Three chances for Boise State men’s basketball to prove NCAA worth

By Brian Murphy
bmurphy@idahostatesman.com

Boise State’s quest for its first-ever at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament is in the final stretch. And the Broncos couldn’t have asked for a better slate of games to prove they belong.

Boise State (19-8, 7-6 in the Mountain West) has won three straight games, taking care of business against Air Force, Fresno State and Nevada. The Broncos are fifth in the conference behind New Mexico (24-4, 11-2), Colorado State (22-6, 9-4), UNLV (21-7, 8-5) and San Diego State (20-8, 8-6).

Boise State hosts Colorado State on Saturday, then visits UNLV and hosts San Diego State in the final week of the regular season.

Boise State will wear black uniforms for the first time Saturday against Colorado State.

Boise State will wear black uniforms for the first time Saturday against Colorado State. (Photos from Boise State)

The Broncos will be wearing black uniforms and are encouraging fans to wear black as well on Saturday.

The Broncos will be wearing black uniforms and are encouraging fans to wear black as well on Saturday.

Want to impress the NCAA Selection Committee? Here’s your chance, Boise State.

“We’ve got three of top 25 RPI teams in the next three games. This is what makes the Mountain West so special,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

Colorado State is No. 15 in the NCAA’s official RPI rankings. UNLV is No. 14. San Diego State is No. 32.

For the record, Boise State is No. 47. New Mexico is the top Mountain West team in the rankings at No. 3.

The Broncos are in 43 of the 98 brackets being tracked by The Bracket Project. Boise State is listed as the first team out of the NCAA field of 68.

But the Broncos have a chance to change that in the next week — and in coming years.

“That’s the beauty of what we have in store for us in the future,” Rice said. “This is a great basketball league. Isn’t this fun? You get to see Colorado State roll in, you go to UNLV, then San Diego State. You get elite programs. There are 347 schools and the next three games we have top 25 RPI teams.”

Three games — plus the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas — that will decide if the Broncos are dancing.

Is 1-2 enough? That would leave the Broncos at 8-8 in the Mountain West and likely in need of a victory in the tournament.

Is 2-1 good enough? A 2-1 finish is reasonable. Boise State is 12-1 at home and has two of the last three at Taco Bell Arena. At 9-7 in the Mountain West, the Broncos would have a good case.

Do the Broncos need a sweep? At 10-6 in the Mountain West, the Broncos would almost certainly be in the field.

“They’re big games,” said Boise State sophomore Anthony Drmic, the league’s leading scorer in Mountain West games. “All of them top 40 RPI. We just have to go in with the right mentality, the right game plan and execute, just bring it. If we can do that, we can probably steal a couple of these games.”

Sports columnist Brian Murphy writes about all sports in the Treasure Valley with a concentration on Boise State football and men's basketball. Murph has been with the Statesman since 2005. You can follow him on Twitter @MurphsTurph.

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