Boise State tips off its 2015-16 season in just over three months, and in late November it will compete in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim, California.
Five of the eight teams participating in the Wooden Legacy were in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Here's the list of teams, including 2014-15 win-loss records and tournament results:
Arizona (34-4, Elite Eight)
Boise State (25-9, Round of 68)
Boston College (13-19)
UC Irvine (21-13, Round of 64)
Michigan State (27-12, Final Four)
Providence (22-12, Round of 64)
Santa Clara (14-18)
First Game: UC Irvine (Nov. 26)
It has already been announced via CBS Sports that the Broncos will face off against the Anteaters of UC Irvine in the first round of the Wooden Legacy. Boise State is 4-6 all time against UC Irvine, although the Broncos should be favored in this one.
Irvine is led by 7 foot, 6 inch giant Mamadou N'diaye, the tallest player in college basketball. The Anteaters offense doesn't necessarily run through N'diaye, but his presence is clearly felt whenever he is on the floor. It will be interesting to see how Boise State matches up against N'diaye, facing a major size disadvantage. N'diaye only averaged 5.1 rebounds (statistics courtesy of Sports Reference) per game last season, so the athletic Bronco frontcourt should have no trouble on the glass. Junior guard Luke Nelson is the top offensive threat, averaging 10.5 PPG last year.
Coach Russ Turner has a good, but not great squad. If last season was any indication, UC Irvine can compete (57-55 loss to Louisville in NCAA's), but its best win all season was a two-point victory in late December over Green Bay, who missed the tournament altogether. It would be a disappointment and possibly a red flag if Boise State came up short in the first round.
Second Game: Michigan State/Boston College (Nov. 27)
It's pretty obvious here that Broncos fans would rather see Boston College than Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans are coming off yet another Final Four appearance. The losses of team leaders Travis Trice and Branden Dawson will hurt, but the expectations remain sky-high for senior guard Denzel Valentine and Sparty. Michigan State will also welcome power forward Deyonta Davis, one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the Class of 2015. As mentioned in the preview of the UC Irvine game, the Broncos frontcourt will be tested earlier and often this Fall, and Michigan State is no exception.
If Boston College does manage to pull an upset, it would be a shocker. The Golden Eagles lost just about all of its core players from a team that stumbled to a 13-19 season. The toughest departure for BC was junior guard Olivier Hanlan. Hanlan was a stat sheet stuffer, totaling 1009 points in three seasons (18.7 PPG) before declaring for the NBA Draft in mid-April. Another former BC player now plays for our very own Boise State Broncos. Lonnie Jackson, a 6-4 guard for the Golden Eagles, transferred to Boise State in May after receiving a medical hardship due to a leg injury, granting another year of NCAA eligibility. Jackson, averaging 7.8 points per game in his career, will hope to play at a top level against his former team.
Third Game: Arizona/Santa Clara/Providence/Evansville (Nov. 29)
The four teams listed above could be divided into two groups; Arizona and everyone else.
So let's do that.
The Arizona Wildcats were one the strongest and most consistent teams of 2014. Its roster will have a whole new look for 2015. Arizona loses its four top scorers from last season: T.J. McConnell, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Brandon Ashley. But 'Zona still has plenty of talent, especially with its 7-foot senior center Kaleb Tarczewski. Coach Sean Miller should expect big things from Tarczewski this season, as he is projected to be one of the premier centers in the country for 2015-16. If Boise State were to take on Arizona in this tournament, it would actually be their second matchup in two weeks. Boise State travels to Tucson for a November 19th non-bracketed game.
Our remaining three teams (Santa Clara, Providence, and Evansville) are all led by scoring guards.
The Providence Friars, an up and down team last year, managed its second consecutive tournament appearance. The Friars lost its top scorer to graduation, LaDontae Henton, but will lean heavily on junior guard Kris Dunn. Dunn saw his numbers jump off the page last season. Dunn averaged 3.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.0 APG and 1.8 SPG his sophomore season. He upped his stat line to 15.6/5.5/7.5/2.7 as a junior. He is quietly being discussed as a dark horse for Player of the Year in the upcoming season. Boise State would have its hands full trying to limit Dunn on both ends of the court. If Dunn catches fire in the Wooden Legacy, Providence has an outside chance at taking home the crown.
Santa Clara and Evansville join Boston College as third-tier teams in this tournament.
D.J. Balentine, a 6-2 senior guard for Evansville, will attempt to carry his team all season long. He finished 16th in the country last year at 20.1 points per game, and will be responsible for the longevity of his team's season. Talented teams should be on the lookout, however. Evansville is a feisty Missouri Valley team. The Purple Aces knocked off Belmont and Northern Iowa in the regular season, and won the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in April over Northern Arizona.
Santa Clara should be considered the weakest team in the Wooden Legacy bracket. Like Providence and Evansville, Santa Clara features a scoring guard of its own. Jared Brownridge, a junior guard, seems to play at his highest level against the best competition. Last year, he scored 20+ points in seven contests, including 25 and 29 against Gonzaga and BYU, respectively.
I would be surprised to see predictions that don't feature Michigan State and Arizona in the finals, but the Broncos are the third strongest team in this tournament, and have the talent to pull off an upset. The Wooden Legacy has a consolation bracket, so regardless of wins or losses, each team will play three games. Boise State should hope to scratch out two or possibly even three W's in Anaheim. Either way, this is a fantastic opportunity for the Broncos to pick up resume-builder wins early in the season.