AWAY BSU FINAL SCORE CARD - vs TROY (2)

MIXED FEELINGS FOR THE TURNOVER THRONE, AND FIVE OTHER FIRST IMPRESSIONS FROM BOISE STATE’S 56-20 VICTORY OVER TROY

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

The Boise State football team shows off with one of the most dominant offensive openings to a regular season in school history.

Boise State’s defense … hold my beer.

Or, in this case, how do you like our Turnover Throne?

The No. 22 Broncos put on a two-sided display of dominance Saturday night, pounding Troy early and often for a 56-20 victory on a warm night in Alabama. It’s the most points Boise State has scored in an opener since 2007 (56-7, Weber State).

It was the 50th career win for coach Bryan Harsin, whose squad opens at home next Saturday night against UConn (0-1).

SIX FIRST IMPRESSIONS FROM SATURDAY’S VICTORY:

OFFENSE DOMINATES FIRST HALF: Quarterback Brett Rypien threw for 276 yards and four TDs in the first 30 minutes, including scoring strikes to breakout wide receiver Sean Modster (20 and 54 yards). Rypien finished with 305 yards, four TDs and even gained 21 yards on the ground.
– What it means: Mental confidence and momentum is so critical to Rypien, who now doesn’t have to worry about last year’s slow start when he didn’t even toss his first TD until October. With a bad UConn team coming to town, Rypien is poised for a monster start. He completed passes to eight different players, not including Octavius Evans (injured, dressed, didn’t play), star recruit Khalil Shakir (started but no catches) and tight ends Chase Blakley and John Bates (no catches). That gives him 12 targets for future use.

DEFENSE DOMINATES SECOND HALF: As the offense slowed after halftime – no reason for concern there, yet – the defense picked up the slack. Cornerback Tyler Horton added scoop-and-score TDs of 55 and 11 yards, becoming just the fifth player in FBS history to accomplish that in a game. The defense gave up 379 total yards, but held Troy runners to 2.8 yards per carry, picked up four turnovers and had five sacks.
– What it means: The defense is as good as advertised, with as many playmakers as anyone in college football. Wait until tackle David Moa returns (injured, dressed, didn’t play). UConn won’t reach 20 points next week.

THRONE REPLACES THE BELT: Boise State defensive players wore a WWE-style belt on the sideline after creating turnovers last season. This year, they get to sit in the Turnover Throne. The first in the Throne was Idaho transfer Tony Lashley, picture above, who intercepted a pass in the second quarter.
– What it means: The Belt was a better motivational tool because it promoted a championship warrior mentality. Players wore it proudly on the sideline until they went back into the game. The Throne is pretentious and awkward … “Hey, sit here and look at me for a few seconds.’’ Still, players embraced The Throne, which got a ton of social media love and national attention Saturday night. It even has its own Twitter account, created during the game. Hey, embrace the fun in an otherwise troubled world, right?

RUN GAME A CONCERN: The Broncos ran 29 times for 111 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Alexander Mattison had 56 yards and a TD.
– What it means: The overall run production was poor, and the line needs to be more aggressive and physical (pass protection was solid). No reason to panic – remember what happened last year: The run game started poorly and finished strong. And it’ll be just fine this season because Mattison will get stronger and the line will get better. That’s the Boise State way … 

SPECIAL TEAMS NEED SOME POLISH: The Broncos muffed a punt, missed a field goal, and Mountain West Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year Avery Williams (and starting cornerback) left the game with a bad elbow.
– What it means: The Broncos need to clean up mistakes before back-to-back road trips to Oklahoma State (Sept. 15) and Wyoming (Sept. 29). Sloppy special teams could cost the Broncos in their two biggest games of the season.

CHASE CORD MAKES DEBUT: The redshirt freshman quarterback made his debut late in the fourth quarter, didn’t attempt a pass, but ran for a nifty 44-yard touchdown.
– What it means: There will be no Montell Cozart moments this season. Cord is the clear No. 2, and obviously adds a second dimension from the pocket, which makes 2018 transfer Jaylon Henderson an unneeded commodity.

  

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

 

 


Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks

BOISE STATE & THE NFL: TWENTY FORMER BRONCOS IN THE LEAGUE – WHO’S STARTING AND WHO’S FIGHTING FOR JOBS?

