BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday Weekly: March 8, 2023.
A year ago, Boise State’s Tyson Degenhart was Mountain West Freshman of the Year. This season he’d be Sophomore of the Year, if there was such a thing. Degenhart is the only sophomore on the official All-Mountain West first-team released Tuesday by the conference. While he’s been a steadying force for the Broncos all season, Degenhart really stepped up his game in conference play, where he has averaged 15.1 points per game while shooting better than 59 percent from the field. And he’s done this while taking one for the team. With no Mladen Armus this season, and no reliable replacement for him, Degenhart has often been assigned to the opponent’s big man on defense.
Degenhart was a prized recruit coming out of Spokane in 2021, but he was a minimum minutes guy at the beginning of last season. Then he was inserted into the starting lineup in late November, Devonaire Doutrive was dismissed from the team, and Boise State has gone 48-13 since. And how about Max Rice making second-team All-Mountain West? Rice has gone from the generally unheralded coach’s son out of Bishop Kelly to legit all-conference honors. Marcus Shaver Jr., despite battling injuries all season, made enough of a dent in opposing coaches’ minds to be named a third-teamer.
MW TOURNAMENT: TEST OF ENDURANCE?
Well, we can’t go into Thursday night’s Mountain West quarterfinal without talking about stamina. This will be Boise State’s 32nd game of the season — how are the Broncos’ legs doing? Are they fine, based on the comeback at Utah State last Saturday that whittled the Aggies’ 20-point lead down to six? Or do we look at the final two-plus minutes when Boise State wore down? It’s well-documented that the Broncos haven’t gotten what they expected out of their bench this season. Jace Whiting and Lukas Milner have had their moments. Pavle Kuzmanovic hasn’t played the past three games. The guy who could use a step-up in Las Vegas is Kobe Young, who had an air ball jumper, a foul and a turnover in rapid succession in less than two minutes down in Logan. Young has shown tremendous potential this winter, though.
SHORING UP THE DEFENSIVE END
More concerning to Boise State than the Utah State loss is how the Broncos let down defensively last Saturday night. The 86 points the Aggies scored were the most the Broncos have surrendered all season — by five. And USU put up 47 points in the first half. The Aggies’ hot hand was one thing, as they shot 62 percent in the first half and 57 for the game. But Boise State was a step slow in transition, on back cuts, and on open looks from three-point land. Uncharacteristic. The Broncos bounced back from their San Jose State rebounding meltdown impressively against San Diego State last week. And, in fact, they did outrebound Utah State. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time too often on the defensive end down in Logan. Boise State is counting on a bounce-back from that Thursday night in Las Vegas.
THE BUBBLE ALWAYS LURKS
I’ve talked about this before, but all season for Boise State basketball it’s been Quad this and NET rankings that. The Broncos are No. 27 going into the tournament. They’re supposed to be okay come Selection Sunday. But we’ve also heard “eyeball test” from the NCAA Tournament selection committee in the past. It kind of uses that to diss the non-power conferences. Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net pointed this out going into the last weekend as the NET rankings had San Diego State at No. 17, Utah State at 22, Boise State at 27 and Nevada at 34: “The MW is 2-13 in its last 15 NCAA Tournament games and combined for just three Quad 1 non-conference wins this season. I know previous history and conference affiliations aren't supposed to matter, but…” A win or two could still loom large.
THE NATIONALS ARE UNDERWAY
College of Idaho got everything it wanted from Westcliff of California Tuesday night. The Coyotes finally got separation late and won 78-61 in the first round of the NAIA Championships in Caldwell. It was the Yotes’ 31st consecutive victory and their seventh straight in NAIA first-round games. They advance tonight to face Xavier of Louisiana in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. There’s excitement on the other side of Canyon County, too, as Northwest Nazarene preps for the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Nighthawks, upset winners of the GNAC tournament, take on Point Loma in the opening round Friday night in San Diego.
