The curtains closed abruptly for the Broncos in the First Four of the 2015 NCAA Tournament with a heartbreaking 56-55 loss to Dayton.
Although the defeat was a tough one for Bronco fans to swallow, 2014 was arguably the greatest season in Boise State history.
Not only did the Broncos crack the top 25 for the first time in school history, fans also enjoyed a school-best 25 victories.
Senior guard Derrick Marks received Mountain West player of the year, Leon Rice was named coach of the year, James Webb III earned MWC newcomer of the year and the Broncos captured the MWC regular season title.
Boise State had to say goodbye to team leaders Derrick Marks, Rob Heyer and Igor Hadziomerovic, but the future looks just as bright for this season's squad.
*Statistic projections are solely based off predicted roles, playing time and career statistics.
The point guard position is led by two returning seniors and top incoming freshman Paris Austin. As of right now, Mikey Thompson appears to be the front-runner to steer the offense. Thompson has been efficient and reliable in his three years with the program. He has big shoes to fill in 2015, replacing the MW player of the year Derrick Marks.
Bronco fans have been waiting all summer to see Paris Austin. The four-star Oakland native was ranked nationally in the ESPN 100, and has already made an impression on coaches and teammates. Austin is an up-tempo floor leader who is a creative passer and has the ability to create his own shot when needed.
'Tigo Alford is another role player who will be counted on for senior leadership and productive minutes on the floor. Although Alford only played a combined seven minutes in the MWC tournament, he logged 23 minutes and knocked down a trio of three-pointers to spark the offense against Dayton in the First Four. Alford is currently battling a sports hernia, but once healthy, he will look to build off of his strong tournament performance.
Coach Rice has to be pleased with the amount of talent and leadership at point guard this season. Due to size, Alford is the only player who should be locked in at the PG spot, so Austin and Thompson should find playing time at the two. This is a good group of players who need to step up if Boise State wants to make a tournament run.
|Malek Harwell (OFS)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|James Reid (RS)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
The wing group has been revitalized for 2015.
Anthony Drmic returns for his fifth season with the Broncos. Drmic suffered a season-ending ankle injury after only seven games last year. Drmic, at 6-6, is considered the top scorer in the conference and has an opportunity to become the highest scorer in Boise State history. Health is still a bit of a concern for Drmic as the coaching staff has eased him into practicing this summer.
The other wing starter is projected to be 6-7 sophomore Chandler Hutchison. Anthony Drmic's injury opened the door for Hutchison, who emerged during conference play in a do-it-all role. Hutchison is a selfless player who can score, rebound, pass, and lock down scoring guards. Expect Hutchison to take another step forward as a sophomore, with a focus on improving his scoring ability and continuing to work hard on defense.
Sharp shooter Lonnie Jackson will play a big role for the Broncos this season. The Boston College transfer averages 7.8 points per game in his career and is a 38.2 percent three-point shooter. With Drmic, Jackson and forward Nick Duncan all on the floor, the Broncos will be a three-point threat every possession.
Cody Spjute and Collin Landry are both walk-ons who will see limited time this season. Freshman Malek Harwell tore his ACL this summer and received a medical redshirt. James Reid was also redshirted, and will be a senior next season.
|James Webb III||35.0||12.7||8.9||0.7|
|David Wacker (RS)||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
Juniors James Webb III and Nick Duncan will start at the power forward and center position this year. Expect both Webb and Duncan to average over 30 minutes a game.
Nick Duncan is a very unorthodox center, but is a key piece nonetheless. Duncan is only 6-8, and will be matching up with a number of players four or more inches taller than him this year. Duncan has proven his ability to defend talented opponents, and will be relied upon to do much of the same in 2015. Three-point shooting is Duncan's greatest strength. He has hit 39.3% of his shots behind the line in his career. He is always active around the perimeter, maneuvering around off-ball screens to create space between his defender.
James Webb III jumped onto the scene last year after Anthony Drmic's injury. Almost unknown before arriving at Boise State, Webb started 27 games and averaged 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds a night. Webb's impressive comination of size and athleticism has drawn a number of NBA scouts to Boise. But the 6-9 junior is one of the last guys you would expect to be caught in the spotlight; he continues to remain focused on academics and winning games.
The depth behind Webb and Duncan is a huge question mark.
Robin Jorch, an incoming freshman via Germany, has imposing size and loads of potential. Jorch played with the German national team and averaged 12.4 points per game. It still seems that Jorch is raw and has unpolished aspects of his game, which is expected from an international freshman. Jorch should play a minor depth role in 2015, but if he shows promise, his minutes could increase throughout the season.
David Wacker and Zach Haney are both young and will provide depth to the Broncos frontcourt this season. Haney was redshirted last season and Wacker could potentially redshirt this season.
Look for Jorch and Haney to find more playing time when Boise State takes on size mismatches.
Three Major Questions
Who will be the point guard at season's end?
Paris Austin. Get used to reading this name because the highly-rated freshman out of Oakland will be the future of the Broncos program.
Coach Rice is not afraid to insert freshmen into his lineup, making Austin a prime candidate for taking over point guard duties this season.
Last season, after playing just one combined minute in a three game stretch, Rice placed freshman guard Chandler Hutchison into the lineup and has started him every game since. Don't be surprised to see a very similar mid-season move this year.
Teammates have praised Austin's maturity and basketball I.Q., and the immediate chemistry between Austin and junior forward James Webb III has already led to alley-oop throwdowns in practice.
Rice will put the best team on the floor regardless of experience. And although the other point guards on the team (Montigo Alford and Mikey Thompson) are seniors, Paris Austin could carry the torch before the 2016 season begins.
Can we expect any player to have a breakout season similar to James Webb III last year?
Sophomore swingman Chandler Hutchison will become a household name amongst MWC fans this season.
Hutchison arrived on campus last summer as the first ESPN 100 recruit in school history. He struggled to find playing time in non-conference, but wound up starting 18 games the rest of the way. The Broncos were 15-3 when Hutchison was in the starting five.
Hutchison's 2014 numbers don't jump off the page, partly due to the fact that he plays a "utility" role and will do whatever is needed to secure a win. However, I do expect his offensive numbers to increase as he secures a starting spot this season and continues to become more comfortable in the system.
He won't become Anthony Drmic overnight, but Hutchison will continue to polish and improve his skills in 2015.
What is the ultimate key to success in 2015?
Post play. The frontcourt will be integral to Boise State's path to the NCAA tournament this year. Nick Duncan and James Webb III have established themselves as the leaders of the frontcourt, but will need to show even more strides in 2015.
Here are just a few of the talented forwards that the Broncos will match up with this season: Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson, Mamadou N'diaye, Jalen Moore (twice), Stephen Zimmerman (twice), A.J. West (twice), Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer (twice).
Nick Duncan will start at the five and James Webb III will play the four. Duncan and Webb are a very imposing froncout combination, but the depth behind these two is concerning. If either Duncan or Webb are slowed by an injury this season, redshirt freshman Zach Haney or German commit Robin Jorch will need to step up and lead the post.