The ninth installment of the Gildan Charleston Classic tips off Thursday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The games will be played in the TD Arena, a 5,100-seat capacity home to the Charleston Cougars, the annual host of the tournament.
Not only is Charleston the host of the tourney, but also Boise State’s first opponent. It will be a true road matchup for the Broncos, the first away game of the season for the young Broncos team. BSU shined in the opener, eradicating Northwest College on both sides of the floor en route to a 85-46 domination. Chandler Hutchison (23 points, 11 rebounds, three steals), Justinian Jessup (10 points, six rebounds, four assists) and Alex Hobbs (11 points) were the most impressive for the Broncos in the win.
The competition will be ramped up in Charleston, providing a solid test for a BSU team that has yet to find its identity after a difficult offseason that resulted in the loss of five upperclassmen, three of which averaged more than 11 points per game.
College of Charleston will be the first of three games for the Broncos in the event, currently ranked 79th in KenPom’s tempo-free rankings and off to a quick 2-0 start. Charleston knocked off up-tempo Citadel on Friday 81-68 and then pushed past Coastal Carolina 71-64 on Monday. Charleston, a participant of the Colonial Athletic Conference, will be a tough matchup for Boise State. The Broncos open up as 7.5-point underdogs against a Cougars team that should compete for a CAA title and NCAA Tournament bid.
Charleston is led by redshirt junior point guard Joe Chealey, a score-first guard that averaged 19 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in the first two games. Sophomore forward Jarrell Brantley is another player to watch out for, one of three returning double-digit scorer for the Cougars, and the best rebounder of the group. The others are junior guard Cameron Johnson (12.3 PPG, 2.4 APG last year) and sophomore guard Marquise Pointer, who averaged 11.2 points a night in 2015-16. The toughest offseason loss for Charleston was incoming senior guard Canyon Berry opting to transfer to Florida. Barry was an elite scorer for the Cougars, scoring nearly 20 points a game last season.
Boise’s next matchup will be either UCF or Mississippi State, two middle-of-the-road teams from larger conferences. Ben Howland’s MSU Bulldogs and Johnny Dawkins’ UCF Knights both present tough matchups for Boise State, who will likely be an underdog each of the three games in this weekend’s tournament. UCF features the tallest player in college basketball in Tacko Fall, a 7-6 center entering his sophomore season. The Knights also return the majority of their offense from last year’s team, and could surprise a few teams in the AAC this season.
Mississippi State is the anticipated underdog in the matchup, but the Bulldogs are SEC competition with an experienced head coach on its side. Chris Dobbertean from BloggingTheBracket projects Boise State to defeat UCF in the second day of the tournament after falling to Charleston in the first game.
On the final day of the tournament, BSU will play Villanova, Western Michigan, Wake Forest or UTEP. Villanova, the defending national champs, would be a longshot, as the Wildcats are expecting to cruise through the three-day event. Dobbertean predicts Boise State taking home 5th place after a victory over the UTEP Miners on the last day of the Charleston Classic, which appears to be the most likely scenario.
Here is another look at Boise State’s matchups for the Gildan Charleston Classic:
- College of Charleston, 11/17 - 7pm ET
- Mississippi State/UCF, 11/18 - 7pm/9:30pm ET
- Villanova/Western Michigan/Wake Forest/UTEP, 11/20 - 1:30pm/3:30pm/7:00pm/9:30pm ET
Regardless of how many W’s the Broncos can scratch out in Charleston, it will be a tremendous test for an exceedingly young Boise State team. This isn’t the most talented early season tournament field you will find this year, but each of BSU’s potential opponents will have somewhat of a chance to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid in March. Look for Coach Leon Rice to continue to mix and rotate his lineups as he finds out more and more about his roster for this season.