BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday Weekly: March 22, 2023.
Yes, Boise State is a record 0-9 now in the NCAA Tournament. But this is not a time to change direction in men’s basketball. Two Big Dances in a row? And a Mountain West regular season and tournament championship last year? The Broncos understandably want to build on that, and the athletic department is committing unprecedented resources. That affects recruiting, and I for one can’t wait to watch Andrew Meadow, with the “Slapshot” look and the skills that far exceed that, and Chris Lockett Jr., the Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana who picked Boise State over a laundry list of Power 5 schools. There’s momentum in the stands, too, after a season announced average of 8,931 fans per game. The Broncos have the most stable and sustainable hoops program in the Mountain West outside of San Diego State.
IF ONLY THE SOLUTION WAS IN-HOUSE
In a perfect world, this lack of depth that plagued Boise State this season would be solved from within. Sada NgaNga and/or Kobe Young would pair with Jace Whiting at guard, with two of them coming off the bench. But NgaNga, one of the highest-rated recruits in school history, has not yet emerged, logging only 11 minutes total in Mountain West play and appearing in not one of the team’s final eight games of the season. Mo Sylla would take care of the huge gap in the post that had to be filled mostly by Tyson Degenhart this season on the defensive end. But Sylla played less than a minute in Boise State’s final eight games. R.J. Keene, who missed the season with a knee injury, would become the right-handed Justinian Jessup that some people envision. But yeah, the transfer portal is going to come into play.
THE SECOND ROUND IN SACRAMENTO
After the 75-67 Boise State loss to Northwestern, I stayed in Sacramento for the Saturday games. And sitting in the Missouri section with Mark Johnson was interesting, to say the least. The rest of Capital One Center was pulling for Princeton, and after the first few minutes it wasn’t close in the Ivy League Tigers’ 78-63 victory. Then, the Northwestern game against UCLA was much like Boise State’s versus the Wildcats. Northwestern always seemed to be six to eight points down and lost 68-63. The Wildcats tied the game in the second half…once. Just like the Broncos in the Thursday game. I think a bunch more Northwestern fans found their way to California after the win over Boise State. Impressive turnout by the people in purple. But make no mistake — the arena was dominated by Bruins faithful. Nothin’ like the Big Dance.
ANOTHER BLOW FOR WYO
We’re in transfer portal season now, and it’s bound to affect Boise State, both outgoing and incoming. There’s been nothing yet. But how about Wyoming? The biggest shoe fell Tuesday when Graham Ike entered the portal. Ike was the Preseason Mountain West Player of the Year last fall but injured his foot just before the season started. He didn’t play at all, although he was a constant on the Cowboys bench. Now Ike, who averaged 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game a year ago, is on the market. By all accounts he’s the eighth Wyoming player to go into the portal, not counting the three transfers who were dismissed from the team during the season. How did this happen to coach Jeff Linder? The former Boise State assistant is well-respected, but now he has to add double-digit players to his roster.
BRONCOS TREAD LIGHTLY IN THE PORTAL
From “the transfer portal giveth” department, this is an enlightening tweet from Chris Murray of Nevada SportsNet: “A reminder Nevada fans shouldn't complain about the transfer portal, considering the last 12 Wolf Pack players to make All-Mountain West first, second or third team were Division I transfers. The last Nevada freshman recruit to make All-MW was D.J. Fenner in 2016-17.” The Broncos’ all-league players have been mostly home-grown. Of this year’s honorees, Tyson Degenhart and Max Rice were signed out of high school, while Marcus Shaver Jr. was an early transfer.
‘NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS’
If you don’t have anything to do tonight, here’s something for your calendar. You knew College of Idaho was going to host a celebration for its NAIA national championship. It’ll be in the form of a “Night of Champions” at 7:30 p.m. in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center, a suitable salute for a team that lost its season opener and went on an unimaginable 36-game winning streak. The Yotes won their second national title in school history, with the first coming under legendary coach Marty Holly in 1996. It should be pointed out, though, that the first crown was in NAIA Division II. The NAIA combined all schools into one organization in 2021, so there’s something to be said for this championship being the big enchilada. Where does coach Colby Blaine go from here? Blaine’s a Boise guy who loves C of I, but wow.
