SCOTT SLANT: All or nothing next week

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

Coach Leon Rice questioned his team’s toughness after Tuesday night’s stunning 67-64 loss to Fresno State in ExtraMile Arena. Keeping in mind that this is the best roster Boise State has ever had, is that on the players or the coaches? Who knows. “You’ve gotta beat teams,” Rice said on the postgame show on KBOI. “You can’t just expect them to come in and miss shots. We just didn’t have the resolve to get it done.” And there was more. “You can’t out-finesse somebody in this league this time of year,” Rice added. “You’ve gotta out-tough ‘em, and we just didn’t do that.” This downtrodden group has eight days to straighten things out before the conference quarterfinals.

NOT ACCORDING TO SCRIPT

It was a crushing Senior Night for Derrick Alston Jr. He began the game 1-for-11 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range before being pulled for about five minutes in the second half. Then with just over six minutes left in the game—and six minutes after a shoulder injury to Abu Kigab—Alston went on a personal 8-0 run to give the Broncos their biggest lead of the night at 63-54. The real D.A. was back, right? Well, neither he nor his teammates would make another basket in the game, going 0-for-8 collectively the rest of the way as the Bulldogs outscored the home team 13-1 to finish it. It was beyond devastating.

THE THREE-LETTER TOURNAMENT?

Now the path is clear for Boise State. It isn’t a good one, nor is it an easy one. To get to the NCAA Tournament, the Broncos will have to win it all at the Mountain West tourney next week after their shocking meltdown last night. I hate to talk about the NIT right now, but we should be aware of how the 2021 tournament works (I guess). Here’s the bad news. If Boise State doesn’t win the conference tournament, the NIT would be a logical destination. However, the NIT field has been reduced from 32 teams to 16 this year. All berths will be awarded on at at-large basis, and the way the Broncos are playing right now, there’s no guarantee they’d even get one of those. And if they did, well, what a colossal letdown. The only medicine that would work right now is a trophy a week from Saturday in Las Vegas.

THE CYRUS HABIBI-LIKIO STORY

Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian has penned a lengthy article about Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s departure from Oregon and his move to Boise State, and it provides great insight on the graduate transfer running back. Habibi-Likio had visited the Broncos before committing to the Ducks. And make no mistake: he loved being part of the Oregon program. After the Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State, Fentress writes, “Habibi-Likio felt he had been under-utilized during his UO career. At that point, he hadn’t yet decided on his future. He dreaded the idea of transferring out of the program he loved dearly. But the writing was on the wall. If Habibi-Likio wanted to achieve his goals, he would have to leave the Ducks. His decision came down to one simple, yet all-important reality: He wants to play.”

THE DECISION

According to Fentress, after Habibi-Likio’s role further diminished in 2020, he narrowed his potential landing spots to California, Wisconsin and Boise State. “Boise State had everything Habibi-Likio wanted,” Fentress writes, “a need at running back, near the West Coast but far enough from his hometown of Palo Alto, California, so he could avoid distractions, and the presence of familiar faces. He knew the new head coach, Andy Avalos, Oregon’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, as well as the new chief of staff, Da’Vell Winters, who had been assistant director of player development at Oregon. ‘He’s just a great dude,’ Winters said. ‘And I’m (anxious) to see how this environment can impact him and how he can impact this environment and community.’”

MOVING FORWARD WITH THE BRONCOS

Fentress notes that new Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough describes his system as being pro-style, which requires a running back who can excel as a pass protector and receiver. “Habibi-Likio said he can provide that same type of versatility,” writes Fentress. “A lot of people don’t know that I can run some routes and I’ve never had a problem with catching the ball,’ Habibi-Likio said. His goal is to trim down from 225 pounds to 215 to regain the quickness he sacrificed while bulking up for his goal-line role at Oregon.”

He’s joining a team that already has a feature back, George Holani, and a capable backup, Andrew Van Buren. “Habibi-Likio isn’t greedy,” writes Fentress. “He doesn’t expect to get 25 carries per game. He simply wants to regularly be a part of the offensive game plan beyond the goal line. ‘George is a great back and I just feel like the both of us together, it’s kind of like a thunder and lightning type deal,’ Habibi-Likio said. ‘I’m not the most electrifying guy. We’ll stick to the facts. I know that. I feel like Boise is a place where I can get quality touches, and 30 to 40 snaps per game is great for me.’”

AND THAT’S THE WAY IT ENDS

The definition of anticlimactic is: “causing disappointment at the end of an exciting or impressive series of events.” The series of events was Idaho’s 20-loss season; the only exciting and impressive part of it was the Vandals’ lone win of the season over Montana State last Friday. They were slated to finish the season at Montana this week, but the campaign is now in the books at 1-20 as the games on Thursday and Saturday have been canceled due to COVID-19 protocols within the Idaho program. Now that’s anticlimactic. The Vandals averaged just 60.9 points per game this season, and their average scoring margin was minus-15.9 points.

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

March 3, 1984: With the groundwork already laid for what would be a very successful Olympics in Los Angeles that summer, Peter Ueberroth is elected the commissioner of baseball effective October 1. Ueberroth’s accomplishments during his 4½ years in office were numerous—he avoided an umpires strike and players strike, and negotiated the sport’s first billion-dollar TV contract. Ueberroth did, however, lose three large cases charging collusion between the commissioner and the owners. Did you know? Ueberroth graduated from San Jose State in 1959 with a degree in business.

(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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