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

The NFL’s 32 teams have wrapped up three weeks of OTAs, to be followed by June mini-camps and July training camps. There are 20 former Boise State football players on league rosters – here is their roster status going into the summer:

EXPECTED TO START THIS SEASON (10)

Jay Ajayi, Eagles, RB, No. 26 … This could be a workhorse season for Ajayi, who has become a leader in the running back room. He’s working with a personal chef, is in the best shape of his life, and is going into a contract year.
– Base salary for 2018: $1.907 million

Tyrone Crawford, Cowboys, DE, No. 98 … Crawford has dropped some weight in the offseason to increase his speed and improve sack production (an issue with Dallas fans).
– Base salary for 2018: $6 million  

George Iloka, Bengals, FS, No. 43 … The good news: Iloka has emerged as a team leader. The more pressing news: Iloka is the leader of a group that must create more interceptions (Bengals’ safeties had only three picks last season, including one by Iloka, who has nine in 83 career games).
– Base salary for 2018: $4.8 million

Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys, DE, No. 90 … The second-most productive sackmaster in 2017 is listed as the No. 34 best player in the league by the NFL Network. The franchise tag player with a one-year contract has been working with legendary former Cowboy Demarcus Ware – meaning production could rise in 2018.
– Base salary for 2018: $17.143 million   

Charles Leno, Bears, LT, No. 72 … Has played every snap for two years, quietly goes about his business and provides great value to an offense that is creating some buzz this offseason.
– Base salary for 2018: $4.9 million

Matt Paradis (Council HS), Broncos, C, No. 61 … He has started every game since 2015, allowed no sacks in 2017 and is finally healthy after two hip surgeries. Paradis also becomes a free agent in 2019, so this is a contract year.
– Base salary for 2018: $2.914 million

Orlando Scandrick, Redskins, CB, No. 26 … The former Cowboys star who was shipped out of Dallas after so many injury issues is battling Quinton Dunbar/Fabian Moreau for the right to start opposite Josh Norman.
– Base salary for 2018: $2.75 million

Jamar Taylor, Cardinals, CB, No. 28 … The offseason acquisition is the leading candidate to start opposite Patrick Peterson, but there’s also competition from Brandon Williams.
– Base salary for 2018: $975,000  

Darian Thompson, Giants, FS, No. 27 … The Giants have a lot of questions at the safety/defensive back positions, despite a lot of depth. Thompson has been inconsistent in the league, and is penciled in to start, but is also sharing practice rotations with at least three other players.
– Base salary for 2018: $705,000

Leighton Vander Esch (Salmon River HS), Cowboys, LB, No. 55 … The depth chart is a work in progress, but the trio of LVE, Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith give the Cowboys their strongest linebacker combo in years.
– Base salary for 2018: $480,000

SHOULD MAKE ROSTER (5)

Kamalei Correa, Ravens, LB, No. 51 … He’s versatile enough to play inside and outside, which helps him remain on the roster, but Correa remains mostly a depth and special teams contributor.
– Base salary for 2018: $972,694

Doug Martin, Raiders, RB, No. 28 … Martin was added to the Raiders’ roster to play behind Marshawn Lynch. He’s impressed teammates in the offseason with his fresh attitude and quick legs … and could turn into a starter if Beastmode goes down.
– Base salary for 2018: $850,000

Rees Odhiambo, Seahawks, OL, No. 70 …The offense has revamped a struggling line with new coaches and a new system. The former left tackle can play anywhere on the line, and could end up as a backup to new right guard D.J. Fluker.
– Base salary for 2018: $644,000

Tanner Vallejo, Bills, LB, No. 40 … Heads into training camp as a backup in the middle, behind new first-round draft pick Tremaine Edmunds. Could be the final linebacker to make the roster, and is expected to play a heavy rotation on special teams.
– Base salary for 2018: $555,000

Cedrick Wilson, Cowboys, WR, No. 16 … The sixth-round draft pick has created a quick name for himself – picking up the playbook and making plays in OTAs. The wide receiver battle in Dallas is intense, and Wilson looks to be one of eight players fighting for three roster spots.
– Base salary for 2018: $480,000

FIGHTING FOR JOBS (5)

Donte Deayon, Giants, CB, No. 38 … One of the smallest players in the league should make the roster – he’s a hard-worker and popular in the locker room – but the Giants’ have a ton of depth in the defensive backfield and Deayon has played in only four games in two seasons.
– Base salary for 2018: $555,000

Marcus Henry, Seahawks, C, No. 62 … He landed a roster spot after a free agent tryout – not an easy thing to do. He’s one of three centers on the roster, and is playing with house money at this point.
– Base salary for 2018: $480,000

Chanceller James, 49ers, S, No. 43 … Coming off an ACL injury and facing a deep roster – not a good combination.
– Base salary for 2018: $480,000

