Friday, March 22, 2013.
Well, it was an experience. Boise State’s one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament’s First Four Wednesday night will pay dividends down the line. The 80-71 loss to LaSalle was as enlightening to the basketball team as, say, the 2004 Liberty Bowl was to the football team. Like their gridiron colleagues, the basketball Broncos were on a new, bigger stage as an at-large selection and were facing a talented team from the East. That football game, a 44-40 loss to Louisville, was really a turning point during Boise State’s ascent to elite status. The Cardinals were physical and quick and wore the Broncos down. Andy Avalos, then a linebacker and now BSU’s defensive line coach, said memorably after the game in Memphis, “We’ve got to get bigger.” Boise State did, and there have been two BCS bowls and four Top 10 finishes since.
The hoops mantra: “We’ve got to get quicker.” Boise State had trouble keeping up with LaSalle’s quick guards in Dayton. The Explorers would either beat the Broncos on the drive or zip into position for open three-point attempts (most of which they knocked down). "We had a quickness advantage, and that was the difference in the game," coach John Giannini said. Then again, this Boise State team was a year ahead of schedule and has all five starters back next season. “This is only the beginning,” coach Leon Rice said on his KBOI postgame show.
Anthony Drmic was the only Bronco to start all 32 games and ended with 565 points, the sixth-highest single-season total in school history. His 17.7 points per game were the most since Reggie Larry averaged 19.4 during the WAC championship season five years ago. Since that 2007-08 campaign, only one one player had even averaged 15 points per game in a season (La’Shard Anderson with 15.1 in 2010-11). Derrick Marks joined Drmic in exceeding that, averaging 16.3. And with his two three-pointers against LaSalle, Jeff Elorriaga ended up third on Boise State’s single-season three-pointers list with 84. Drmic is fifth with 80 treys this season.
Colorado State saved face for the Mountain West last night in the NCAA Tournament, stifling Missouri 84-72 in the Midwest Region. The Rams now meet top-seeded Louisville tomorrow. New Mexico was an unmitigated disaster, falling to 14th-seeded Harvard 68-62 in the West. The Lobos were supposed to be the Mountain West team capable of making a deep run in the tournament, but they ended up being the worst kind of bracket-buster. And inconsistent UNLV paid for going 11 minutes in the second half without a basket on the way to a 64-61 loss to Cal, a No. 5 seed falling to a No. 12. The fifth Mountain West entry in the Dance plays this evening—San Diego State faces Oklahoma in Philadelphia, and the conference really needs a victory.
I had assumed Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament opener against Southern yesterday would provide Skyview High grad Kyle Dranginis as good an opportunity as any to get playing time in the Dance. I had assumed the Zags would rout the Jaguars. Not so fast, myself. Southern took it to the limit before falling to the West’s No. 1 seed, 64-58. Dranginis didn’t play—only the second time this season he hasn’t seen minutes. Not much to report from the Treasure Valley’s other participant in the tournament as former Vallivue High star Will Bogan was scoreless for Valparaiso, going 0-for-3 from the field in a 65-54 loss to Michigan.
Perusing Chadd Cripe’s chronicling of Boise State’s Pro Day in the Statesman, fullback Dan Paul is emerging as a Richie Brockel-type darkhorse after posting solid numbers for NFL scouts. Heck, maybe Paul’s amazing 37½-inch vertical leap on a 262-pound frame will get him drafted. He’s as healthy as he’s been since a groin injury shelved him just before the 2011 season. Paul’s Bronco predecessor, Brockel, made Carolina’s roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and is poised to stick with the Panthers for a third straight season. Mike Atkinson didn’t run the 40-yard dash after all—scouts told him he didn’t have to—but he was stellar in the bench press. D.J. Harper improved on his NFL Combine numbers and received kudos from scouts in attendance, enhancing his chances of going late in the draft next month.
Idaho Steelheads goalie Josh Robinson is hoping to bounce back from a rare off-night this evening as he faces Ontario in the second of a three-game series. Robinson allowed four goals Wednesday night in a 5-3 loss to the Reign (Ontario’s final goal was an empty-netter). He was coming off one of his best games of the season, the 2-0 blanking of Alaska in Anchorage last Saturday. Robinson is still second in the ECHL in save percentage at .925 and second in wins with 26. By the way, single-game tickets for the Kelly Cup Playoffs go on sale today. The Steelheads’ first round opponent is to be determined, but they know they’ll open at home in CenturyLink Arena April 3 and 4.
The scheduling gods were out of sorts when they put this weekend together in the D-League. The Idaho Stampede play at Santa Cruz tonight, head up to Reno tomorrow night, and go right back to Santa Cruz for a Monday night game. The Stampede have only eight games left in the season and were just officially eliminated from the postseason last night, but they have a chance to play spoiler tonight. The Warriors are a game and a half behind first-place Bakersfield in the D-League West Division and are trying to wedge their way into a higher seed in the playoffs. By the way, the Stamps are back in a tie for last place, as Reno edged the L.A. D-Fenders last night, 98-97.
In men’s tennis, Boise State’s SpringHill Suites Invitational begins today at the Appleton Center and/or the Boas Bubbles, featuring six teams. The Broncos don’t play until tomorrow, when they face Marquette in the morning and Idaho in the afternoon. Hopefully coach Greg Patton is back to normal (whatever that is) after the nailbiting title last weekend at the Blue-Gray Classic in Montgomery, AL. “Good thing I eat blueberries daily and run like an antelope for I would have had heart failure,” Patton said.
Other campus notes: three Boise State wrestlers have advanced to this morning’s quarterfinals at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Des Moines, IA. Jason Chamberlain at 149 pounds, George Ivanov at 157, and J.T. Felix at 285 are all one victory away from All-America status. And the Boise State women’s gymnastics team heads for the WAC Championships tomorrow in Cedar City, UT. The Broncos, ranked 24th in the country, hope to outdistance the favorite, 13th-ranked Denver.
Graham DeLaet’s streak of playing four straight weekends on the PGA Tour may come to an end today at the Sony Open in Miami. DeLaet struggled to a four-over 76 in the first round yesterday, accented by a double-bogey on a par-three hole and a triple-bogey on a par-four. The former Boise State star topped the $500,000 mark for the season last week with a 17th-place finish at the Tampa Bay Championship.
This Day In Sports…March 22, 1958:
Kentucky defeats Seattle University 84-72 to win the championship game at the NCAA Tournament. Seattle was led by Elgin Baylor, who poured in 25 points and was the Tournament’s top scorer. He also had 19 rebounds in the title game. Baylor had transferred to Seattle after starting his collegiate career at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.
(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.)