Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
Boise State’s record at this point in the season five years ago was 20-6. But was there any buzz about a possible at-large NCAA Tournament berth? Nada. The WAC’s RPI was average, and the Broncos had one quality win, a 73-70 decision over BYU (BSU would go on to win the WAC championship). Now Boise State is 18-8 and 6-6 in its conference, yet talk lingers of the Broncos’ at-large chances at the Big Dance next month. They have two road wins over Top 25 teams and a home victory over UNLV, among other qualifications. But the big difference in Boise State’s current home is RPI ratings, which rate the Mountain West the No. 2 conference in the nation. The trickle-down effect on the Broncos is amazing.
Boise State’s RPI is down five spots to No. 47 this week despite wins over Air Force and Fresno State—because those two schools are rated far lower (though still not that low). That’s the point. Why is the MW No. 2 in the country in RPI? It’s not because of the top of the league, it’s because of the bottom. Fresno State and Nevada are 157th and 159th respectively on the NCAA’s new RPI list, but they’re ahead of all but two Big West schools (Long Beach State and Pacific). The Big West, where the Broncos were supposed to be a year from now. Fresno State lost at home to Boise State Saturday night—and went up two spots in RPI. The importance of staying in the Mountain West cannot be overstated for the Bronco basketball program. Now, if the bottom of the Mountain West could show the same strength in football…
Mountain West powers keep knocking each other off, and New Mexico’s derailing of Colorado State’s 27-game home winning streak Saturday booted the Rams out of the Top 25. But the victory at CSU propelled the Lobos to No. 14 in both polls. Colorado State is first in line to get back in among those “also receiving votes” in AP but is well back in the pack in the Coaches Poll. UNLV is getting votes in AP—same for San Diego State on the Coaches’ list. How about Gonzaga earning its highest ranking ever at No. 2? This does look like Mark Few’s best team yet. Redshirt freshman guard Kyle Dranginis out of Nampa and Skyview High has appeared in 28 of the Zags’ 29 games, averaging 3.3 points.
There have to be more guys like Dranginis out there. He’s a good case study for a new project launched by Vince and Clint Hordemann, the driving forces behind Bam Jam Boise. It’s called Mountain West Hoops Report LLC and can be found at mountainwesthoops.com (not associated with the Mountain West Conference). The website provides player evaluations of boys high school basketball players from Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and down to Northern Utah and Northern Nevada, areas that are underserved by college recruiters. There are nearly 600 player evaluations already in the database, with the Hordemanns expecting the number to surpass 1,000 by August.
Virginia may not have a perennial top 25 football program like its cousin at Virginia Tech, but that’s okay. The Cavaliers are still ACC, and they’re coming to Boise in the regular season. Boise State has set a home-and-home series with UVA—the Broncos go to Charlottesville in 2015, and the Cavs come to the blue turf in 2017. Jon Oliver, Virginia’s Executive Associate Athletic Director, had a big hand in the arrangement. The Borah High and Boise State grad (and one-time Bronco basketball player) told Idaho SportsTalk yesterday the goal is to upgrade the Cavaliers’ schedule.
This won’t be Virginia’s first visit to Bronco Stadium. One of the most exciting editions of what is now the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl featured UVA in 2004, when the game went to overtime in a 37-34 Fresno State victory. It will be the first time Boise State has played a non-Pac 12 BCS opponent at home in the regular season (Iowa State of the Big 12 lost to the Broncos 34-16 in the 2002 Humanitarian Bowl).
Strength was never a question for Boise State’s Jamar Taylor, and that was proved out yesterday at the NFL Combine. Taylor tied for first among cornerbacks in the bench press, putting up 22 reps at 225 pounds. The number Taylor seeks most is awaiting today during on-field testing. He wants to go sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash, but he has to beat the Combine’s meticulous digital timers. Every impression is significant in Indianapolis. Taylor performed well in practice during Senior Bowl week last month—that’s most important—but he missed the actual game due to illness.
On New Year’s Day next year, maybe we’ll be saying it takes a Treasure Valley quarterback to get Arizona State to the Rose Bowl. KC Joyner at ESPN.com is one of many considering the Sun Devils the favorites to win the Pac-12 South division and contend for their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1996 season. That’s the year Capital High grad Jake Plummer guided ASU to an undefeated regular season before it fell to Ohio State in Pasadena. “The first reason to believe in the Sun Devils this season is a strong offense that revolves around the skills of quarterback Taylor Kelly,” writes Joyner in touting the former Eagle Mustang. “Showing how good Kelly is might only require pointing out that he finished ninth in the nation in passer rating.” Joyner also notes how favorably Kelly compared last year to Matt Barkley and Geno Smith.
The Idaho Stampede suited up only seven players last night as they await the arrival of two newly-acquired players, and they suffered a 107-94 road loss to the L.A. D-Fenders. The Stampede scored only 15 points in the first quarter and never recovered, despite a 31-point, 12-rebound game from Justin Holiday. Joining the Stamps now will be Mustapha Farrakhan from the Sioux Falls Skyforce and JaJuan Johnson from the Canton Charge as part of a four-team trade. Idaho sent Seth Tarver to Sioux Falls as part of the deal. Johnson was the 2010 Big Ten Player of the Year at Purdue and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 D-League Draft.
This Day In Sports…February 26, 1973:
The birthday of one of the WAC’s all-time great football players. Marshall Faulk was a star at San Diego State, rushing for 386 yards in a game as a freshman and setting the WAC record with 57 career rushing touchdowns, a mark later broken by Boise State’s Ian Johnson and again by Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick. Faulk went on to a 12-year NFL Hall of Fame career with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams and is the only player ever to amass 12,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards in a career. Marshall Faulk...40 years old today.
(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.)