Jeremy McNichols, 49ers, RB, No. 33 … Buried deep on the depth chart – has an upside and can play on special teams. Practice squad candidate.
– Base salary for 2018: $550,000

Jonathan Moxey, Cardinals, CB, No. 25 … The defensive backfield in Arizona is loaded – a practice squad player at best.
– Base salary for 2018: $480,000

 

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

Photo of Demarcus Lawrence courtesy of Cumulus Digital / Getty Images
2018 base salary numbers from Spotrac.com

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers

BSU FOOTBALL: OUR NON-HALL OF FAME TEAM – THE BEST BRONCOS NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME, BY POSITION

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

Boise State is bringing its sports stars back to campus April 13 for the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 10 years. Two football players are being honored: Legendary quarterback Kellen Moore and offensive lineman Nate Potter. They will be the first football players inducted into the BSU Hall of Fame since quarterback Bart Hendricks made the Class of 2007.

Obviously, Boise State has produced a ton of quality football players since then. We can’t wait for the backlog of players to be inducted, and we’re too impatient to acknowledge the Hall’s official five-year waiting period, so …

Here is our Boise State Football Non-Hall of Fame Team – the best former players not in the Hall of Fame, by position (all based on their BSU careers only):

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Ryan Dinwiddie (2001-03) … The toughest, most efficient and productive quarterback in Boise State history – until Moore came along to set a new standard. Still holds two NCAA records (most yards gained per attempt/career and most yards gained per completion/career). Dinwiddie is one of only six quarterbacks in college football history with a career passing efficiency rating of 168.0 or higher (others are Moore, Sam Bradford, Marcus Mariota, Tim Tebow and Baker Mayfield).

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Jared Zabransky (2003-06)

Running back: Brock Forsey (1999-02), Ian Johnson (2005-08) … Unfortunately, this leaves out NFL talent Jay Ajayi, Doug Martin and Jeremy McNichols, but Forsey and Johnson were more than great football players, one known for touchdowns and toughness, the other for flair and dramatics. Forsey and Johnson were 4,000-yard rushers (Cedric Minter is the only other Bronco in that group), made huge impacts on their teams, and resonated in the community beyond your typical football player because of their own unique styles.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Martin (2008-11), Ajayi (2012-14), McNichols (2014-16)

Wide receiver: Matt Miller (2011-14), Thomas Sperbeck (2013-16) … These two separate themselves – slightly – from a ridiculously talented group of Hall of Fame-type receivers for doing it the Bronco Way … tough, blue collar, quiet/humble, overachievers. Their intangibles, along with world-class production, separate Sperbeck and Miller from the consistent Austin Pettis and the explosive Titus Young.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Young (2007-10), Pettis (2007-10)

Tight end: Derek Schouman (2003-06) The four-year starter and local fan favorite – “Shoooeeee’’ – caught two of the most important passes in Boise State’s postseason history – the game-winner in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl and the overtime touchdown in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Jeb Putzier (1998-01)

Line: Scott Huff (1999-02), Daryn Colledge (2002-05), Ryan Clady (2005-07), Charles Leno (2010-13), Matt Paradis (2010-13) … Colledge and Clady are the two most dominant linemen in Boise State history, Huff is the best center in school history after starting 40 games, and Leno (39) and Paradis (26) each finished their productive careers with impressive consecutive start streaks.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Matt Hill (1998-01)

DEFENSE

Line: Ryan Winterswyk (2007-10), Shea McClellin (2008-11), Demarcus Lawrence (2012-13) … Three dominating linemen who spent most of their time in the opponents’ backfield. The trio combined for 62 sacks and 134 tackles-for-loss. Winterswyk and McClellin were four-year mainstays (42 sacks between them), while Lawrence did all of his damage in two powerful seasons (20 sacks in 23 games).

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Andrew Browning (2003-06), Nick Schlekeway (2004-07), Billy Winn (2008-11), Tyrone Crawford (2010-11)

Linebacker: Andy Avalos (2001-04), Korey Hall (2003-06), Tanner Vallejo (2013-16) … Hall and Avalos are two of the most decorated and celebrated linebackers in BSU history; both were physical, tough, durable, hard-working and smart playmakers who rank in the top five in all-time tackles. Vallejo (more overall production, played a fourth year) edges out Kamalei Correa (best sacking LB in BSU history?) and Bryan Johnson (two-way all-around star) in a tight contest for the third spot.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Scott Russell (1987-90), Johnson (1996-99), Correa (2013-15)

