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Might as well dive in head-first

Might as well dive in head-first

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on January 8, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Wednesday, January 8, 2014.

What a way to start life on the road in the Mountain West this season.  At least Boise State can get this one out of the way early—a supreme road test tonight at 13th-ranked San Diego State, which is coming off what some are calling the biggest win in school history at Kansas.  The Aztecs are the favorites to win the conference now, but the Broncos gave them plenty of trouble last season.  SDSU won two of the three games, but the biggest margin of victory for either team was six points (Boise State won by four in March before 11,000 fans in Taco Bell Arena).  The last time the Broncos played in Viejas Arena, they fell 63-62 when Chase Tapley picked up a loose ball on the Aztecs’ final possession and heaved up a three-pointer that went through with 2.8 seconds left. 

Rebounding is going to be huge tonight.  Boise State can only hope to pick up where it left off against Fresno State, which was out-rebounded by the Broncos 42-26 last Saturday night in Taco Bell Arena.  Ryan Watkins pulled down 17 boards, the second-most of his college career.  Watkins is averaging 9.2 rebounds per game as a senior.  It’s something he’s been working toward for a long time, having changed his attitude and his uniform number prior to his junior year.  In 64 games and 39 starts as a freshman and sophomore, Watkins had one double-digit rebound game.  He re-dedicated himself before last season, switching to No. 0, which he said signified “zero excuses, zero regrets.”

Shooting is going to be “huger” tonight for Boise State.  If San Diego State decides to throw a blanket over Jeff Elorriaga’s three-point shooting (which the Aztecs are fully capable of doing), the Broncos’ “Big Two” will be handed the offensive reins.  On the surface, Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks appear to have fared well against San Diego State last year—16.7 points per game for Drmic and 19 for Marks.  But both players had a really tough time from the field, at 35 and 34 percent, respectively. 

Certainly San Diego State coach Steve Fisher isn’t painting Boise State the same way the San Diego media is going into tonight’s pivotal game.  Here’s how the Broncos are viewed in by Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune in his Mountain West preview:  The only team in last year’s NCAA Tournament that returned all five starters.  The question becomes, how much better can they get?  They can be a streaky team that scores in bunches but they have almost no interior game.  High-scoring, guard-oriented teams are fun to watch; they also don’t win many championships.”  The line has been drawn in the Mission Beach sand.

The final college football polls contained nary a Mountain West team.  In fact, for the first time in the BCS era, not a single non-BCS school finished the season in the rankings.  Fresno State was in the “Others Receiving Votes” category after being blasted by USC in the Las Vegas Bowl (at least the Bulldogs were ahead of Northern Illinois in the vote count).  Utah State also garnered a couple votes.  Chris Petersen inherits a Top 25 team in Seattle, as Washington got back into the AP Poll at No. 25 following its win over BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl.  This is the first time since 2001 Boise State didn’t at least receive votes in the final polls. 

The Idaho Steelheads may not have all their guns a-blazin’ when they take on first-place Colorado on the road this weekend.  For starters, starting goalie Josh Robinson is still working for the Texas Stars.  Coach Brad Ralph said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk that leading scorer Anthony Nigro is still dealing with an injury.  And Justin Mercier has been loaned to Iowa of the AHL.  That shifts the offensive focus even more to guys like Brett Robinson and William Rapuzzi.  Robinson has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 16 games for Idaho.  Rapuzzi leads the ECHL as a shootout marksman, going 5-for-5 so far this season.

Boise native Brian Scott said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk his upcoming wedding in McCall won’t distract him from the chance of a lifetime—a spot in qualifying for Daytona 500, which is set for February 23.  Scott will be driving his No. 33 Shore Lodge car as part of the Richard Childress Racing team.  He has had success on the Nationwide circuit, placing seventh in last season’s points standings.  Scott has made one star in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series, finishing 27th in the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and pocketing $92,718.

Pierre Jackson will be the featured attraction when the Idaho Stampede face the Erie BayHawks today at the D-League Showcase in Reno.  But will he last until the Stampede return to CenturyLink Arena Friday night? reports that Jackson’s “representatives” have been granted permission by the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans to seek a trade.  New Orleans holds Jackson’s draft rights but is already loaded at guard.  With Jackson leading the D-League in scoring at 30.1 points per game, the Pelicans think they can get a player of value in exchange for the former Baylor and College of Southern Idaho star.  "He's an NBA player.  He can help a team right now," one NBA GM told Yahoo.

The second weekend of April will be lively in the Capital High gym.  Idaho Select Basketball has been chosen to host a regional qualifying 3X3 tournament for USA Basketball's national tournament, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in May and June.  It’ll be called “BAM Jam USA.”  The winning teams from each men’s and women’s division will qualify for the national tournaments—then the national winners advance to the FIBA World Games in Moscow, Russia, in June.  Idaho Select’s successful track record at its BAM Jam Boise events over the past six years has paid off.

This Day In Sports…January 8, 2009, five years ago today:

Tim Tebow does something he could never do in the NFL—he outduels a fellow Heisman Trophy winner in a title game.  Tebow led Florida to a 24-14 victory over Sam Bradford and Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game in Miami.  Tebow was 18-of-30 for 231 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for an additional 109 yards.  Bradford finished 26-of-41 for 256 yards and two TDs.  Each quarterback threw two interceptions.  It was the Gators’ second national title in their fourth season under coach Urban Meyer.

(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.)