WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Dave Southorn, who covers Boise State men’s basketball for the Idaho Statesman about Saturday’s 7 p.m. game with the University of Wyoming at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
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Expectations are high for Boise State based on returning most of its team from one that went to the NCAA Tournament last season. How have they managed those expectations?
One of the things that impressed me over the offseason was that they embraced the expectations, that they wanted to live up to them. Returning 92.4 percent of your scoring certainly helps, too. With that, they knew how hard it was just to simply get an at-large last season, so they know there are things like winning the games they’re expected to, and not going one-and-done at the MW tournament as examples of what needs to be done to perhaps meet those goals.
Is this team much like last year’s in terms of playing small and pushing the tempo, or have some things changed?
There is a lot of similarity from last season, Leon Rice and company figure there isn’t much reason to change a good thing. One new wrinkle is 6-foot-8 freshman Nick Duncan, who has a great outside shot, but can also crash the boards. Impressively, he is 6-2 Jeff Elorriaga’s backup at one guard spot and 6-9 Ryan Watkins’ backup at forward. There was a major emphasis on defense over the offseason, and it has been mostly positive. The numbers are about what they were last season, but there’s a team-wide belief they are on the cusp of breaking through on that end.
When this team is clicking, what does it do well and what areas does it struggle with when things are not going well?
Though they aren’t as reliant on the 3-pointer as many assume, when the Broncos are getting open looks from downtown, they tend to make them and go on big runs (20-0 first half run last Saturday against Fresno State). If teams guard the perimeter tightly, guys like Anthony Drmic, Derrick Marks and Mikey Thompson are good at driving to the basket and getting layups. Offensively, when they aren’t moving the ball around well or taking shots too quickly, it tends to snowball and they force shots. Also, when playing long, athletic teams they have major troubles, as most do, but it was very apparent against the likes of Kentucky and San Diego State.
After a 69-66 loss at San Diego State Wednesday, do you expect a team Saturday that will have a letdown or be even more motivated?
I was a little surprised after the game, the team seemed fairly upbeat despite having a chance to win at the No. 13 team in the country. Kind of going back to the fact they know they can’t let any winnable games slip away, they’ll be focused on Wyoming. Rice always has noted how much Wyoming scares him, so that will no doubt trickle down to his team. Watkins joked with me that the team’s focus is on bouncing back, just like it did last year after losing a close one at San Diego State …and the year before.
What concerns does Wyoming pose, and how do you see this game unfolding?
Even though Wyoming’s struggled away from home, it always a challenge for Boise State, and Rice is quick to point that out. The Cowboys are a good defensive team, as usual, and that’s always pause for concern for Boise State, so reliant on its offense. Teams that have typically done well guarding the 3 have done well against Boise State this season, so the Broncos will need to try and buck that trend. I think Boise State will be pretty fired up Saturday, and with their ability to create turnovers and decent rebounding edge will create a little extra offense. Close game, but not one the Broncos can afford to lose at home.