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2016 Boise State Basketball - What We Learned

In July, pundits anticipated another Boise State NCAA tournament bid. In late March, the Broncos are without a postseason appearance and are stuck thinking about 2017.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

It's a quiet time in Boiseland. After a disappointing end to the 2016 hoops season, Broncos fans are counting down the days to Brett Rypien's sophomore campaign.

This isn't what many Mountain West experts imagined back in the summer. Talk swirled around the conference of whether BSU basketball was ready to rival the football program that has dominated since the early 2000's.

But the question was quickly answered - the basketball team wasn't ready for the spotlight. After a season-opening loss to Montana, the Broncos had a dent on its tournament resume just hours after the season tipped off.

BSU missed a number of chances to take advantage of a loaded schedule, which included two matchups against Arizona and a Wooden Legacy game against Michigan State. A 10-game winning streak from early December to late January tied a school record, but a frustrating home loss to San Diego State put the Broncos into a funk that they couldn't escape in the final two months.

In the closing seconds of the eventual MW quarterfinal defeat to Colorado State, the Broncos fans were left wondering what this season could've been.

There were a number of positives and negatives in 2016, so let's take a look at what we learned about this past season and what we can expect in the fall.

2016 was a missed opportunity

Let's get this one out of the way right now - the entire Mountain West was down this year. Excluding Fresno State's resurgence and San Jose State's modest 9 wins, every other team in the conference fell short of expectations this season. Even San Diego State - which finished with 16 conference wins and dominated the last three months of the season - couldn't find a spot in the field of 68.

Boise State had countless opportunities to boost its resume and receive a more favorable draw for the Mountain West tournament. The victory against Oregon was nice, but going 0-4 against Montana, Arizona twice and Michigan State proved to be costly in March.

Even non-conference play had its defining moments. Shooting 1-17 from deep against San Diego State, blowing a 15-point lead and 9-point lead in two New Mexico games, allowing 55 points in the second half to UNLV and crushing losses to bottom feeders Air Force and San Jose State pushed the Broncos far from the tournament picture in a hurry. When it was all said and done, BSU's resume wasn't even strong enough for an NIT bid.

Anthony Drmic will go down as the best player in BSU history

Sure, he fell two points short of the Tanoka Beard's school scoring record, but Anthony Drmic will go down as the best player in Boise State's 46-year history.

Leon Rice's first major commit in his BSU tenure was Drmic - a lanky swingman with a knack for scoring the basketball and an Australian accent not common to the greater Boise area. Drmic came onto the scene in 2011 with fellow Australian Igor Hadziomerovic to make an immediate impact in Boise State's first season in the Mountain West.

Although Drmic never had a chance to play a round of 64 NCAA Tournament game, he unloaded for 28 points in the 2013 play-in loss to La Salle, showing yet again that he belonged in the spotlight.

What Drmic accomplished in his time with BSU was substantial. Not only did he help Leon Rice put Australia on the map for recruiting, he showed a tremendous amount of resilience in his battle through injuries and role changes. Drmic was constantly banged up his senior year, mostly due to complications from ankle surgery after a season-ending injury in December of 2014. The fifth-year senior also embraced a change in his role which meant coming off the bench as a sixth man in late February. A number of college basketball athletes see their roles shift throughout their career, but not many start 122 of their first 123 collegiate games to have an abrupt change in the closing moments of their senior year, but Drmic embraced his new role and adjusted with ease.

Second half shot selection must improve next season

Second half collapses were the biggest issue for the 2016 Broncos. Many wondered why BSU couldn't put teams away, but there was a glaring statistical disparity that explains why BSU struggled in the closing stretches.

Statistical Category Boise State National Average National Rank
3-point % 32.6% 34.7% 265th
3-point attempts 788 x 41st
2-point % 53.7% 48.7% 23rd
2-point attempts 1071 x 299th

As displayed in the table above, the Broncos took far too many 3-point attempts this season. Yes, there are few teams in the conference that have the perimeter shooting ability like Boise State, but the Broncos got cold and too dependent on the 3-ball at times, especially in the second half. As the old basketball adage goes, "You live by the 3, you die by the 3."

BSU had 11 games in which it connected on 10 or more 3s, but also had 12 games where the Broncos shot less than 30% from deep, including 4-30 combined in two games against San Diego State.

So if Boise State is the 23rd best 2-point shooting team in the country, why did BSU shoot such a great amount of 3-pointers?

When trailing in the second half, the Broncos settled for far too many deep 3s early in the shot clock rather than running a set play to find a better look. On the flip side, BSU also tried to go for the "dagger shot" that would essentially put the game away when leading, but instead let the opponent benefit from a time-management standpoint.

It's understandable that a Leon Rice-led team wants to unload from deep more often than most teams, but even with a core of Duncan-Drmic-Jackson, this team shot far too many 3s in 2016.

Paris Austin, Chandler Hutchison and Zach Haney are the future of the program

The time is now for the Austin-Hutchison-Haney trio. All three gained a significant amount of experience in 2016 and will only see their roles expand in the upcoming seasons.

Austin, who will be a sophomore in the fall, logged 12.3 minutes a night in a limited role behind floor leader Mikey Thompson. However, the Oakland native has the physical tools to become an all-conference player. Speed and athleticism drives Austin's game, and he has an uncanny ability to finish around the rim after a quick crossover, hesitation or spin move. Expect Austin to start at the point guard position from day one in November.

Back in October I projected the 6-7 swingman Chandler Hutchison would become a household name at some point in the 2016 campaign. Hutchison didn't quite reach that benchmark, but he showed flashes of greatness and improved significantly from his freshman season.

Chandler Hutchison 2015 2016
FG% 35.6% 49.7%
True Shooting % 43.0% 53.7%
Offensive Rating 99.6 113.0
Rebounds Per Game 2.0 4.1

The near-15 percent improvement in field goal shooting helps explain why Hutchison's relentless attack of the basket will be a key aspect to Boise's offense in the next two seasons. Hutchison was a bit more tentative with the basketball as a freshman, but Boise's first ESPN 100 recruit looked far more comfortable and decisive as he drove through the lane this year. When you add Hutchison's verticality to his driving ability, this is a player that could average 10-15 points per game as an upperclassman.

Zach Haney was a pleasant surprise for the Broncos in 2016. The 6-11 freshman from Humble, TX showed why he's a perfect fit for Boise State. Haney's hustle and grit helped BSU earn a few extra possessions this season, as the Texan dove on the floor for a loose ball or hustled to prevent a fast break basket. It's the effort that makes Haney great. He's already a capable 3-point shooter, but once his post game improves, Haney will be a do-it-all forward who's nearly seven feet tall. Not many teams in the country can say they have a weapon like Haney.