Here is my question-and-answer session with Dave Southorn, who covers Boise State men’s basketball for the Idaho Statesman, about today’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip off is at 2 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
Follow on Twitter: @IDS_Southorn
Boise State was predicted to be among the top teams in the Mountain West and has played like it at 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the conference. What have the Broncos done well when they’re winning, and what areas — if any — do they struggle?
Though some fans hoped they had at least one win against the likes of Michigan State and
Arizona (which they played twice), this is about as good as many had hoped the Broncos would be. They’ve done it thanks to a continued focus on increasing their athleticism, able to attack the basket but shoot with players like Nick Duncan and Anthony Drmic. The Boise State offense has been great against everyone except long, athletic squads like Arizona and San Diego State. Four players average at least 11.3 points per game, so options are aplenty. The Broncos haven’t been great in the half court defensively, with teams shooting 43.5 percent overall, but they have forced at least 15 turnovers in six of the last seven games.
How good is junior forward James Webb III and how do teams try to slow him down?
Webb has been even better than last season in quite a few ways, even with him being opposing defense’s primary focus. His 16.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game are an improvement, while he’s making just 27.7 percent of his 3s, he’s attempting way more free throws (102 this season, 58 last season), which has shown up in 64.5 percent shooting inside the arc. Getting him in foul trouble by attacking him early has been effective, as has keeping him as far from the basket as possible on the offensive end.
Losing MW Player of the Year Derrick Marks to graduation had to be tough, but it seems like senior Mikey Thompson has filled in well. Would you agree with that, and what has he brought to the table this season?
Thompson has been the most surprising player to me. He was dreadful in the second half of last season (28.7 percent shooting in MW games), but other than Webb has been the team’s most consistent presence. He’s averaging 11.3 points per game, shooting 47.9 percent and a 2-1 assist-to-turnover-ratio. He’s scored at least 11 points in seven of the last nine games. He’s been able to drive well with attention still on the shooters, and he’s made good decisions with the ball when he needs to kick it out.
How would you assess the play of senior guard Anthony Drmic, who is among the school’s all-time leading scorers but still seems to be hammered with injuries?
It’s been equally tough on Drmic and the team. Nerve damage from his season-ending ankle surgery last year has left his leg weakened and him a step slow. But he’s ultra-competitive, so he’s done a good job fighting through it. He’s still second on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg), but has twice been held scoreless in league games. Coach Leon Rice hopes Drmic can reinvent himself as a gritty presence, a solid defender and a guy who can still hit a few 3s. Now with more options, he doesn’t have to be the old Drmic, and his teammates have said they want to carry him to another conference title.
What are some of the key match-ups will you be looking at against Wyoming, and how do you see the game playing out?
Boise State is 78-24 under Rice when out rebounding opponents, and 9-0 this season. They’ll have Webb and Hutchison flying toward the boards all night.
Cowboys game day
Game: Boise State (14-5 overall, 5-1 Mountain West) at Wyoming (10-10, 3-4)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
TV: ESPN3 (online only)
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (96.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com