TWO TICKETS TO BE PUNCHED IN BOISE
There is no shortage of March Madness in the valley tonight. Two Big Sky teams are about to move on to the NCAA Tournament out of Boise. The women’s championship game is this afternoon at 3:00 between Northern Arizona and Sacramento State in Idaho Central Arena. The men’s championship will be Big Sky After Dark — 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2 — and it features one of those March Cinderellas. Northern Arizona is 12-22 after upsetting Montana 83-71 Tuesday night. The Lumberjacks will face Montana State, a 62-60 double-overtime winner over Weber State in the other semifinal. If NAU wins tonight, it'll advance with one of the worst season records in the history of the Big Dance.
WRITE DOWN ‘PRINCE STRACHAN’
We’re at the end of Week 1 of Boise State spring football. I don’t know what you’re most curious about, but I’m watching the wide receivers — one in particular. At practice over the weekend, I was trying to figure out who No. 17 was. He wasn’t on the roster as such, as they had switched some numbers around last week. The guy had to be at least 6-4. Then I was told it was Prince Strachan. “That’s Prince Strachan?” I asked. The grayshirt from Ft. Pierce, Florida, originally from the Bahamas? He’s actually 6-5, 181 pounds. Maybe Strachan redshirts this year, especially to put weight on — and to gain experience, since this is only the fifth year he’s played football. But you can’t help but visualize Taylen Green throwing jump balls to him. Talk about upside. If Strachan does redshirt, he’ll be a senior in 2027.
MORE THAN FIVE YEARS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM
One other thing I noticed at practice: tight end Riley Smith looks bigger. The sixth-year senior is listed at 6-5, 245 pounds and appears ready to go out in a blaze of glory. After a quiet 2021, Smith made 25 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown last year. Hard to believe he arrived on campus back in the summer of 2018 as a 6-4, 206-pound quarterback. (He’s the guy who ended up as the Broncos’ QB recruit in that year’s class after Zach Wilson reneged on his commitment and went to BYU). Here’s one curious career stat: Smith has never thrown a regular-season pass. He was 4-of-8 for 57 yards in Boise State’s 2019 Spring Game before switching to tight end. Attention, Bush Hamdan.
STEELIES’ EARLY CLINCH IS IMMINENT
Just a week into March, the Idaho Steelheads need just one more point to clinch the ECHL Mountain Division title, and they can get it Friday night when they host Allen in ExtraMile Arena. To put that into perspective, there are 17 games left before the Kelly Cup Playoffs begin. It’s been that kind of a season for the Steelheads, who are 43-9-3. Even when they are challenged, they just know how to win. Take their last game, for example. On the road, the Steelies trailed Kansas City 2-0 early in the third period when they got rapid-fire goals from Zane Franklin and Justin Ducharme to tie the game. Goaltender Adam Scheel took over from there, keeping the Mavericks’ sticks quiet all the way into a shootout, where Idaho won 3-2.
STING RAY ROBB RALLIES
Payette driver Sting Ray Robb made his IndyCar Series debut last weekend in the Streets of St. Petersburg event in Florida, and on the very first lap he was involved in a massive crash. With cars spinning ahead of him, he managed to avoid most of the chaos, but he did sustain some damage to his car. Undeterred, Robb came back to finish 16th in the 100-lap race. That’s sayin’ something for a guy who started in the back of the field in the No. 23 position.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…March 8, 2014:
Capital High completes the first undefeated season in Idaho 5A basketball in 19 years, beating two-time defending champion Borah 63-53 in the state title game to finish 26-0. The Eagles, coached by Paul Rush, were only the fourth unbeaten big-school squad since Idaho divided high schools into more than two classifications for the first time in 1958. Centennial had been the last to accomplish the feat in 1995. Capital had the other two unblemished seasons in 1975 and 1978, bookending the four straight state championships it won under Charlie Henry.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)
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