Wednesday, January 16, 2013.
You’ll see an Australian Institute of Sport reunion of sorts tonight in Taco Bell Arena. There’ll be four veterans of Australia’s U19 national team on the floor, two for Boise State and two for New Mexico as the Broncos and Lobos face off in a pivotal Mountain West game. For Boise State, there’s Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic, Aussie sophomores who have played integral parts in the Broncos’ 13-2 start. New Mexico has starting guard Hugh Greenwood and power forward Cameron Bairstow. Drmic was Australia’s second-leading scorer at the U19 World Championships in Latvia in the summer of 2011. The Aussie leader in the tournament? Greenwood. That team also included Hadziomerovic. Last summer Greenwood survived until the final cuts for the 2012 Australian Olympic team while Drmic was recovering from a ruptured appendix.
Greenwood had the upper hand last season in head-to-head meetings with his countryman. Drmic 2-of-9 from the field in last year’s 65-49 loss to the Lobos in Taco Bell Arena, while Greenwood was putting up a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Drmic was 3-of-10 at The Pit in March—Greenwood had a 15-point night as New Mexico prevailed again, 76-61. Each player will be wearing No. 3 for his respective team tonight. This could be a rather energizing experience for Hadziomerovic, one of the key facilitators on offense for Boise State. Hadziomerovic missed both games against the Lobos last season with a foot injury. As for Bairstow, he’s been a force inside with New Mexico seven-footer Alex Kirk and is averaging 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Boise State officials are calling for an Orange-out tonight for a crowd that could hit 10,000 in Taco Bell Arena. Bronco coach Leon Rice says his team will need every lung in the house if it’s to create a home floor advantage that rivals The Pit in Albuquerque. “When we went down there last year, it was one of the most hostile environments I’ve ever been in,” said Rice. But if you spent any winter evenings in what was then the Pavilion 25 years ago during Boise State’s best season ever, the 24-6 campaign of 1987-88, you know what that place can be like when its full and passionate.
There are several prominent RPI sources out there in college basketball, and a Scott Slant reader pointed out one of them to me this week. At TeamRankings.com Boise State’s RPI is No. 13. Seriously. Just behind Gonzaga, Syracuse and North Carolina State, and just ahead of Michigan State, Ohio State, Butler…and San Diego State. Crazy, no? We’ll find out of those ratings have any merit tonight.
There have been varying reactions to Boise State staying in the Mountain West. Coaches have been diplomatically respectful. Here’s what Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter told the Fresno Bee on the subject of the Broncos: “I think having them coming back in the league solidifies our conference as a legitimate conference. With all the movement, there are some conferences that are in place today that in five years might not be around—you look what happened to the Western Athletic Conference. And if you can get some schools that have some established history and have some TV marquee value and have them be a part of your league, I think that's obviously a plus.”
Sportswriters have delved into the deal Boise State received from the Mountain West and have begrudgingly understood it. A Dan Hinxman column in the Reno Gazette-Journal is titled, “Boise is better; don’t you wish you were, too?” Hinxman writes, “Yes, Boise State thinks its Bronco dung doesn’t smell, but wouldn’t you have loved to be in president Bob Kustra’s shoes? Like it or not, Boise State’s football brand sells. It gives the school a kind of clout that every other school in the Mountain West wished it had. And we’ll find out soon enough if the crumbling Big East should have upped the ante.”
SI.com’s Stewart Mandel gives high marks to a couple of coordinator hires by teams that promise to provide Boise State two of its toughest tests this year. Among Mandel’s “ten impact coordinators/assistants” are BYU’s Robert Anae, a one-time Boise State assistant who returns to Provo from Arizona to run the Cougar offense. Anae was Bronco Mendenhall’s original O-coordinator from 2005-10. And Mandel likes San Diego State’s addition of Bob Toledo as its offensive coordinator. “The former UCLA and Tulane head coach brings a wealth of experience to the Aztecs' rising program,” writes Mandel. The Broncos face both teams on the road in 2013 (if San Diego State’s future and the Mountain West schedule shake out the way we think they will).
Our former Bronco NFLer of the Day is Denver’s Ryan Clady, who had to withdraw from the Pro Bowl yesterday due to a shoulder injury. The fifth-year left tackle had a solid season protecting Peyton Manning while working through hamstring issues—and ultimately the shoulder ailment that kept him out of three practices during Denver’s playoff bye. But Clady has still started all 80 games of his NFL career, plus three playoff tilts. The Pro Bowl would have been the third for Clady, the highest draft pick ever out of Boise State (No. 12 overall in 2008).
The Idaho Stampede get a rare visitor from the East tonight and tomorrow night as the Erie BayHawks visit CenturyLink Arena. One local favorite who’s not seeing a lot of court time is former Boise State standout Jason Ellis as coach Mike Peck works on developing his younger players. The 30-year-old forward still wants to play, despite enduring tough times last winter. Ellis tore his ACL and meniscus in the Stampede’s third game last season. It was the first time in his life Ellis ever missed a game—and he missed the rest of the season, undergoing five months of rehab. He wasn’t ready to hang it up going into this season. “I wouldn’t say twilight,” Ellis said in November. “I hope to play a couple more years. It’s just fun to play—fun to play with Coby (Karl).”
This Day In Sports…January 16, 2003, 10 years ago today:
Reacting to the controversial tie that ended the 2002 All-Star Game, big league owners vote to award home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the Midsummer Classic. It was supposed to be an incentive to All-Star Game managers and participants to manage and play to win. The American League benefitted from the rule initially, prevailing in the next seven All-Star Games. The AL got four World Series titles out of it.
(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.)