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“The biggest game of their season”

“The biggest game of their season”

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on March 13, 2013 at 7:33 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 13 at 2:15 PM

Wednesday, March 13, 2013.

If Boise State plays well tonight, there’ll be a pretty influential mouthpiece in Las Vegas to witness it.  CBS Sports Radio personality and respected analyst Doug Gottlieb will be calling the Broncos’ Mountain West Tournament quarterfinal matchup against San Diego State tonight—late tonight—on the CBS Sports Network.  Gottlieb was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and said while he feels Boise State should be in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large pick, it’s not a sure thing.  “The Broncos are in really good shape if they win one (in Vegas)—they’re a lock if they win two,” said Gottlieb.  A second game would likely be against New Mexico.  It’s a nerve-racking week.  As Gottlieb said, tonight is “the biggest game of (the Broncos’) season.”

The best resume comparison Gottlieb made was Boise State versus Saint Mary’s, who many just assume is assured a spot in the Dance.  He noted that the Gaels best win was over Creighton at home in the BracketBuster—the Broncos beat Creighton on the road when the Blue Jays were ranked No. 11.  Saint Mary’s worst loss was to Pacific; Boise State’s was at Utah.  “Boise State is more deserving than Saint Mary’s. even if the Broncos lose (tonight),” said Gottlieb.  But oh that Selection Committee…

The truth is, San Diego State did not play up to its potential last Saturday at Taco Bell Arena.  Now, the Aztecs say, it’s serious.  SDSU has won either the Mountain West regular season or tournament title three straight years. And the Aztecs have advanced to four straight MW tournament championship games.  Their tournament record since 2009 is 10-2.  Reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin may have had 15 points and 13 rebounds in Boise, but he didn’t dazzle like he normally does.  And the Aztecs’ shooting was horrific.  Chase Tapley isn’t likely to go 1-of-7 from three-point range again.  On the other hand, is Boise State’s Jeff Elorriaga likely to be a non-factor on offense again?  Are the Broncos’ two big men, Ryan Watkins and Kenny Buckner, going to combine for only three points like they did last Saturday? 

San Diego State is unfazed by its recent struggles.  It has hit just 11-of-56 three-pointers over the last three games.  Trend or aberration?  After all, Boise State helped with that dreadful stat.  But it seems no one in San Diego, from Montezuma Mesa to the city’s major daily newspaper, feels the Broncos can do it again.  Writes Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune: “The Aztecs will play this good-but-not-great Boise team again on Wednesday on a neutral court in a game that matters.  Considering their numerous gaffes and shortcomings on Saturday did not prevent them from making it a game, even marginally better execution should be enough to win Wednesday’s fourth-versus-fifth-place contest and move on.”

Las Vegas is one crazy hoops haven right now.  The West Coast Conference Tournament just wrapped up in Orleans Arena, and the WAC Men's Tournament takes over that facility tomorrow, with Idaho facing New Mexico State at 1 p.m.  The Aggies would seem to be a heavy favorite, until you consider the Vandals lost by just two points to NMSU in Las Cruces this season and just one at the Cowan Spectrum.  The Pac-12 Tournament also begins today in Vegas at the MGM Grand.

As stable as the quarterback position at Boise State is now, the populace still wants to know about it.  At his first spring football press conference yesterday, coach Chris Petersen said he’s just looking for progress at QB.  “I don’t know if we really need a pecking order,” said Petersen.  “The bottom line is, in spring football we tell our guys,’Don’t get hung up on this depth chart.’  Just get better.”  In other words, sports fans, don’t get hung up on whether Nick Patti is the No. 2 quarterback come mid-April.  “Just focus in—you have time here,” Petersen said.

Petersen would never anoint Joe Southwick as a lock as starting quarterback.  But it’s clear the job is his right now after a strong finish last season.  Nothing’s changed in the offseason, save for Southwick bulking up to 202 pounds.  “Joe’s in a great groove right now,” said Petersen.  “He’s confident—he knows he got better as the season went on.”  Southwick finished 38th in the nation last season in pass efficiency with a rating of 141.8, but his number over the last four games of the year—when he threw for 888 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions—was 162.2.  “If he can take that next little step, he’s going to play at a very high level,” Petersen added.  “I know he can do it.”

They can’t all be marquee games, but there’s nothing wrong with balancing the schedule via an intersectional matchup against a mid-major that’s been good a lot more than bad.  Boise State has added Troy to its slate in a home-and-home to be played in 2017 and 2018.  The Trojans come to the blue turf the first year, with the Broncos visiting the Alabama school the season after.  It’s kind of akin to the series with Toledo or Tulsa.  Troy coach Larry Blakeney may not be there four years from now, but he’s going into his 23rd season with the Trojans.  Blakeney’s record is 169-98-1, with 15 winning seasons and six 10-win campaigns.

Nevada has a new athletic director, replacing the retiring Cary Groth.  It’s Doug Knuth, who has been associate athletic director for external affairs at Utah since 2005.  Knuth’s assignment is to repair fractured facilities and fractured relationships with fans.  A column by Dan Hinxman in the Reno Gazette-Journal says what goes on inside those facilities is going to be a challenging issue.  Addressing Knuth, Hinxman writes, “You’ll be an instant hit if you can figure this out.  How do you please a fan base when some fans say they won’t go to football games anymore if Nevada stops selling beer and another group of fans who say they won’t go until Nevada stops selling beer?  It is your round-peg, square-hole conundrum.”

Whoa nelly, there’s been another AHL callup from the Idaho Steelheads.  Defenseman Patrick Cullity will be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, rather than in Anchorage as the Steelheads open a three-game series in the Alaska Aces’ barn tonight.  Cullity has 13 minutes and 30 penalty minutes in 37 games with the Steelies.  Idaho does get rookie defenseman John Ryder back, though.  Ryder has been out almost 2½ months—he has a plus/minus rating of plus-7 in 19 games this season.  As for this week’s matchup, the Aces are in control of the ECHL Mountain Division, leading the second-place Steelheads by 13 points.  The Steelies would like to remind Alaska that they’re still around.

The Idaho Stampede find out how they stack up against one of the D-League’s best tonight when Rio Grande Valley comes into CenturyLink Arena.  The Vipers, a Houston Rockets affiliate, lead the Central Division by two games with a 24-14 record and carry a three-game winning streak.  The Stampede have won three of their last four games and, thanks to Reno’s 110-103 loss at Santa Cruz last night, have climbed out of last place in the West Division for the first time this season.

This Day In Sports…March 13, 1991:

Sophomore center Tanoka Beard sets a Boise State school record by going a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in a 75-74 loss to Southern Illinois in the first round of the NIT.  It was an otherwise gut-wrenching night for BSU.  The Broncos led the entire way in the Pavilion—until the final shot of the night, when the Salukis took their only lead and won the game.  Beard went on to become BSU’s all-time leading scorer two years later.

(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.)