The Boise State men’s basketball team held a media session and then hit the floor at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio, for a shootaround Tuesday.
Boise State (21-10) will face La Salle (21-9) at 7:10 p.m. MDT on Wednesday.
“It’s a little crazy,” Boise State sophomore wing Anthony Drmic said. “It’s a little overwhelming, just coming in here and just the experience of it all. I think the boys are ready to go, and we’re excited to get out on the court (Wednesday) night.”
Kenny Buckner, who did not attend the team’s Selection Sunday gathering with an infected wisdom tooth, had two teeth removed Sunday night and did not practice Monday, but did participate in Tuesday’s shootaround.
Broncos coach Leon Rice said the team has been relaxed after sitting on pins and needles since losing Wednesday and not knowing if the team was in the field of 68 until Sunday afternoon.
“It was a long drawn out bubble process to get here,” Rice said.
The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk wrote Monday about the Broncos’ scheduling and how it playing two non-Division I opponents (Walla Walla and Corban) did not count against Boise State in the RPI in its quest for an at-large berth.
Playing lower-level Division I schools would in fact have hurt the Broncos. Rice said he knew about that when the schedule was put together, and noted that he wanted the team to not be rusty before Mountain West play after the team had a 12-day break before it started the conference grind.
“I was cognizant … I didn’t want to bring in two (RPI) 300 schools,” Rice said. “It’s expensive and it can kill your RPI.”
The Broncos finished 44th in the RPI rankings, while a team that didn’t get in, Maryland, was 71st.
Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said Monday that “There was so much talk about the Mountain West all year. A 9-7 team (San Diego State and Boise State) got in from that league. I just think that’s the way it works.”
Maryland scheduled Maryland Eastern Shore (345 in the RPI) and South Carolina Upstate (342).
Rice said “the biggest challenge at Boise State is getting those home games,” but said he’s willing to go on the road at tough environments, as that is a key thing the NCAA committee looks at. He added that he and athletic director Mark Coyle have sought to earn “PhDs” in scheduling since “we’re in the mix” as a tournament team.
“I need to keep learning on what the committee really wants us to do — because I want to be in this position or better every year,” Rice said.
Rice added a strong feather in his scheduling cap as Boise State announced it will play in the 2013 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Dec 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The field includes tournament host Hawaii, George Mason, Iowa State, Saint Mary’s, Oregon State and South Carolina. An eighth team will be announced at a later date.
Boise State, Iowa State and Saint Mary’s are in the NCAA Tournament this week.
La Salle confirmed that 6-foot-11 center Steve Zack (6.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) will not play Wednesday with an injured ankle.
“We’ve just got to bounce back and box out, and the guards got to pick up from where Zack left off,” guard Ramon Galloway said about the loss of Zack in terms of rebounding.
The Explorers have a minus-40 rebounding advantage in the three games without Zack since he was hurt.
“We know we’re not a great rebounding team,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “We know we’re a little small. But we’ll scrap. We’ll fight. I think everything else this team does is at a high level.”
Here are some quotes from Tuesday’s media session.
La Salle coach John Giannini on Boise State: “They have four guys out there that can shoot the 3. And the thing about 3‑point shooting is it can change the game dramatically.
For example, we’re playing Butler in our last game and it’s a 6‑point game, and we’re at the free‑throw line shooting 1 and 1 feeling good because we’re a good free‑throw shooting team. We’re saying, okay, it’s a 4‑point game with 5:30 left. Sure enough, we miss the front end of the 1 and 1, and they go down and shoot a 3, and all of a sudden it’s a 9‑point game.
That 3‑point shot is a difference maker. I just watched one of their tapes. They played UNLV in a great game on the road, and they made 13 3s and had a great chance to win at the end. So when you’re playing teams that are perimeter oriented and guard oriented, of course you’re worried about their shooting.”
Boise State guard Jeff Elorriaga on La Salle: “They play four guards. It seems like they want to get up and down. They score quite a bit of points, and we score quite a few as well. I think they’re a little more athletic, so we’re going to have to deal with that. They get up and down. A lot of guys can score. They’re going to be tough to guard, hopefully just as tough as we are. They play hard, just as hard as we do.”
Boise State coach Leon Rice, a former Gonzaga assistant, on what he can tell the team about the postseason: “The biggest thing is, the first and foremost, I want them to be eyes wide open, enjoy it, enjoy the whole situation of being in the NCAA Tournament. It’s the greatest sporting event on the planet, in my estimation. So I want them to come in and just play loose, play guns ablazing, just really enjoy themselves and enjoy each other because they’ve earned this opportunity. They’ll be focused on the game, obviously. They’re excited to play, like I said, but they have to understand where they are. I always tell them I want them to see the forest for the trees. I want them to look around and feel the whole thing and experience it. So when they do that, they’ll really take it in and take it in together as a team. Because we’re a young team. And I want them to get used to playing in this thing. We have ten freshmen and sophomores. The more you play in it, the better off and more comfortable you are.”