Cornerback: Kyle Wilson (2006-09), Jamar Taylor (2008-12) … Narrowing down defensive backs was the toughest part of this project. After all, Boise State has earned the nickname DBU because it continuously puts top defensive back talent in the NFL. Wilson separates himself because he was a two-time All-American (2008-09) and was Boise State’s first defensive first-rounder into the NFL. Taylor edges out Orlando Scandrick after a playmaking career that covered five seasons.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Gabe Franklin (2001-04), Chris Carr (2001-04), Scandrick (2005-07), Donte Deayon (2012-15)

Cornerback/safety: George Iloka (2008-11), Darian Thompson (2012-15) … Iloka was a freshman All-American, a three-year starter and an all-league player in the WAC (2010) and Mountain West (2011). Thompson, a rare two-time All-American (2014-15), is third in Boise State history with 19 interceptions.

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Gerald Alexander (2003-06)

Safety: Quintin Mikell (1999-02) The 2002 All-American changed the position at defensive back, bringing a methodical, physical and attacking style to the Broncos’ roster. He is one of only two Boise State players to record 400-plus career tackles (the other is linebacker Scott Russell).

  • Needs to be in Hall of Fame at some point: Kenny Kuehl (1987-90), Jeron Johnson (2007-09), Marty Tadman (2004-07)

OTHERS WHO NEED TO BE IN THE HALL OF FAME

Kicker/Punter: Kyle Brotzman (2007-10)
Coach: Chris Petersen (2006-13)
Team: 2007 Fiesta Bowl


Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

Daryn Colledge photo courtesy of Cumulus Digital

NCAABoise-654-21

BOISE STRIKES AGAIN, OPENING IMPRESSIONS FROM THE NCAA TOURNAMENT, AND PLAYERS TO WATCH SATURDAY AT TACO BELL ARENA

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

For whatever reason, Boise is blessed when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Since 1983, and eight times since, superstars and super highlights have dominated Taco Bell Arena in March. The college basketball tournament returned to the Boise State campus Thursday after a nine-year absence, and once again we were blessed with drama: Three games decided by an average of 5.7 points and the biggest upset of the day (No. 13 Buffalo over No. 4 Arizona). Outside of the three close games in Boise, the other 13 first-round games were decided by an average of 13.3 points.

Let’s do it all over again Saturday when No. 4 Gonzaga, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 13 Buffalo return to Taco Bell Arena for second-round games (schedule listed below).

GONZAGA IMPRESSIONS

The Zags don’t have to play their best to win early round tournament games – this, obviously, is a tested program that knows how to take care of its business. Gonzaga really struggled to shoot the ball against UNC Greensboro’s pesky defense, and the Zags’ defense gave up a sloppy 41 second-half points, but players never panicked and were clutch down the end. Gonzaga-UNCG was the first game of the day, and maybe fans were still a little sleepy, but the crowd support wasn’t as intense as expected. That will happen Saturday against Ohio State.

KENTUCKY IMPRESSIONS 

The Wildcats were sleepy good – and still looked fragile enough to lose to Buffalo, which would thrill fans in Taco Bell Arena. Kentucky played questionable defense in its five-point win over Davidson, and didn’t make a 3-pointer in a game for the first time since 1988. Still, future NBA players Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were dominate with a combined 44 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 steals. Knox played especially well down the stretch, which shows he’s capable of taking over a game anytime he wants.

OHIO STATE IMPRESSIONS 

Buckeye Nation, making its Boise debut, produced a strange stat line in the win over South Dakota State: 40 attempts from 3-point range (made only 12), 47 rebounds and only six players scored. This looks like a team that could lose by double-digits Saturday against Gonzaga – or go on a deep NCAA run. Ohio State is basically a three-man team – and CJ Jackson, Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop each went for 20-plus points Thursday. Bates-Diop looks like a future NBA player after going for 24 points and 12 rebounds.

BUFFALO IMPRESSIONS 

The MAC champions play with confidence for a reason – they’ve won 27 games and absolutely controlled Arizona from start to finish. The Bulls looked like a better, more skilled, more determined team than Arizona – and the Taco Bell Arena crowd will feed off that quality in Saturday’s game against Kentucky. Guards CJ Massinburg and Wes Clark are shooting/active dynamos who also play with a ton of defensive energy, but the rock star is Jeremy Harris. He has dreadlocks, a beard and tattoos, and wears a headband. One word to describe his game: Smooth. The Big Three combined for 67 points on 58 percent shooting against Arizona.

TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH SATURDAY

Kevin Knox, Kentucky, F, No. 5 … Co-SEC Freshman of the Year projected to go in the first round of this summer’s NBA Draft.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky, G, No. 22 … Considered a first-round NBA Draft pick this summer because of his length, defense, versatility – and growing potential.

Jeremy Harris, Buffalo, G, No. 2 … Deceptively skilled and active all over the court, making him almost impossible to guard.

CJ Massinburg, Buffalo, G, No. 5 … Team’s leading scorer is a tough leader who is deadly from 3-point range.

Wes Clark, Buffalo, G, No. 10 … Missouri transfer is listed at 6-feet, plays more like 7-feet. Ask Deandre Ayton.

CJ Jackson, Ohio State, G, No. 3 … The junior played the best game of his career Thursday night.

Kam Williams, Ohio State, G, No. 15 … Tough, appears to be juggling a lower-body injury, and remains highly productive; had a huge four-point play late in Thursday’s win.

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, F, No. 33 … The Big Ten Player of the Year excels on both ends of the court and is headed to the NBA after this season.

Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga, F, No. 3 … Strong two-way player who can dominate on both ends of the court; was especially impressive on defense against UNCG. One of three players Thursday to finish with a double-double (19-13).

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga, G, No. 13 … The point guard hit several big shots Thursday and finished with 16 points. Perkins is an elite ball distributor who had only 2 assists (he had 22 in three West Coast Conference Tournament games) but was asked to do more Thursday. Watch for the way he handles the ball Saturday.

Zach Norvell Jr., Gonzaga, G, No. 23 … The freshman has a knack for making clutch shots, and hit a huge 3-pointer to give the Zags a 67-64 lead with 20.8 seconds remaining against UNCG, then added a free throw at 7.8 seconds. He finished with 15 points.

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, F, No. 21 … The Japan native had a quiet game Thursday, with 4 points and 5 rebounds. He averages 11 points a game and should play a more significant role Saturday, though that could be difficult against Ohio State’s dominant inside players.

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE AT TACO BELL ARENA

  • No. 13 Buffalo (27-8) vs. No. 5 Kentucky (25-10), 3:15 p.m. (CBS)
  • No. 5 Ohio State (25-8) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (31-4), approximately 5:45 p.m. (CBS)

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).​

NCAA TOURNAMENT IN BOISE: TEN NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GAMES START THURSDAY IN TACO BELL ARENA

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

It’s the NCAA Tournament – one of the biggest stages in all of sports. There are 68 basketball teams in the field and everyone has a superstar, or two or three, on their roster. Here are 10 names you need to know before the games are played at Taco Bell Arena in Boise on Thursday and Saturday:

PEYTON ALDRIDGE, DAVIDSON, F, NO. 23: He’s not the next Steph Curry, the program’s most famous alum, but the 6-8 senior is still a monster presence on the court. The Atlantic 10 Co-Player of the Year and former high school quarterback is averaging 21.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. He has started every game of his career.

DEANDRE AYTON, ARIZONA, F/C, NO. 13: The 7-1, 250-pounder has freakish size and ability – and could be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. The freshman one-and-done is averaging 20.3 points and 11.5 rebounds a game, and was just named the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

KEITA BATES-DIOP, OHIO STATE, F, NO. 33: The 6-7 Big Ten Player of the Year and second-team All-American is essentially a more polished version of Boise State standout Chandler Hutchison, also a NBA prospect with a true position and body type the NBA covets. Bates-Diop is averaging 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

MIKE DAUM, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE, F, NO. 24: “The Dauminator” is the Summit League Player of the Year, is one of the best shooters/scorers in all of college basketball, and an NBA prospect. The junior is averaging 23.8 a game this season and has scored 2,205 career points. Named the nation’s fourth best power forward by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.

SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, KENTUCKY, PG, NO. 22: The lanky freshman was voted the SEC Tournament MVP and leads the Wildcats in assists (171) and steals (54). Has scored in double figures in 18 of his last 23 games. An emerging NBA prospect.

RUI HACHIMURA, GONZAGA, F, NO. 21: A rock star in his native Japan, the 6-8 sophomore has played well at Gonzaga and has emerged as an NBA prospect. The All-West Coast first-team player this season makes 57.4 percent of his shots and is averaging 11.3 points a game.

KEVIN KNOX, KENTUCKY, F, NO. 5: The 6-9 Knox is another potential NBA lottery pick in the Boise field. He is the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and is averaging a team-high 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.

