SCOTT SLANT: Grant Sherfield, the sequel?

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Boise State hopes this isn’t rinse and repeat. The Broncos face another guard that’ll be hard to stop when they take the court against SMU Thursday night in the NIT. This comes a week after Nevada’s Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge combined for 57 points in Boise State’s quarterfinal loss in the Mountain West Tournament. This time there’s only one of those guys instead of two, but one might be enough. First-team All-AAC pick Kendric Davis, a 5-11 junior guard who transferred from TCU in 2019, leads the Mustangs with 18.8 points and 7.4 assists per game. Davis is the only player in the country to lead his team in both categories this season.

Is he Sherfield revisited? Listen to what the Wolf Pack star did in three games against the Broncos: 25.0 points and 8.3 assists per game while shooting 71 percent from the field, 62 percent from three-point range and 88 percent from the free throw line. Davis kinda sounds like him. Boise State and SMU have two common opponents, including sixth-ranked Houston. The Cougars beat the Broncos in the season-opener 68-58 in November and later swept the Mustangs 74-60 and 70-48. Davis scored 23 points in the first of those two games.

ALSTON ALL-DISTRICT TIMES TWO

Derrick Alston Jr. returned to Boise State for his senior year with the expressed intent of winning the Mountain West championship and going to the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully some of Alston’s disappointment is mitigated by the two All-District awards he earned Tuesday, one from writers and the other from coaches. Despite his struggles the past three games, Alston is still averaging 17.4 points per game this season while shooting 44.6 percent from the floor, 39.2 percent from three-point range and 86.5 percent from the free throw line. If he can hit the reset button for the SMU tilt, it would go a long way in ensuring he has more than one game left in his college career.

SAD IRONY INDEED

A year ago, Boise State made it through three spring football practices before the sports world was shut down. Incredibly, the Broncos made it through just two practices in 2021 before the program was forced to pause “all football-related activities due to an upward trend in COVID-19 cases and absences due to contact tracing” Tuesday night. This comes despite Boise State exceeding all offseason guidelines outlined within the NCAA Resocialization of Collegiate Sport. The Broncos are testing 100 percent of student-athletes, coaches and staff within their inner bubble on a weekly basis. It’s a stark reminder that we should not let our guard down (even though that’s a tough sell in Idaho). The difference between last March and this March: it appears that all players will be eligible for vaccinations by April 26.

A PITINO IN ALBUQUERQUE

Minnesota soured on men’s hoops coach Richard Pitino after a 14-15 season and a sixth season in eight tries on the outside of the NCAA Tournament, and one-time Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle, the current Gophers AD, fired him Monday. But New Mexico instantly warmed up to Rick Pitino’s son, and the Lobos hired Richard Pitino Tuesday to replace Paul Weir, who was let go after a four-year period of decline in Albuquerque culminated in a 6-16 record this season. So what’s it all mean? This hire is meant to energize a rabid but withdrawn New Mexico basketball fan base. But is Pitino truly a good coach, or just a splashy name? We will find out.

MOUNTAIN WEST CHURN

The Minnesota opening keeps the conversation going in the Mountain West. Surely Coyle and the Gophers would hire San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher in a nano-second. Minnesota is Dutcher’s alma mater, and his dad, Jim, coached the Gophers from 1975-86. Dutcher’s contract buyout with the Aztecs is $6.9 million for everybody but Minnesota. It’s $1 million for the Golden Gophers. He has been in the Big Ten before—as an assistant to Steve Fisher at Michigan before the duo landed at SDSU, and on Lou Henson’s staff at Illinois. Dutcher has deflected any talk of leaving San Diego State, as you expect he would while the Aztecs prepare for their NCAA Tournament matchup with Syracuse on Friday.

At the age of 61, would Dutcher leave San Diego for Minneapolis? If he did, you could add SDSU to San Jose State and—probably—UNLV as Mountain West programs with openings. Iowa State has reportedly hired the Rebels’ T.J. Otzelberger (the Cyclones just fired Steve Prohm following a 2-22 season). Otzelberger, who has been in Las Vegas for only two seasons after a successful stint at South Dakota State, had been seen as the heavy favorite for the ISU gig. It’s jarring to compare the records of Dutcher and Otzelberger as Mountain West coaches—the former is 53-6, and the latter is 29-30.

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March 17, 1916: The “father of Bronco football” is born. Lyle Smith, who built Boise Junior College into a powerhouse in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s, is considered the man who inspired the Boise State program to grow into what it is today. His career record at BJC was 156-26-6, with five undefeated seasons, a 37-game winning streak, 51 shutouts, and the school’s original national championship—in the JC ranks in 1958. Smith went on to become Boise State’s first athletic director from 1968-81. The late, great Lyle Smith would have been 105 years old today.

(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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