SCOTT SLANT: Reflections on the MW in the Big Dance

Presented by BACON BOISE.

Wednesday Weekly…March 27, 2024.

There is no question that—after a whole season of hype and high computer rankings—the Mountain West underperformed in the NCAA Tournament (even though San Diego State is still alive). With six teams in the tournament, more was expected of the league, especially in the first round. Boise State, of course, didn’t make it that far. Colorado State, another First Four participant, did. But the Rams had as nightmarish a first half as you’ll ever see against Texas (11 points). Nevada had an epic come-from-ahead loss versus Dayton. But the poor seeding did matter. The Aztecs were the only ones who got a break, and they got to play 12th-seeded UAB and 13th-seeded Yale. It doesn’t mean SDSU separated itself from the Mountain West pack. Good luck to them in the Sweet 16, though.


As Chris Murray of Nevada SportsNet points out, the Mountain West has locked in at least 10 NCAA Tournament “units” so far. That’ll be the final figure if San Diego State loses to UConn in the Sweet 16. That means about $20 million to the conference over the NCAA’s six-year cycle. Writes Murray: “Assuming the MW splits that money evenly, which is the current template even though SDSU would like to go to an uneven revenue split, each school would get roughly $1,818,182 over the six years (or $303,030 a year). Not bad.”


It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times for Utah State hoops. Danny Sprinkle, who built an Aggies roster that returned exactly zero points from last year’s squad, was Mountain West Coach of the Year and got USU into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Sprinkle, of course, has been hired at Washington, forcing the Aggies to find their fourth coach in five years. There’s been Sprinkle, Ryan Odom (now at VCU) before him and Craig Smith (now at Utah) before him.  

Conversely, Leon Rice just completed his 14th season at Boise State. There should be a 15th, although the Washington State rumor mill will probably churn now that Cougars coach Kyle Smith has taken the job at Stanford. But the timing might not be good for Rice at Wazzu. For one thing, the Cougs will be in the West Coast Conference for hoops next season, and the Mountain West is a better place to be. For another, WSU athletic director Pat Chun is headed to Washington. And finally, does Rice want to play best friend Mark Few and Gonzaga twice a year?


It was difficult to watch Colorado in the NCAA Tournament following the First Four in Dayton and not wonder what could have been for Boise State. Not saying that the Broncos would have beaten Florida—or come as close to Marquette as the Buffaloes did. But hopefully it sheds light on an underappreciated defensive effort against CU. Not two days after Boise State held the Buffs to 60 points, they put up 102 on the Gators. Now, Colorado did give up 100 in that win. But that just makes you think of the Broncos’ 21 missed layups and 16 missed three-pointers last Wednesday. They were attacking the paint all night on the Buffs, only to wilt at the rim. And the way CU hung with Marquette last Sunday, tied with three minutes to go before falling by four—well, the Broncos didn’t get it done, but they did have a tough draw.


What a time for this to happen. Boise State wide receiver Billy Bowens was putting up great numbers at Pro Day Tuesday—a 39.5-inch vertical leap, for example. Then, toward the end of the session, Bowens made a good catch on a deep ball, and he didn’t get up. Bowens was carted off with a significant leg injury and was overcome with emotion. This was his shot to get in front of NFL scouts, and they had to be liking what they saw. Now Bowens is on the shelf. Will he ever get another chance? Meanwhile, running back George Holani was able to skip most Pro Day drills after his solid performance at the NFL Combine. Holani told the media he’s been in contact with most NFL teams and has interviews set with the Kansas City Chiefs and L.A. Chargers. He’s cautiously optimistic about the NFL Draft.


Boise State kicked off its campaign last week to reach its goal of 20,000 season football tickets in 2024. It’s very doable considering the momentum from the past two seasons, a good schedule on the Blue this fall and the appeal of new coach Spencer Danielson. (His scores in the transfer portal don’t hurt.) The Broncos haven’t topped 20,000 in season tickets since 2015. That capped a streak of nine straight seasons over 20K that started after the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The school record is 24,019 season tickets in 2012, the year after Kellen Moore’s senior season. The telling trend for Boise State: the attendance of 36,390 at the Air Force game last November marked the largest crowd to ever watch a regular season finale at Albertsons Stadium. On Black Friday, no less.


Spring football has resumed at Boise State, and so have the annual opportunities for reps. Sometimes it’s because of graduation, and sometimes because of the injury list. At wide receiver, it’s a little bit of both. Eric McAlister, of course, is not around, nor are Bowens or Stefan Cobbs, who are finally out of eligibility. The only one sitting out due to injury is Indiana transfer Cam Camper. But there’s all sorts of auditioning going on. Latrell Caples wants to re-establish his spot atop the pecking order after missing last season with a knee injury. And Austin Bolt and Prince Strachan want to prove they’re the new deep threats. In the first eight games last year, they combined for three catches for 38 yards. Over the last six contests of the season, Bolt and Strachan combined for 15 receptions, 411 yards and four touchdowns.


This season isn’t quite like the last one for the Idaho Steelheads, but the last one was unlike any other in ECHL history. There have been more losses this time, but the Steelheads are still 42-18-4 with eight regular season games remaining. One bad night never seems to get these Steelies down. They lost 4-1 to Tulsa last Friday at Idaho Central Arena, and what did they do? They pulverized the Oilers 10-1 on Saturday, only the third time in franchise history Idaho has reached the 10-goal plateau and the first since a 12-3 win over Victoria back in 2005, the team’s record for most goals in a game. The Steelheads now take the show on the road for a three games series against the Utah Grizzlies beginning tonight in West Valley City.


A repeat of the NAIA national championship wasn’t in the cards for College of Idaho, as the Coyotes finally met their match in Monday night’s 58-52 Fab Four loss to Langston in Kansas City. But that hardly puts a damper on the Yotes’ season. And when is coach Colby Blaine going to get his due? Blaine has 30 or more wins in all six of his full seasons at C of I. The Yotes finished 32-4 and are 100-10 over the past three years. Blaine has built a culture unlike any other—his positivity and energy are just infectious. He really has two sets of starters, and all the players are good with it. Of course, I hope C of I hangs onto Blaine, but wow.  

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…payroll, process and prosperity for your business. 

March 27, 2017: For the second (and final) time, the Oakland Raiders are granted permission to leave the Bay Area—this time for a move to Las Vegas. Financially-strapped Oakland was not able to generate a viable stadium proposal to replace the aging Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, while Las Vegas was able to commit $750 million in public funding for a new $2.4 billion, 65,000-seat stadium that would also be home to UNLV football. The team had first left Oakland in 1982 to become the L.A. Raiders, only to return in 1995.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 



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