The Boise State Broncos take its talents to California this Thanksgiving weekend to participate in a three-game tournament honoring Purdue and UCLA legend John Wooden.
It was announced in early August that Boise State would be a member of the 2015 Wooden Legacy tournament bracket. The games will be held on November 26th and 27th in the Titan Gym and November 29th in the Honda Center.
Let's take a look at Boise's path through the weekend.
Quarterfinals: vs. UC Irvine Anteators (Nov. 26th, 4:00 PM ET, ESPNU)
UC Irvine key players: G Luke Nelson 16.0 PPG, C Mamadou Ndiaye 3.3 BPG, F Mike Best 12.3 PPG
Boise State's only guaranteed matchup in this tournament will be against Big West's UC Irvine.
The Anteators are off to a quick 4-0 start to the season but cross paths with its toughest competition this weekend.
Irvine is led by the tallest player in America, 7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, as well as sharp-shooting guard Luke Nelson. As expected, Ndiaye is a premier rim protector, averaging over three blocks a game this season. His scoring has also improved as he is now averaging 10.8 points per game. Nelson is a 6-3 do-it-all guard for UCI. The junior from England is Irvine's top scorer and is currently shooting 10-25 from deep through four games. Nelson adds 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game and hasn't missed a free throw.
UC Irvine is a tournament-caliber team and should be competitive against the Broncos. Attacking the basket with guards Mikey Thompson and Paris Austin will be difficult with Ndiaye camping down low. Look for Boise State to drive to the basket and kick out to the open man on the perimeter. Nick Duncan and Lonnie Jackson could have a big day from behind the arc.
Semifinals (First scenario): vs. Michigan State Spartans (Nov. 27th, 5:30 PM ET, ESPN2)
Michigan State key players: G Denzel Valentine 15.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 9.8 APG, G Bryan Forbes 12.8 PPG, F Matt Costello 9.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG
Assuming a Michigan State win over Boston College and a Broncos victory against UC Irvine, these two teams would meet up Friday evening.
Michigan State is currently ranked third in the country, thanks to an impressive win over Kansas last week in the Champions Classic.
Senior 6-5 guard Denzel Valentine is the workhorse for Sparty this season. Through four games, Valentine is nearly averaging a triple-double at 15.3/9.0/9.8. But Valentine is not alone. Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, Javon Bess, and Deyonta Davis lead a talented and underrated squad.
Boise State will have its hands full against Tom Izzo's team. Michigan State is one of the better shooting teams in the country, and is in the top ten in the country in assists and blocks. Much like last week's Arizona game, Boise State will need to light it up from three-point range and limit turnovers to pull off a major upset.
Semifinals (Second scenario): vs. Boston College Golden Eagles (Nov. 27th, 3:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
If Boise State falls to UC Irvine and Boston College is unable to upset Michigan State, the Broncos and Golden Eagles will face off Friday afternoon.
Eli Carter is the star for BC in 2015. Carter previously played for Rutgers and Florida before joining Jim Christian's Eagles. Through three games, the 6-2 guard is averaging 18.7 points and 3.3 assists per game.
Inexperience could be costly for Boston College as it endures its first major challenge of the season. The Golden Eagles have eight freshmen and only three returning players from the 2014 season. If Boise State and Boston College were to play, the Broncos should be able to handle an extremely young BC team.
Placement Game scenarios (Nov. 29th)
Boise State will play Arizona if...
A matchup between Arizona and Boise State within a 10-day span is possible but rather unlikely. Unless Arizona stumbles or Boise State manages to pull off a massive upset against Michigan State, we won't see BSU vs. UA in this tournament. Depth should help carry the Wildcats to the Wooden Legacy finals, where it is expected to play Michigan State. Boise State - Arizona likelihood: unlikely
Boise State will play Evansville if...
The Evansville Aces of the Missouri Valley conference are off to a quick 3-0 start to the 2015 campaign. In its last game, Evansville held off Belmont in a 93-88 win. The Aces have two players that are averaging more than 20 points per game in D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicious. Balentine, a 6-2 senior guard, has received praise as one of elite scorers in the country. Balentine is also not afraid to share the rock, logging six assists a night this season. Evansville has an experienced team with 11 upperclassmen and could make some noise Thanksgiving weekend. Boise State - Evansville likelihood: somewhat likely
Boise State will play Providence if...
The Friars have a chance to make some noise this weekend in Anaheim. Providence is proud to be home to the best point guard in the nation, senior Kris Dunn. If there is one player that could single-handedly carry a team, it would be Dunn. Last year's Big East co-player of the year turned down the NBA Draft last spring to return to the Friars. Coach Ed Cooley has quickly turned around a struggling program and has led Providence to consecutive tournament appearances for the first time since 1990. Even with Kris Dunn and Rodney Bullock (18.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG), Providence does not have the depth and talent to match up with Arizona or Michigan State. Providence will likely take home two victories this weekend. Boise State - Providence likelihood: most likely
Boise State will play Santa Clara if...
Santa Clara arrives in Anaheim as significant underdogs in this tournament. Already in 2015, Santa Clara has fallen to Denver, UC Riverside, and Lipscomb, among others. Five of the eight teams in the Wooden Legacy participated in the NCAA tournament last season, adding to challenge for Santa Clara. Boise State would have to lose to UC Irvine as well as Boston College/Providence in order to take on Santa Clara for the seventh place game. Boise State - Santa Clara likelihood: very unlikely
Boise State over UC Irvine - This should be a close one, but the Broncos will finish off UCI late
Michigan State over Boston College - Too much talent for BC to handle
Evansville over Providence - Upset pick here, Evansville has been solid in the early going led by Balentine
Arizona over Santa Clara - Like Michigan State, 'Zona will have no problem here
UC Irvine over Boston College - BC's 7-1 Clifford vs. UCI's 7-6 Ndiaye will be fun
Providence over Santa Clara - Kris Dunn might take over this game, if necessary
Michigan State over Boise State - Could go down as one of Izzo's best teams
Arizona over Evansville - Arizona has arguably the best bench production in the nation
7th/8th: Boston College over Santa Clara - Don't expect Santa Clara's first win until December
5th/6th: Providence over UC Irvine - Winner of the Nelson/Dunn matchup could be pivotal
3rd/4th: Boise State over Evansville - The Broncos shouldn't have any problems in this one
Championship: Arizona over Michigan State - Two Final Four-worthy teams, could go either way