BOB McKILLOP, DAVIDSON, COACH: The Boise bracket is loaded with big coaching names – Mark Few (Gonzaga), Sean Miller (Arizona) and John Calipari (Kentucky) – but McKillop has his own intriguing story. He’s in his 29th season with the North Carolina program, has won 554 games, and once was smart enough to give Steph Curry a college scholarship when a lot of other college coaches didn’t.

JOSH PERKINS. GONZAGA, G, NO. 13: Perkins drives the engine for the Zags, shooting a team-high 3-pointers (80-of-196, 40.8 percent) and leading the team with 182 assists.

JOHNATHAN WILLIAMS, GONZAGA, F, NO. 3: The leading scorer on a balanced roster, averaging 13.5 points a game on the strength of 56.6 shooting. He also averages a team-high 8.3 rebounds a game.

THURSDAY’S GAME SCHEDULE AT TACO BELL ARENA

  • No. 4 Gonzaga (30-4) vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro (27-7), 11:30 a.m. (TNT)
  • No. 5 Ohio State (24-8) vs. No. 12 South Dakota State (28-6), approximately 2 p.m. (TNT)
  • No. 5 Kentucky (24-10) vs. No. 12 Davidson (21-11), 5:10 p.m. (CBS)
  • No. 4 Arizona (27-7) vs. No. 13 Buffalo (26-8), approximately 7:40 p.m. (CBS)
  • SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE TBD

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

NCAA Basketball: BSU vs SMU

BOISE STATE BASKETBALL SUFFERS ANOTHER POSTSEASON FAILURE – IS THE PROGRAM STUCK IN ‘SLOW GROWTH?’

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

LAS VEGAS – Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice had one of the best teams in the Mountain West during the regular season.

It’s scary how one bad night in Vegas changes your perspective.

Rice thinks his program is growing, and it is, though November through February presents a very different picture than March.

Rice takes pride in the direction of his program, as he should, but the only direction the Broncos are headed now is home after a frustrating 78-75 loss to Utah State in the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals Thursday night in Las Vegas.

It’s easy to get sucked into the emotions of one tough loss, as fans did and always do on social media, but the outcome was another painful reminder that this program has been stuck under a ceiling for 30 years.

Right now, Rice’s primary issue is the lack of winning in March.

Boise State had one of its best teams in school history, one of its best players in future NBA Draft pick Chandler Hutchison, and both team and fan base invested time, energy and passion into something good.

Now think about something bad: Taco Bell Arena is hosting the NCAA Tournament and eight of college basketball’s finest teams next week … and the Broncos and their 23 wins will be who knows where playing in the Not Invited Tournament.

The March trend in the Rice Era is disturbing:

  • 63.5: His overall winning percentage in eight seasons, the best in school history.
  • 50.0: His winning percentage in March (17-17).
  • 36.8: His winning percentage in postseason games (7-12).

The most frustrating part about the trend is that it goes back decades. It’s not just a Rice thing …

  • Boise State has won three regular season championships since leaving the Big Sky in 1994.
  • Boise State has won one conference tournament title since leaving the Big Sky.
  • Boise State has played in seven Mountain West Tournaments, has been bounced after one game five times, and has never reached the championship game.
  • Boise State is 0-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, including 0-2 under Rice.

Sorry, that’s a ceiling, or as an emotional Rice was asked after the Utah State loss, that’s “slow growth.” He didn’t like the question, and responded with a long rambling answer that put the focus back on his regular season success.

“I don’t know, I don’t see that. I don’t get that. We’ve been the most consistent team in the league the last four years. We finished in the top three the last four years. You’re talking about San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico. I don’t understand where the slow growth is talking about.

“We went from the WAC to contending. We won the Mountain West. We contended for a title four years. And so I don’t get what – I think it’s ignorant to say ‘slow growth.’ You’re talking about a UNLV program that has won a national championship, a national championship. You’re talking about a San Diego State team that’s 18 straight years of being terrific, talented, toughest places to play in this league.

“Slow growth is – we’re selling out Taco Bell Arena. We’re 15-1 at home and on and on and on. We’re putting a guy in the draft this year.

“So ‘slow growth’ may be the most ridiculous term I ever heard from anybody about the basketball program and where we are. And you don’t measure a program by a three-day tournament. You measure it by how it does in the league every year, because that’s over the course of three months. And that’s night in, night out, for three months.

“One game, anything can happen in college basketball, unless you’re by far the most talented team. And that’s not who we’ve been. We’re not by far the most talented team. We’ve got a bunch of tough kids that compete every night, that battle and they’re in every single game. You just didn’t win the last four minutes tonight. So that statement makes no sense.”

Rice also had an odd answer concerning the Broncos’ lack of success in the Mountain West Tournament.

