SCOTT SLANT: Participation trophies for all?

Presented by BBSI.
Thursday, September 10, 2020.

One year ago, it would have been a preposterous idea. In 2020, what the heck. ACC men’s basketball coaches have proposed that every single Division I team should make the 2021 NCAA Tournament. And it’s spurred by none other than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Nothing would surprise us now. On the one hand, it would take the lustre off the novelty of making the NCAA Tournament in a year when Boise State coach Leon Rice figures to field his best team ever. On the other hand, these Broncos could make a very deep run if the field starts at 346 eligible teams. But the point has been made that conference tournaments are kind of like an expanded NCAA Tournament. In most cases, those 3-27 teams get in as the bottom seed—and that gives them as much of a chance as a berth in an all-inclusive Big Dance would.

THE BOARD CONTINUES TO FILL

There have been four “Go Broncos!” tweets from Boise State coach Bryan Harsin in the last week and a half. That means recruiting commitments, of course. There was a lot of hand-wringing in early June about the lack of commits in Boise State’s stable for 2021. At that time, there was only one, linebacker Jai Jones. But predictably, the Broncos are being methodical and calculated, and the class is coming together. Two of the four new verbals have yet to reveal themselves. When you add those in, Boise State now has 11 commits. It’s pacing nicely.

THE CURIOSITY KNOWN AS THE COUGARS

The moral of the 2020 college football season: trying to figure out what’s going on. Like, what’s up with BYU after its 55-3 annihilation of Navy. It’s hard to discount what the Cougars did Labor Day night, because they were uber-prepared in Annapolis. But the Midshipmen looked so bad, it was head-shaking. Their quarterbacks looked lost, and their defense looked it had never tackled before. In fact, the Middies hadn’t done any full-contact tackling in fall camp due to coronavirus concerns. As for BYU, quarterback Zach Wilson was in a groove, and the running game moved like a knife through butter. The Cougars’ next game is at Army. If they get past that (and they’ve shown they can handle the option), they should run the table with their patchwork eight-game schedule.

MYSTERY MEN READY TO KICK OFF

NFL fans go into the great unknown tonight when Kansas City hosts Houston, with no preseason games and limited coverage of training camps to go on. That’ll especially be the case with Dallas on Sunday, as the Cowboys and new coach Mike Carthy help the L.A. Rams christen the new SoFi Stadium. One-time Boise State star DeMarcus Lawrence doesn’t feel like tipping his hand. “Y’all going to have to wait for some of these questions to be answered on Sunday when you see me play,” said Lawrence on Wednesday. “You feel me? All those questions are going to be answered on Sunday.” One other Cowboys note: after all the work he put into getting back on the field this summer following double-hip surgery, former Boise State standout Tyrone Crawford has been placed on the “active/physically unable to perform” list.

TWO BRONCOS IN THE TEE BOX

Troy Merritt isn’t the type of guy to look past the Safeway Open to the U.S. Open next week, so expect him to be focused today in Napa, CA. Fellow former Boise State star Graham DeLaet will definitely be that. This is a big week for DeLaet, whose back is finally strong enough to get back on the tour. Not only is the Treasure Valley rooting for him, those north of the border are, too, as DeLaet remains a beloved figure in Canadian golf. Writes TSN’s Bob Weeks: “During his career on the PGA Tour, he has earned more than $11 million. He’s also represented Canada at the Olympics and played for the International Team in the Presidents Cup. It’s hard not to think of what a healthy DeLaet might have achieved and extraordinary to see what he has managed with his physical limitations.”

CONTRERAS HAS CATCHING SKILLS

When young baseball prospects come through Boise, the position they play at Memorial Stadium may not be the one that carries them to the majors. Case in point is Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs, who was a third baseman for the Hawks but is now one of the best catchers in the game. That’s not an easy transition. A story Wednesday at the Chicago fan site “Bleacher Nation” calls him one of baseball’s best “pitch-framers,” meaning he takes pitches on the edges of the plate and whips his mitt into the heart of the strike zone to try to influence a strike call. (Gee, I never thought that was fair when catchers did that in Little League.) Contreras has been keeping the first-place Cubs afloat at the plate, too, batting .387 so far in September. He played two seasons in Boise in 2011-12, hitting .267 in 124 games.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON…fresh breakfast and brunch every day!

September 10, 1997: The new Bank Of America Centre, now CenturyLink Arena, opens in downtown Boise with an Idaho Sneakers World Team Tennis match. The opening of the doors—and consequently the match—would be delayed about 45 minutes while final inspections were made. It was dusty and loud, with a giant fan making up for a lack of air conditioning. The arena was in much better shape two weeks later for the first hockey game ever played there, an NHL exhibition game between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.

(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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