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Looking back at Boise State’s past struggles in March

The Broncos are hanging on by a thread for an NCAA Tournament berth.

NCAA Basketball: Boise State at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State suffered a damaging loss to its NCAA Tournament chances Tuesday night against Fresno State. Ranked outside the 200 in both NET and KenPom, the loss to the Bulldogs counts as a “Quad 4” loss for the Broncos. Boise State is now the only team in the to-60 of the NET rankings to have a Quad 4 loss.

While the loss significantly hurts the Broncos’ chances for an at-large berth in the tournament, they still have a chance to sneak into the field as an at-large, but they will likely need a solid showing in the Mountain West Tournament next week to add more to its resume.

If they cannot win the conference tournament, they will definitely need to get to the championship game and play a close game with San Diego State to give themselves a chance. Winning in the conference tournament is much easier said than done for Boise State.

In his tenure at Boise State, Leon Rice has the most wins in the history of the Broncos program (216), however, little of Rice’s success has come in March. Since Boise State’s first season in the Mountain West Conference, 2011-2012, the Broncos are 5-9 in MWC Tournament games, which includes five opening game losses.

The Broncos have made the NCAA Tournament twice since joining the league, both times appearing in the First Four play-in game in Dayton, both resulting in losses. And they have made the NIT twice, going 1-2 in three games played. Here is a brief history of Boise State’s recent struggles in March and in the Mountain West Tournament:

2013: In their second year in the Mountain West Conference, Boise State had solid non-conference wins at then 11 ranked Creighton and against LSU. They finished tied for fourth in the MWC with San Diego State at 9-7. The Broncos beat the Aztecs in its last game of the season, but lost to San Diego State in its next game in the quarterfinals of the MWC Tournament. The Broncos earned an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, the first in school history, but lost to La Salle (who went on to the Sweet 16) in a First Four play-in game.

2015: Boise State won 14 of its final 15 games to get a share of the MWC regular season championship. They entered the MWC Tournament ranked 25 in the country and as the number one seed. They lost to eventual tournament champions Wyoming in the semifinals, 71-66 in overtime. Despite having 25 wins, Boise State was again sent to the First Four where they lost to Dayton (who also had 25 wins), at the Flyers’ home arena, 56-55.

2016 and 2017: Boise State finished in third place in the MWC back-to-back years and suffered losses in the quarterfinals both times. In 2016 they lost to sixth seeded Colorado State after the Broncos had just lost to San Jose State in the last game of the regular season. The next year, they lost to sixth seed San Diego State in the quarterfinals. The Broncos made the NIT that year, they defeated Utah in the first round and lost to Illinois in the second round.

2018: The Broncos posted an impressive 23-7 (13-5 MWC) record and finished second in the MWC behind nationally ranked Nevada. However, Boise State was upset in the quarterfinals by seventh seeded Utah State. In the top half of the bracket, Nevada got upset by fifth seed San Diego State, and the Aztecs faced six seed New Mexico, who beat Utah State in the semifinals, in the conference championship game, Boise State had gone 3-1 against those two teams in the regular season. They went to the NIT and lost in the first round to Washington.

Every year is different and every end of the season hurts in its own way, this year could be one of the toughest ones for Broncos fans to swallow given everything was looking so good midway through the season for Boise State to get in the tournament. If Boise State just misses the tournament, everyone will look back at the loss against Fresno State and getting swept by Nevada as the possible games that put the Broncos in the spot they are in.

But there is still a chance for Boise State to put to bed all the bubble talks if they win the conference tournament in Las Vegas. Even though history has not been on the Broncos’ side, this wild and crazy season could be the year Boise State’s bad luck in March finally ends.