Might be we overachieved during the season,” said Rice, who gets a one-year contract extension and a $25,000 raise for winning 18 games in a sport where top teams reach 35. “Maybe you watch those two teams, they’re pretty darned close. And these guys played for three months and finished second. So I don’t think we roll in and out talent to everybody. People just assume that, ‘Oh, they’re going to get to the championship and win it.’

“If you look player-for-player, there’s a lot of talent in this league. So maybe it’s a fact that we overachieve in the regular season, I don’t know.”

Final thought: It was a surprise to see so few Boise State fans at the tournament, especially compared to football’s traveling fans. If one thing is certain after Thursday’s loss, it’s this … Fans enjoyed this year’s basketball team, as they should have, but they still don’t trust the program.

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

Photo of Boise State players Chris Sengfelder and Lexus Williams courtesy of Mountain West / NCAA Photos

Men's Basketball vs Colorado State, Fall, Jessica Vargas Photo

CHANDLER HUTCHISON WILL BECOME THE FIRST FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK IN BOISE STATE BASKETBALL HISTORY

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

There’s something magical brewing at Boise State …

Leighton Vander Esch is headed to the NFL Draft – where he COULD be selected in the first round.

Chandler Hutchison is headed to the NBA Draft – where he WILL be selected in the first round.

The Boise State football team has produced four first-round draft picks (Ryan Clady, Shea McClellin, Doug Martin, Kyle Wilson), and now it’s time for the basketball program to make its first-round contribution to professional sports.

Consider it done.

Consider Boise State basketball a few months away from a historic milestone for the program and the state’s three Division I universities, who have never produced a No. 1 NBA Draft pick.

Hutchison is loaded with an NBA skill-set, strong potential and a grounded mental approach, but that’s not what’s going to make him millions in the June draft. It’s his 6-foot-7, 200-pound body type and the position he plays. That’s what makes him a first-rounder, according to the experts.

“The NBA really wants – and needs – a true No. 3 with a 6-8 body with bulk,” one NBA executive told the Opinionator.

“He looks primed to take advantage of the lack of wing depth in the draft, and the NBA in general, this June,” ESPN wrote in its mock draft, where Hutchison is listed as a top-20 pick.

Roberto Bergersen (second round, No. 52 overall in 1999) is the highest draft pick in Boise State basketball history. He never played in the NBA, though five former Broncos have played a combined 1,180 games in the league (James Webb III, Coby Karl, John Coker, Chris Childs, Gus Johnson).

Hutchison, the only player in the Mountain West this season to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals, has a chance to blow away all those milestones.

He’s that good.

He’s that smart.

He’s that dedicated.

And he absolutely has the attention of the NBA braintrust. Here’s what a variety of NBA personnel are thinking about Hutchison, whose “development has been intriguing,” one NBA executive told the Opinionator.

  • Plays a true position (No. 3/shooting forward)
  • Has length, stride, mobility and athleticism
  • Plays on the perimeter and in the paint
  • Can shoot from outside, but prefers to go to the rim
  • Shooting mechanics are strong (high/quick release point)
  • Can make the open shot, is improving, and can get better
  • Dependable ball-handler
  • Strong rebounder
  • Strong defender
  • Excellent foot speed
  • Has a natural ability to run/stretch the floor
  • Loves to kick out to teammates
  • Cuts off the ball/slasher/change-of-pace movement
  • Can create separation with one quick step
  • Has improved going left in the paint
  • Natural ability to get to the free throw line
  • Seems to care and wants to make the right play
  • Work ethic and potential for improvement
  • Could be a strong role player at the next level

RED FLAGS

  • Appears to play soft and with a lack of confidence at times, though one NBA executive said that’s a sign of being “unselfish.”
  • Can be inconsistent against stronger competition (shot 8-for-28 and 0-for-7 from 3 in last two games against Nevada and San Diego State).
  • Still working to extend his shooting range. His overall field goal shooting percentage has declined for three straight years (49.7 to 49.5 to 47.6), but he’s taking more 3-pointers this season (114 attempts after a combined 96 in his first three seasons). He shot 37.7 percent from 3 last year, and is shooting 35.1 percent from long range this year (35 to 40 percent is good in the NBA).
  • Needs to add another 5-10 pounds for the NBA grind.

Bottom line: Hutchison tested the NBA waters after last season, and after not hiring an agent, returned to Boise State to improve as a player. At the time, he told the Idaho Statesman:

“I’ll continue to work on extending my shooting range and adding strength while keeping my mobility. The NBA is a grown man’s league, but I know if I work even harder than I did last year then by this time next season I will belong. That’s all the motivation I need.”

