebuilding Broncos squad probably was not a legitimate top-15 team (as it finished in the Coaches' Poll), but it was still good enough to rack up 11 wins against an unimposing schedule.”

Mandel weighs on how each team would survive the week-to-week grind in a power conference.  “Recent transitions by Utah (which suffered its first losing season in a decade last year in the Pac-12) and TCU (which, in its first year in the Big 12, won fewer than eight games for the first time since 2004) seem to support those who believe the Broncos would never survive in a major conference,” writes Mandel.  “But every season is different.  Utah might have managed a tad better recently if 2008 hero Brian Johnson was playing quarterback instead of calling plays, and TCU might have fared better last year if future Pro Bowler Andy Dalton were starting instead of an emergency redshirt freshman quarterback.  I'd say just appreciate both Gonzaga and Boise for what they are, not what they might be.”

The Idaho Steelheads are mathematically alive in the ECHL Mountain Division race but Alaska just about has the title locked up.  The Steelheads can set the table for the Kelly Cup Playoffs, though, and to that end they won round one of this week’s three-round battle with the Aces Wednesday night in Anchorage.  One certainty in tonight’s game: Josh Robinson will be between the pipes.  Goalie Tyler Beskorowany has been recalled yet again by Texas of the AHL.

You’ve heard how picky top-ranked Novak Djokovic can be about court surfaces.  Djokovic is very into sticking to a routine as well, as he unhappily took the court against American Sam Querrey at 1:23 in the morning our time yesterday in the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA.  Djokovic took out his frustration on Querry, who he could face in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Boise next month, in a 6-0, 7-6 victory.  It’s was Djokovic’s 21st straight win—his last loss was to Querry on Halloween last year. 

Graham DeLaet has a little hole to dig out of going into today’s second round at the Tampa Bay Championship.  The former Boise State star opened with a two-over 73 yesterday after fading on the back nine.  DeLaet endured a bogey and double-bogey over a three-hole stretch before salvaging a birdie on No. 17.  He’s trying to make his fourth straight PGA Tour cut.

Campus notes for the weekend: the Boise State women’s softball team is primed to make its debut on the new diamond at Dona Larsen Park today.  The Broncos, who have taken it on the chin often so far this season with the help of a brutal schedule, host Utah State and Idaho State today as part of a four-team round robin this weekend that also includes Portland State.  And the Northwest Nazarene women’s basketball team faces Simon Fraser in the NCAA Division II West Regional in Bellingham, WA, tomorrow afternoon.  Three Treasure Valley players are among the Crusaders’ top five scorers: Meridian’s Chelsie Luke, Centennial’s Heather Adams and Middleton’s Taylor Simmons.

This Day In Sports…March 15, 2001:

One of Boise’s finest sports day ever, as the Pavilion hosts the closest first round bracket in the history of the NCAA Tournament.  First, Georgia State upset Wisconsin by one…then Maryland held off George Mason by three…then Georgetown beat Arkansas by two at the buzzer.  But the last game was the best—Hampton becoming only the fourth No. 15 seed to ever take down a No. 2, bringing the house down with a 59-58 upset of Iowa State and former Idaho coach Larry Eustachy.

(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.)

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