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Boise State hosts Colorado State in Mountain West opener

Anthony Drmic and the 9-4 Broncos take on Larry Eustachy's Colorado State Rams in the first game of the conference season.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season, Colorado State and Boise State meet to tip off the conference schedule. Larry Eustachy's Rams will need to overcome the loss of superstar guard Gian Clavell.

Game Info

Matchup - Colorado State Rams @ Boise State Broncos in Boise, Idaho, 7:00 PM Eastern, Taco Bell Arena
Radio/TV/Stream - Radio: 670 AM KBOI, Stream: ESPN3, and WatchESPN app
Vegas - Boise State 11-point favorites according to OddsShark
Win/Loss Records - Colorado State 8-5, Boise State 9-4
KenPom Rankings - Colorado State 162nd, Boise State 81st

The holidays are behind us and the focus around the college basketball landscape has shifted to the conference season. Eight Mountain West teams have already completed their first games of the year, highlighted by Fresno State's road win over UNLV in Vegas.

For Leon Rice and the Broncos, it's business as usual.

Boise State cruised through December 6-0 after an extremely challenging first month of the season. BSU fell to Michigan State and Arizona twice and dropped the season opener to Montana. However, the Broncos have stepped on the gas pedal since the rough Thanksgiving weekend at the Wooden Legacy, and hope to carry the momentum through the conference slate.

The recent winning stretch is largely due to the increased defensive intensity by the Broncos. The extra effort has led to steals and easy transition buckets, which will be key over the next three months of the season.

It will be an uphill climb for CSU in conference play, as the Rams' best player Gian Clavell is out for the season with a broken hand. Clavell had been fantastic up to the point of his injury, scoring 20.8 points, grabbing 6.9 rebounds, and dishing 3.1 assists per game. Larry Eustachy now has about 37 minutes of playing time to fill with Clavell's absence, most of which will come from freshmen Jeremiah Paige and Prentiss Nixon.

With the team leader Clavell out of the lineup, look for Boise State to try to take advantage of Paige and Nixon. Colorado State has struggled mightily on the defensive end, allowing 77.4 points a game and having only recorded 50 steals all season.

Like Boise State, the Rams do not have much height on the roster. Emmanuel Omogbo (12.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG) and Kimani Jackson (4.0 RPG) both stand at 6-8 and are the only CSU players who log significant minutes down low. Dantiel Daniels is another frontcourt player to look out for, a senior with rebounding savvy and a larger frame at 6-7, 234.

Although Colorado State has some nice pieces, it is nothing that Boise State can't neutralize. James Webb has flourished during Boise State's winning streak, picking up steals on one side of the court and slamming it down on the opposite end. Nick Duncan and Anthony Drmic have also held their own, consistently reaching the double digits in scoring.

The Broncos have recorded 17 steals in the last two games after averaging only 4.9 thefts in the first 11 games of the season. If these numbers continue to grow, Boise State will become even more dangerous in the Mountain West. James Webb and Chandler Hutchison have played scrappy, hard-nosed basketball that Leon Rice loves to see from his group.

A once highly-anticipated game has lost a bit of its intrigue due to the injury to CSU guard Gian Clavell, but should be a competitive matchup nonetheless. Colorado State should keep it close throughout the night but Boise State will shut the door in the final minutes.

Prediction: Boise State 78, Colorado State 68