SCOTT SLANT: Broncos try to avoid a Saturday snorefest

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Friday, January 11, 2019.

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is seven miles away from San Jose State’s Event Center as the crow flies, but the atmospheres at the two facilities are worlds apart. By Bay Area college football standards, the environment at the CFP national championship game Monday night was electric. The point is, the energy level will be zero tomorrow afternoon when the Boise State men’s basketball team takes on the Spartans in the downtown multi-purpose arena. It’s imperative that the Broncos create their own zing in a 5,000-seat facility that averages only 1,428 fans per game. If Boise State plays down to the quiet of the place, all bets are off in this one.

San Jose State is 3-11 and lost by 39 points at Nevada Wednesday night. A 3-0 start in the Mountain West should be a layup for Boise State, right? Only if the Broncos have their steely edge. Three Boise State teams—some good ones—have gone into the Spartans’ sleepy building and come away with damaging losses, none more so than the 2015-16 crew that featured James Webb III and Anthony Drmic and lost 68-63 to SJSU. It was in March, and the hangover resulted in a quarterfinal loss five days later in the Mountain West Tournament. The Broncos need leadership to avoid that kind of scenario. I spent some quality time on that subject in yesterday’s column. This’ll actually be a good test for Derrick Alston.

UP THE BAY, A BIG GAME FOR HUTCH

Chandler Hutchison’s playing time with Chicago has increased measurably since one-time Idaho Stampede guard Justin Holliday was traded away to Memphis a week ago. Now coach Jim Boylen’s faith in Hutchison will be tested, as the Bulls face the mighty Golden State Warriors tonight in Oracle Arena. Hutchison started and logged 30 minutes Wednesday night, scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds in a 124-112 loss at Portland. The Bulls were plus-5 with the former Boise State star on the court. Hutchison’s floor time was already trending up before the Holiday trade. He’s averaged almost 23 minutes and 7.0 points per game over the past five games, compared to 17 minutes and 3.0 points per game in his previous five outings.

Hutchison’s lack of scoring has not made him a favorite in fantasy leagues, but his defense has been solid. A tweet last week from the Bulls shows why Boylen likes having him on the floor. “Hutch has got such a good spirit,” said Boylen. “I think to be a good NBA player, you’ve got to have a good spirit. His spirit is so positive. Shaq too is the same way. His spirit is so good. These guys bring a lot of life and energy to your locker room.” Glad to hear that still counts.

HOLANI: AN END ZONE REGULAR

Um, has anyone found any stats from the eighth annual Polynesian All-American Bowl last Saturday in Bellflower, CA? I’ve been lookin’. But the good news for Boise State is that incoming Bronco true freshman running back George Holani reportedly came up big. Blair Angulo of 247 Sports wrote that Holani was “the top performer” in the high school all-star game, scoring a “handful of touchdowns” while showcasing his “tackle-breaking ability.” With Alexander Mattison NFL Draft-bound, the four-star recruit from St. John Bosco High should be very much in the mix at Boise State in fall camp.

MILES CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF VANDER ESCH

Durrant Miles, now a former Boise State defensive lineman, is in Dallas this week for the College Gridiron Showcase, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram couldn’t resist asking him about his former teammate, Cowboys phenom Leighton Vander Esch. “It was great having him behind us because it made things a lot easier up front, ‘cause (defenses) were so worried about him,” Miles said. “It was awesome. Every day was fun with him—just the drive he has and the passion he has for the game.” That sums it up nicely. Vander Esch and company (meaning DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford and Darian Thompson and quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore, of course), are upset-minded guys going into the NFC Divisional Playoffs against the Rams Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum.

WHERE IS JACK CAMPBELL NOW?

The Idaho Steelheads continue their three-game series versus Toledo tonight and Saturday night in CenturyLink Arena. A Steelheads release noted that goalie Tomas Sholl has played enough games to officially qualify for Idaho’s all-time ECHL era records and now sits with the best career goals-against average at 1.66, bettering Jack Campbell’s mark of 1.70 set from 2014-16. Which gives us a “where is he now” opportunity with Campbell. The 27-year-old netminder was traded from the Dallas organization to the L.A. Kings in 2016, and now he’s splitting time with Jonathan Quick between the pipes for the Kings. Campbell is 5-9-0 this season with a 2.21 goals-against average and a save percentage of 93.0.

On the campus cruise, the Northwest Nazarene men downed Western Washington 82-74 last night in Nampa behind 34 points from Adonis Arms. The College of Idaho men hit the road for two tough ones—tonight at nationally-ranked Warner Pacific and Saturday at Multnomah, the highest-scoring team in the NAIA. The Boise State women look for a 3-0 Mountain West start when they host San Jose State Saturday in Taco Bell Arena (that’s a quick turn from tonight’s Elton John concert). And Boise State gymnastics, ranked 16th in the WCGA preseason poll, opens the season by hosting Air Force and San Jose State Sunday. The Broncos return five all-league performers from last year’s Mountain Rim Conference championship squad, including Shani Remme, the two-time conference Gymnast of the Year.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

January 11, 2014, five years ago today: New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is dealt the most severe punishment in the history of Major League Baseball’s drug agreement. An arbitrator handed down a 162-game suspension without pay encompassing the entire 2014 season, playoffs included. The evidence that Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs and twice tried to obstruct MLB’s drug investigation into the now-closed Biogenesis clinic in Florida finally did him in. Once thought to be a lock to surpass the similarly-tainted Barry Bonds’ career home run record of 762, Rodriguez ended up at 696.

(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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