Broncos will have ‘hands full’ at Colorado State; Elorriaga slowly making progress

The Boise State men’s basketball team has enjoyed a much-needed break going into Tuesday night’s game at Colorado State (7:05 p.m., ESPN3/KBOI 670 AM).

After winning 71-70 against New Mexico on Wednesday, the Broncos had nearly a week off to rest after playing two Mountain West games per week for six straight weeks.

“We had a little extra time to get our legs back, we’ve got a big win behind us, so I think we’re in a good place mentally and physically,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

Boise State (16-9, 6-6) will no doubt be tested in both aspects by a Colorado State team that is averaging plus-5.1 rebounds per game this season, fourth in the Mountain West. The Broncos are third at plus-5.4 per game. The Rams dominated the glass last season with seniors Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung, when they were plus-11.9 per game. Still, there is always the risk of being crushed on the boards — just ask Air Force, which was outrebounded 47-17 on Feb. 8 in a 68-56 loss.

“Larry Eustachy is one of the best rebounding coaches in the country,” Rice said of the Rams’ head coach. “That’s something you’ll have to deal with right off the bat when you prepare for them. We know we’ll have our hands full there.”

Colorado State is led in scoring by 6-foot-7 junior transfer J.J. Avila, formerly of Navy. He’s averaging 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

“He’s a little bit like (Iowa State’s) Georges Niang, he can go inside or outside,” Rice said. “He’s crafty, and does a good job getting to the line.”

After beating the Lobos on Wednesday, junior Anthony Drmic said he was looking forward to the time off to rest a nagging foot injury. Senior Jeff Elorriaga, who has played just two minutes since hurting his back Feb. 1 with 4:05 to go in the first half at UNLV, also was hopeful it would help.

“He was a little disappointed that the break didn’t put him at 100 percent, but I don’t think he will be the rest of the year,” Rice said.

Elorriaga is averaging 8.0 points per game in 22 games played this season. He broke a bone in his back when he hit the floor in Las Vegas. Rice said he is slowly making progress, and even if he doesn’t start, can still be a big weapon off the bench with his 3-point shooting.

“He means so much to this team,” Rice said. “We still have a few weeks before the (conference) tournament, so if he gets a little better each week, he could be a big help for us in March.”

I wrote in today’s Statesman about senior Thomas Bropleh, who has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. Bropleh’s mother walked for two weeks from Liberia to Sierra Leone while pregnant with him to avoid civil war in her home country.

Click here for the story.

I wasn’t able to use everything from conversation with Bropleh, but wanted to put out some more of his thoughts.

He has played 1,792 minutes in his career, which pales in comparison to other seniors like Ryan Watkins (2,352) and Elorriaga (2,897), or even Drmic (2,716).

“I haven’t played as many minutes as most of the other guys, so I still feel I’m fresh, that I’m still learning a lot,” Bropleh said.

Also when asked about what has been different for him the past month, he said it has dawned on him that it’s the twilight of his college career.

“I’ve been more aggressive,” Bropleh said. “I’m just trying to play the way that got me here, not worry about mistakes, play the game I love.”

The Broncos fell from 60th to 63rd in the latest NCAA RPI rankings. See them here.

Below is my AP top 25 men’s basketball ballot for the week. The full poll can be seen here.
1. Syracuse
2. Florida
3. Arizona
4. Wichita State
5. Duke
6. San Diego State
7. Creighton
8. Villanova
9. Kansas
10. Iowa
11. Saint Louis
12. Cincinnati
13. Virginia
14. Louisville
15. Michigan State
16. Wisconsin
17. Kentucky
18. Iowa State
19. Texas
20. UConn
21. Michigan
22. Gonzaga
23. Memphis
24. Ohio State
25. UCLA

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