Another big Mountain West road test awaits Bronco hoops

The last three road trips for the Boise State men’s basketball team have resulted in progressively worse results — an 11-point loss at Air Force, then a 16-point loss at Nevada, then a 20-point setback at Colorado State on Jan. 30.

On Wednesday, the Broncos (15-6, 3-4) will travel to one of the Mountain West’s best homecourt advantages in San Diego State’s Viejas Arena. The Aztecs are 9-1 there, 40-4 since the start of the 2010-11 season. The Broncos lost a close 58-56 battle there on Feb. 1, 2012.

“You’ve just got to embrace that environment and know it’s one of the best in college basketball now, which is amazing,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “When coach (Steve) Fisher got there, it wasn’t at all that … there’s a lot of great models in this league for us, and that’s one of them.”

Winning on the road in college basketball is always a difficult task, but thus far, the homecourts in the Mountain West have been a nightmare for opponents. On Saturday, road teams were 0-4, and are 10-22 thus far in conference play. Only New Mexico (2-1) has a winning record on the road in conference play, with one of those wins an overtime victory at Taco Bell Arena.

“No. 1 it’s great coaches, No. 2 it’s great players in this league, but these homecourt advantages are really special,” Rice said. “A lot of them have altitude, which is a factor, a lot of them have tough places to get to … with as many good teams as we have, it’s taken another step up.”

Fisher, who is in his 14th season at San Diego State, went 0-14 in his first Mountain West campaign, back in 1999-2000.

“It’s a challenge wherever you go … in our league, you can add all the other elements,” Fisher said. “… what’s happened in our league, is crowds are becoming increasingly larger and more supportive.”

The Broncos have used the same starting five only once thus far in Mountain West play. Whether it was a suspension for Derrick Marks against Wyoming, Jeff Elorriaga’s concussion, or now Igor Hadziomerovic’s foot, the Broncos seemingly have dealt with something every week keeping them from a full lineup. Boise State had the same starting five in the first 13 games, but the rigors of the season have made it much more difficult to keep a consistent lineup.

Here is the starting five for each MW game so far:

Wyoming (Jan. 9) — Hadziomerovic, Hanstad, Elorriaga, Drmic, Watkins

New Mexico (Jan. 16) — Marks, Hadziomerovic, Elorriaga, Drmic, Watkins

Air Force (Jan. 19) — Marks, Hadziomerovic, Hanstad, Drmic, Watkins

Fresno State (Jan. 23) — Marks, Hadziomerovic, Elorriaga, Drmic, Watkins

Nevada (Jan. 26) — Marks, Hadziomerovic, Drmic, Watkins, Buckner

Colorado State (Jan. 30) — Marks, Thompson, Drmic, Watkins, Buckner

UNLV (Feb. 2) — Marks, Thompson, Elorriaga, Drmic, Watkins

Just as Boise State has been dealing with the injury bug, so has San Diego State. The Aztecs were without point guard Xavier Thames in their loss at Air Force on Saturday, and they are 1-2 without him this season. Fisher told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday that the team can “continue what we’re doing, what it would mean if he tried to play in pain, or shut him down completely for a couple weeks.”

Guard Chase Tapley has been battling a wrist injury, and he was 1-for-7 from the field at Air Force, scoring two points. He is averaging 14 points per game this season. Fisher told the media on Monday that Tapley is “back in business.”

Keep checking my blog here for more this season on Boise State basketball, along with other sports throughout the year.

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