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Boise State vs. Arizona basketball preview: Broncos look to upset No. 12 Wildcats

Boise State heads back on the road in hopes of upsetting #12 Arizona at hostile McKale Center.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Today I am joined by AZ Desert Swarm's managing editor Jason Bartel to dish us some information from Arizona's side of Thursday night's duel in the desert. Boise State has had November 19th circled on its calendar for months now, and we are lucky to have an Arizona insider answer a few questions about the game.

EB: Freshman guard Allonzo Trier went 1-10 from the field in Arizona's home opener but had 22 points including 14 free throws in the Wildcats win over Bradley. What are your first impressions of Trier through the first two games?

JB: I'd say he's still coming into his own. Yeah, he has a lot of accolades attached to his name coming into Arizona, but if there's one thing we know about the way Sean Miller forces Arizona to play basketball, a standout freshman isn't going to be able to come in and be consistently great right away. We saw that last year with Stanley Johnson, and it's going to happen with Trier. It was very encouraging to see him take it to the hoop over and over on Monday, and hopefully that's a sign of things to come. I mean, who scores 22 points with just five field goal attempts? I'm just interested to see how quickly he develops consistency on this team.

EB: Arizona lost a number of its key players to graduation and the NBA draft this spring. Who is the most important player for the Wildcats this season?

JB: There's a number of guys I could go with, but I'll stick with Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson. He has been crazy good every time he's taken the floor this year, and he could be a guy who averages a double-double. I think this team will go as Anderson goes, and I couldn't have imagined myself saying that two months ago.

EB: Boise State relies on an up-tempo pace and perimeter shooting on the offensive side of the ball. How does Arizona match up against this style of play?

JB: I don't think up-tempo will be an issue, as Arizona can push the ball up the court pretty quickly itself sometimes. The perimeter defense is something that I think the jury is still out on. One guy who's proven he can guard on the perimeter very well is Kadeem Allen, and I would imagine he'll be a big part of keeping Boise State in check. It would also be interesting to see if 6-9 forward Mark Tollefsen is out guarding the perimeter in this game as well. Pacific was 6-19 from beyond the arc, but then Bradley was just 2-15, so who knows how good this team will be at defending the three. If Boise can hit those long balls, maybe they'll have a shot at ending the 40 game home winning streak.

A big thanks to Jason Bartel, and I strongly recommend checking out his work over at

Broncos at a Glance

Current record: 1-1
Points per game: 86.5
Opponent points per game: 77.5
Leading scorer: Anthony Drmic 22.5 PPG
Leading rebounder: Chandler Hutchison and James Webb III 6.5 RPG
Leading passer: Mikey Thompson 4.0 APG
Upcoming schedule: vs. Concordia (OR), Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, CA (three games), vs. Williamette, @ Portland

Game Info

Matchup: Boise State Broncos vs. #12 Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Arizona, 8:30 PM Eastern, McKale Center
Live coverage: Radio: TBD, TV: Pac-12 Network, Streaming: TBD
Vegas: Arizona - 12 point favorites according to OddsShark, O/U: TBD
2015 win/loss records: Boise State 1-1, Arizona 2-0
Head coaches: Boise State - Leon Rice (sixth season with school, 103-64 career record, two career NCAA appearances)
Arizona - Sean Miller (seventh season with school, 285-99 career record, eight career NCAA appearances)


Thursday night will be the first ever matchup between these two schools. This game is part of the non-bracket portion of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, California that will take place Thanksgiving weekend. Strangely enough, if Arizona and Boise State manage to meet in the finals of the Wooden tourney, it would be the second time these two teams played in 10 days after never meeting in school history.

Projected Starting Lineups

Boise State Broncos

G) Mikey Thompson, Sr., 16.0 PPG
G) Anthony Drmic, Sr., 22.5 PPG, G) Chandler Hutchison, So., 6.0 PPG
F) James Webb, Jr., 14.0 PPG, III F) Nick Duncan, Jr., 9.0 PPG

Arizona Wildcats

G) Kadeem Allen, Jr., 8.0 PPG, G) Gabe York, Sr., 11.5 PPG
F) Mark Tollefsen, Sr., 8.5 PPG F) Ryan Anderson, Sr., 16.5 PPG
C) Kaleb Tarczewski, Sr., 10.0 PPG

Injury Status

Boise State's freshman guard Malek Harwell is out for season after tearing an ACL in early October.

Freshman Arizona forward Ray Smith suffered a torn ACL in late October and is done for the season.

Key Matchup

Boise State forward Nick Duncan vs. Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski

BSU faces its first physically-imposing lineup this season taking on three projected Arizona starters who are 6-9 or taller. The giant of the group is 7-0, 235-pound center Kaleb Tarczewski. The senior was recently named to the Wooden award watch list, and averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year. Tarcewski was fourth in the Pac-12 last season in two-point field goal percentage with a 57.2% clip.

This matchup will be interesting because of opposing styles of Tarczewski and Duncan. Nick Duncan stands at only 6-9 but has the skill to defend and lock down much taller oppositions. Unlike Tarczewski, Duncan likes to set up behind the arc due to his natural three-point shooting ability.

I would not be surprised to see switches between Duncan and James Webb as well as Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson or Mark Tollefson throughout the game. With Duncan on the perimeter, Anderson or Tollefson might follow and let Tarczewski defend Webb underneath for a better chance at grabbing rebounds. On the other side of the court, Webb and Duncan may switch off on guarding Tarczewski if Webb seems like a better athletic option.

Don't expect a break when Tarczewski takes a breather; his backup is Dusan Ristic, another seven-footer.

What to Expect

Boise State faces an uphill battle against a top-15 Arizona Wildcats team. UA has been the leaders of the Pac-12 since Sean Miller's arrival to Tucson. In Miller's six-year tenure with the 'Cats, Arizona has won 30 or more games three times and went to the Elite Eight each of those three years. This year's Arizona roster is not nearly as experienced and talented as recent season's, but Sean Miller has plenty of tools to construct another deep March run.

For the Broncos to pull off an upset, they will have to start fast and knock down key shots. A victory Thursday night won't be impossible, but strong shooting performances from Drmic, Duncan and others will be necessary. A great way to silence the hostile McKale Center crowd would be a hot start from three-point range. Taking the home-court advantage away from Arizona would be a major plus for Boise State.

The Broncos know the stakes at hand and the importance of this game. A victory would be a tremendous confidence booster and a signature win on BSU's tournament resume. Thursday night represents an opportunity for Boise State to see where it currently stands compared to one of the better teams in the country.