In a season full of routs, the Coyotes had to win the title the hard way. Last Friday they won 72-71 over Ottawa University of Arizona, the only team to beat them this year. Then came the 73-71 triumph over Indiana Tech in the final. Leading by as many as 23 points with 17 minutes to go, the Yotes saw the Warriors whittle away until they got it to one point with 12 seconds left. A 36-1 season and the “red banner.” Just incredible.
LOOK WHO THE AZTECS GET
At least there was one Mountain West team able to advance this year in the NCAA Tournament. If San Diego State advances Friday, it’ll be an all-time moment for the conference. The Aztecs have drawn No. 1 overall seed Alabama in the Sweet 16 in the South Regional in Louisville. The Crimson Tide has the contemptible Brandon Miller and all that, while SDSU has its renowned defense. The Aztecs are No. 5 in the country in defensive efficiency. Alabama is, well, No. 3. With that facet of the game even, Alabama’s proficient offense will probably be the difference in this one.
SO BUSH WAS A BACKUP – SO WHAT?
Spring break marks the halfway point of Boise State spring football, with drills resuming next week. That includes the installation of Bush Hamdan’s spin on the offense. While the reaction to Hamdan’s hiring as offensive coordinator has been overwhelmingly positive, it seems there are still those who can’t get past the fact the Broncos have entrusted its offense to a former backup quarterback. Well, that’s what Chris Petersen did when he picked Bryan Harsin to be his offensive coordinator 17 years ago. There are examples of this all over the place. In the NFL, Dallas fans couldn’t fathom a backup QB becoming the Cowboys OC. (They’re going to miss Kellen Moore.) Playing careers have nothing to do with coaching careers in football. You know who was also a backup quarterback in college? Dirk Koetter at Idaho State.
PIERCE PLANS ON PRO DAY
Boise State’s NFL hopefuls will gather for Pro Day Monday, plying their wares in front of NFL personnel. One attendee we didn’t figure on is DeAndre Pierce, the former Broncos and Arizona State safety. Pierce played parts of four seasons at Boise State and two at Arizona State, taking advantage of a COVID year and a medical redshirt and finishing his college career in 2021. His dad Antonio, a former Pro Bowl linebacker with the New York Giants, coached him for a while at ASU — Antonio’s now the Las Vegas Raiders linebackers coach. DeAndre worked last season as a recruiting assistant for the Broncos. But he never stopped working out.
MATTISON AND MINNESOTA
It’s what they call the 2023 “New League Year” in the NFL, and Alexander Mattison and the Minnesota Vikings didn’t waste any time in getting a deal done late last week. The Vikings have signed the former Boise State standout to a two-year contract extension worth $7 million. Mattison will be going into his fifth season in Minnesota, where he’s primarily served as a backup to Dalvin Cook. But he has shined when he’s had the chance. In his NFL career, Mattison has rushed for 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 70 receptions for 526 yards and three touchdowns.
POIRIER PUTS ON AN NHL SWEATER
If Remi Poirier finds his way onto the ice for the Dallas Stars, he’ll be the fourth Idaho Steelheads goalie in history to appear in the NHL. Poirier has been called up from Texas of the AHL, but he’s a backup, and so he may or may not be between the pipes for Dallas. He’s had an incredible season: 19-2-2 with a 2.07 goals-against average and three shutouts for the Steelheads and 5-3-2 with Texas. The Steelies’ previous NHL goalies: Dan Ellis, Richard Bachman, Maxime Lagace, and Jack Campbell (who’s still active with the Edmonton Oilers). Poirier’s old teammates with Idaho are in Allen, Texas, for a three-game series against the Americans beginning tonight. If the Steelheads can take two of the three, they’ll hit 50 victories for the season.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…March 22, 2017:
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook becomes the first player in NBA history to record a “perfect triple-double” — registering double-digits in three different statistical categories without missing a shot. In the Thunder’s 122-97 win over Philadelphia, Westbrook had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, and he did so while making all six of his field-goal attempts and all six of his free throws. It was his 35th triple-double of the season as he chased Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old NBA single-season record of 41. Westbrook would finish the campaign with 42.
(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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