Mission accomplished.

On June 21, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hutchison will become the first Boise State basketball player to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

Photo of Hutchison courtesy of Boise State Photo Services

Taco Bell Arena 654

BOISE STATE BASKETBALL HAS HIT A CEILING, SO HOW DO YOU FIX THE CULTURE OF A STAGNANT PROGRAM?

”Not calling for anyone’s head. Rice has done great. There is a ceiling for some reason. BSU hoops never wins when it really counts.” – A really smart Boise State fan from the Twitterverse … 

BY MIKE PRATER
@KTIK.COM

The Boise State basketball program has a relationship problem, and it has very little to do with a frustrating Valentine’s Day loss to Nevada in Taco Bell Arena on Wednesday night.

The Broncos’ relationship with the basketball gods is almost non-existent, and it has been that way since Nov. 30, 1968, when the program played its first game as an NCAA institution. Boise State lost …

And has lost nearly every meaningful game since.

It’s not for the lack of trying … or talent … or teaching.

It’s because of that damn ceiling. The gods, for whatever reason, have placed a ceiling above the Boise State program. You can’t physically see it, but it’s real, and a stagnant culture within the program has kept the Broncos from local, regional and national relevance since that first loss to Idaho State in 1968.

Boise State’s NCAA Tournament hopes took another shot to the gut with the loss to Nevada, and that’s a shame. These current Broncos have the winningest coach in program history. They have an NBA Draft pick. They have senior leadership and team chemistry. They can play inside and out. They can beat you with muscle and finesse … unless it’s a game that matters.

The story line is magnified this year because of high expectations and the talent on the roster, but losing big games and not playing for championships is an old story line. This isn’t an emotional reaction to an emotional loss Wednesday night.

Boise State basketball has won three regular season championships since leaving the Big Sky in 1994.

Boise State has won one conference tournament title since leaving the Big Sky.

Boise State has played in six Mountain West Tournaments, has been bounced after one game four times, and has never reached the championship game. REPEAT: Has NEVER reached the championship game of its conference tournament.

Boise State’s basketball season has ended with a loss for 36 consecutive years.

More importantly, Boise State remains winless in seven NCAA Tournament appearances, and just getting there this year would require winning a conference tournament the Broncos have never won.

Idaho and Idaho State have nine NCAA Tournament wins between them.

Every program in the Pac-12 has at least once tournament victory.

BYU has 15 NCAA wins on its resume.

And every team in the Mountain West has at least one NCAA victory, except for Air Force, San Jose State … and Boise State.

That’s beyond embarrassing.

So how do you bust through that damn ceiling?

How do you improve the culture of a program that has been underachieving for more than 20 years?

  • Change the location of one of the most isolated cities in America? Not going to happen, though if it did, more inner-city/urban athletes would think about playing in Boise.
  • Play a more aggressive nonconference schedule, including one Power 5 opponent at home (or Gonzaga, or BYU). This could lead to a few more losses in a regular season that doesn’t matter, but it would toughen the team for its conference schedule, the Nevadas of the world and the postseason.
  • Recruit more Division I transfers (imagine this team without Chris Sengfelder and Lexus Williams, or the Boise State football team without Montell Cozart).
  • Recruit more international players (coach Leon Rice might have some experience with this based on his Gonzaga days).
  • Add significant resources to the recruiting budget so Boise State can chase Division I transfers and international players (if this was a football issue, it would have already been solved).
  • Change Rice’s contract so he doesn’t get a one-year extension and a $25,000 raise for winning 18 games. Talk about low expectations in a sport where elite teams chase 30 wins a year. That’s a culture issue.
  • A more consistent fan base, though fan frustration surrounding this program is understandable (how many will attend the Air Force game at noon Saturday?).
  • Win a big game. An important game. A relevant game. Any game that matters.

Boise State football changed forever because of one game. It can happen to the basketball program, too. One win in the NCAA Tournament could create opportunities for years to come. First, the Broncos have to get there, and if this year’s team can’t break through that damn ceiling with this loaded roster …

When?

Mike Prater, editor of The Opinionator, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket and can be heard on Bronco GameNight after BSU football games on KBOI 670 AM and KTIK 93.1 FM. He can be reached at mike.prater@cumulus.com, and found @CavesandPrater(Facebook) and @MikeFPrater (Twitter).

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I can’t wait for kickoff.  The Virginia Tech and Georgia games have been my favorite two games to call in the time here. I have a feeling this game will join those for me.