LAS VEGAS — The Boise State men’s basketball team has reached a milestone that would suggest they’re a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Broncos secured their 24th victory of the season in the most Vegas-like way on Thursday. Despite building a 22-point first half lead, the game still had an uneasy feel, like you were trying to hit the final game of a 10-leg parlay.
The live line for the game had Boise State at -1000, basically a 1-to-10 favorite to win. That’s why UNLV got on a heater though, as it felt the bright lights of Las Vegas were going to steal the electric feeling of high-rolling hope from another visitor’s soul (again).
“That game was, wow. The swings that you saw in that game were tremendous,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “You know, we couldn't completely shake them. You can't beat a team like that in the first half on their home court.”
Somehow the Broncos found a way to cash their winning ticket though, using five extra minutes of basketball to push the over and cover the spread.
“Credit to our guys for their resiliency and their toughness to be able to get that done, because a lot of teams couldn't do that under those circumstances," Rice said.
So, back to the significance of win No. 24.
The Broncos have only hit that total four other times in program history, and each time they did it resulted in a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Big Sky Conference Commissioner Tom Wistrcill certainly admires Boise State’s body of work.
“When they’re healthy, they’re a dangerous ball club,” Wistrcill told KTVB prior to the Big Sky Tournament in Boise.
Why does his opinion matter?
Wistrcill was recently selected to serve on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. After nearly three decades of watching and waiting, a seat at the table finally opened.
“Being on the selection committee has been a career goal of mine for almost 30 years, as long as I’ve been in this business,” Wistrcill said. “If you’re a basketball nut like I am, like you are, it’s pretty cool.”
Wistrcill is one of 12 members on the committee, but his opinion might be the most important. One of his specific tasks has been monitoring teams in the Mountain West this year, with the goal of educating his 11 counterparts on Selection Sunday.
“I’ve been watching more Mountain West basketball [this year that any other]. I know their rosters, I know what coaches are doing in situations, I know who’s been injured, who’s not," Wistrcill said. “To me, this is the best I’ve ever seen the Mountain West. I think the top of the league is as good as it’s ever been.”
So, what about Boise State at-large hopes?
Wistrcill explained that all 12 committee members have a particular style of crafting their opinion, which ranges from the NET rankings to a simple human-eye test. Wistrcill has his only thoughtful – and complicated – process, but he did mention one strength he’ll emphasize.
“What I like about [Boise State], first of all, I think they’re really strong defensively. That’s what keeps you in games in the NCAA Tournament. You’re not always going to shoot it well,” Wistrcill said. “But defensively, you can stop people, and I think that’s a big deal when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.”
Following Thursday’s game, defense might be a little bit of a sore subject, but overall, the Broncos have locked down opponents this season. They sit at No. 17 in KenPom’s adjected defensive metric (AdjD), and still rank No. 1 in the Mountain West, limiting opponents to just 63.1 points per game.
When the 12 committee members gather in Indianapolis to set the Field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament this week, those are numbers that Wistrcill will be highlighting.
“If things play out the right way and they’re in the tournament, they’re going to be a helluva matchup for someone," Wistrcill said.
THE BRONCO ROUNDUP
All season long, this is normally where I break down Boise State’s opponents in 'The NET Effect,' using the NET rankings to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of their NCAA Tournament resume.
Now that we are this far into the process, I don’t know how much it matters anymore, because the human-element is about to take over.
What I mean by that, is the Broncos now look like a lock to get a postseason invite. What seed-line they land on is anyone’s guess though.
A look the Broncos' slate of upcoming games:
- Friday, March 10 – vs Utah State (NET18)
- Saturday, March 11* – vs San Diego State (NET16) or San Jose State (NET92)
*Boise State must beat Utah State on Friday to advance to the Mountain West Championship Game.
The Broncos have three significant wins over San Diego State, Utah State and Texas A&M. Meanwhile, it's difficult to really criticizes their losses, as they haven’t dropped a game to a team ranked lower than No. 154 in the NET rankings.
Wins by Quadrant:
- Q1 (3): vs Texas A&M*, vs Utah State, vs San Diego State
- Q2 (9): vs Washington State*, vs Utah Valley, vs Colorado*, at Saint Louis, at UNLV, vs Nevada, at Colorado State, vs New Mexico, at UNLV
- Q3 (6): vs SJSU, at Wyoming, vs Fresno State, vs Colorado State, vs Air Force, vs UNLV
- Q4 (5): vs Loyola Chicago*, vs CSUN, vs New Orleans, vs Oakland, vs Wyoming
Losses by Quadrant:
- Q1 (4): at Nevada, at New Mexico, at SDSU, at Utah State
- Q2 (2): at Santa Clara, at SJSU
- Q3 (2): vs South Dakota State, vs Charlotte*
- Q4: None
*Played at neutral site
Boise State and Utah State meet in the Mountain West Tournament semifinals at 10 p.m. MT Friday inside the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.
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