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Boise State basketball: The first fork in the road

Things are about to get real for Boise State men’s basketball. The Broncos have mostly feasted on underdogs since the day after Thanksgiving.
Credit: Boise State Athletics
Boise State’s Derrick Alston shoots a three-pointer over Fresno State’s Jordan Campbell, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in ExtraMile Arena. Boise State won 73-51.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

There are no givens from here on out for Boise State men’s basketball. Tonight represents a moment of truth for this team. The Broncos take a 13-game winning streak into Moby Arena against Colorado State. The Rams have changed some Mountain West perceptions this season. They were picked to finish fifth in the conference, but people perked up when CSU staged a furious rally to upset San Diego State in Viejas Arena on January 2. And for those who thought Boise State’s main concern was Utah State, the Rams knocked off the Aggies 84-76 last Thursday. That propelled Colorado State to No. 56 in the NCAA NET rankings, one of the key elements in determining the NCAA Tournament field (the Broncos are No. 15). A road victory over a team ranked in the top 75 qualifies as a Quadrant 1 win. Those are huge.

AROUND THE BLOCK

Boise State is only eighth in the Mountain West in blocked shots with 38. But that’s about normal for the Broncos. What’s not normal is, their opponents have only 28 blocks. How many times has Boise State logged more blocked shots than its foes? Not once since 2009-10, as it turns out. And there’s reason to believe it can get better. Mladen Armus has only eight blocked shots in 14 games this season. He’d have twice as many if there were no officials around (as in, Armus fouls a lot). Safe to say he’s working on his positioning, as a 6-10 load like Armus should have more. Abu Kigab leads the Broncos in blocks with 11, five of them coming at Wyoming a couple weeks back.

BOISE STATE’S YOUNG ‘UNS 

"The opportunity presented itself to be here and I couldn't possibly pass it up." That was new Boise State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, 39-year-old Kane Ioane Tuesday. And with that, Andy Avalos can finally gather an entire coaching staff together and get down to brass tacks. A lot has been made of the youthful nature of Avalos’ new Broncos staff. KTIK’s Prater & The Ballgame (Mike Prater and Johnny Mallory) did some math after KTVB’s Jay Tust told us the average age of the new group is 36.9 years. “Chris Petersen's first staff in 2006 was an average of four years younger than Avalos' first staff in 2021,” declared Mallory. Coach Pete’s first staff had another thing in common with this new one other than youth. It was smart, skilled and hungry.

BATES MEASURES UP

John Bates was listed at 6-6, 256 pounds this past season at BroncoSports.com. They weren’t kiddin’. Bates official measurements at Senior Bowl weigh-in: 6-5 5/8 and 259 pounds. Now, the remaining practices the next three days will be the key for Bates. That’s where the scouts do their evaluating, far more than in Saturday’s game, and he is already turning heads in Mobile. Bates will be on the National team, which is being coached by the Miami Dolphins staff. That includes former Boise State standout Gerald Alexander, the Dolphins defensive backs coach. Alexander will probably take Bates under his wing.

As for Alexander, he’s received high marks in his first year working with Miami’s DBs. He came over from Cal, where he built a formidable Bears secondary under Justin Wilcox. Alexander starred for four seasons at Boise State, ending his career with a memorable interception in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl before being drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions. He still bleeds blue. Alexander tweeted his take Tuesday on the new hires at Boise State, at his position in particular: “Andy putting together a helluva staff. Look forward to the scripture these men give to these players. Secondary should be solid with Kane (Ioane) & Jeron (Johnson) for the years to come!”

COLLEGE BASEBALL REVERTS

A year ago we were just weeks away from the new debut of the Boise State baseball team after a 40-year hiatus. There was a lot of excitement—until the season ended after just 14 games due to the coronavirus, and the program came crashing down for the same reason in July. So college baseball in the Treasure Valley is what it was, and College of Idaho is set to open the 2021 season today in Arizona versus Midland University at the Coach Calderone Invitational. The Coyotes will be there through Saturday, with three other opponents lined up. Northwest Nazarene hasn’t finalized its schedule yet.

ANY KIND OF ‘W’ WOULD DO

Gordy Presnell is still looking for his 700th career coaching victory, but that’s secondary for him right now. The Boise State women find themselves in the underdog role going into their series against Colorado State beginning this afternoon in ExtraMile Arena, and they’re just focused on getting a win. CSU is now in first place in the Mountain West, tied with Fresno State, the team that swept the Broncos last week. Boise State is one game behind. Presnell’s team will want to know where Colorado State’s Tori Williams is at all times. It’s a homecoming for the former Centennial High star, and she comes in scoring 13.8 points per game and shooting better than 41 percent from three-point range. Former Patriots teammate Lauren Brocke is also a Ram—she’s appeared in only four games this season.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…January 27, 1991, 30 years ago today:

The New York Giants win their second Super Bowl title in five years with a nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had a chance to win the game with only seconds remaining, but Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. Giants running back Ottis Anderson was MVP with 102 yards rushing and a touchdown. For Buffalo, it was the beginning of an infamous streak of four straight Super Bowl losses.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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