PORTLAND, Ore. — The time has come for the Boise State men's basketball team to showcase its gritty talent and historic 2021-2022 run on the national stage. As the regular season and a chaotic weekend of conference tournaments come to a close, basketball fans are rebounding in preparation for March Madness.
Head coach Leon Rice and the Broncos (27-7, 15-3) left Boise Tuesday afternoon -- less than 48 hours after returning from Las Vegas -- on their way to Portland for the Big Dance.
The NCAA Tournament West region's No. 8 seed Broncos tip off Thursday at 11:45 a.m. MT against the No. 9 seed Memphis Tigers. The first-round matchup will be televised on TNT.
Boise State rides into Portland as one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Broncos have won 24 of their last 27 games, including a Mountain West regular season title and conference tournament win over San Diego State on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Memphis has won 12 of its last 14 games since Jan. 23. During the American Athletic Conference Tournament (AAC) in Fort Worth, Texas, the Tigers earned wins over UCF and SMU, before falling to top-seeded Houston 71-53 on Sunday.
Prior to the AAC Tournament, Memphis (21-10, 13-5) won both of its matchups with Houston, taking down the Cougars 69-59 on Feb. 12 in Houston and 75-61 on March 6 in Houston.
When Memphis put together the pair of upset wins, Houston was ranked No. 6 and No. 14 in the country, respectively. The Tigers also snapped the Cougars' 37-game home winning streak.
The winner of Thursday's matchup between Boise State and Memphis advances to the round of 32 on Saturday to face the winner of No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 16 Georgia State.
Despite a tough draw in the bracket, a Boise State win would likely set up Rice's first matchup with Gonzaga since he left Spokane for Boise in 2010 after 11 seasons under head coach Mark Few.
Memphis has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2014, but the program is familiar with the big dance. The Tigers' 2022 trip marks their 27th appearance in the tournament and Memphis advanced to the round of 32 as a No. 8 seed in 2014.
Boise State and Memphis also met one another in the postseason less than a year ago. The Tigers took down the Broncos 59-56 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) on March 25, 2021, before the Tigers eventually won the NIT.
Both teams enter Thursday's contest with their respective conference's Freshman of the Year. Jalen Duran won the award for the AAC, while Boise State's Tyson Degenhart took home the same hardware for the Mountain West Conference.
Boise State head coach Leon Rice, Abu Kigab and Emmanuel Akot spoke with the media Wednesday in Portland about the Broncos' matchup with the Tigers. The full press conference can be viewed here:
Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway and the Tigers also spoke with the media Wednesday about the matchup with Boise State. The full Memphis press conference can be viewed below:
As they have done all year, Boise State could erase history on Thursday by winning the Broncos' first NCAA Tournament game in program history. Boise State is 0-7 all-time in March Madness, including losses in 2013 and 2015 after earning at-large bids under Rice.
The Broncos also won both the Mountain West regular season crown and the Mountain West Tournament in 2022. The last time Boise State's men's basketball team won both titles in a single season was 1988, when the Broncos were a member of the Big Sky Conference.
The red-hot Tigers rank sixth in the nation averaging 5.8 blocks per game and 20th in the country with 8.9 steals per game, a testament to Rice's comment on the way Memphis plays on top of opponents at their own pace.
Memphis also averages 16.1 assists per game (22nd nationally) and 34.7 rebounds per contest (51st nationally).
Boise State is led by do-it-all senior Abu Kigab, who averages a team-high 14.7 points per game, as well as 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
ESPN's Basketball Power Index gives Memphis a 60.3% chance of defeating the Broncos on Thursday.
Boise State (27-7, 15-3 MW) vs. Memphis (21-10, 13-5 AAC)
- Thursday, March 17
- Moda Center, Portland Ore.
- Capacity: 19,980
- Tip off: 11:45 a.m. MT
- Channel: TNT
The game tips off at 11:45 a.m. MT Thursday and will be televised on TNT, which can be found on the following channels:
- Sparklight: 185
- DirecTV: 245
- Dish Network: 138
- Cox: Channel 27
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAMEDAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live on KTVB Channel 7 and KTVB.COM from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. MT Thursday. Join Jay Tust and Will Hall for a look at all of the major storylines surrounding this matchup.
Stay tuned to KTVB.COM after the game for a game recap, highlights, and slideshow from the game. Also tune into KTVB's News at 4 on Thursday for additional coverage from Boise State's opening-round game against Memphis.
WEDNESDAY PODIUM INTERVIEWS
Tune into KTVB.com Wednesday to watch live interviews from Portland, including players and coaches from both Memphis and Boise State a day prior to the big game.
Boise State and Memphis have only met one time in program history, but are no unfamiliar foes. The Tigers defeated Boise State 59-56 on March 25, 2021 in the first round of last year's NIT bracket in Denton, Texas.
In 2022, the Tigers are 3-2 in neutral-site games. The Broncos are 6-1 this season in games played at neutral locations, largely in part to three wins in Las Vegas last week at the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
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