The Broncos are a lock for the NCAA tournament. They will operate as the top seed in the conference tournament that starts tomorrow, March 9th. This is unknown territory for the Broncos, and a game against fellow conference contender Colorado State would, in most years, make or break the season. The bubble would be the bane of Boise State’s existence and a loss would all but eradicate any hopes of dancing in March. However, the only bubble talk this year is about a potential four-bid Mountain West. Colorado State had more on the line as conference seeding was still up in the air. The Rams could only move as far down as a three seed and as high as a two seed. A potential sweep for Niko Medved’s crew would create serious momentum as they head to Las Vegas.
It was a raucous crowd at Moby Arena, and the stands buzzed with excitement as Senior Night festivities concluded. Boise State struck first, going up 7-2 in the opening minutes of play. The Rams responded, scorching the perimeter, and taking the lead thanks to a 12-0 run. Bronco Max Rice found his rhythm from distance as he nailed two three-pointers to close the gap to one. No more major runs occurred in the half, preventing the lead from ballooning above five for either team. As the half drew to a close, neither team had gained a significant edge statistically or emotionally. This was before Isaiah Stevens sent the crowd into a frenzy with a three as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Rams took a 41-36 lead into the break.
David Roddy established himself in the beginning of the second half, scoring a pair of buckets to extend the Ram lead to eleven. This was the danger zone for Boise State. To their credit, they didn’t bow out and salted away the deficit to three with 14 minutes left. A surprising addition to Boise State’s arsenal on Saturday was the shooting of Pavle Kuzmanovic. His efforts kept the Broncos within striking distance and with 7:38 to play, Marcus Shaver Jr. tied the game at 58. Fantastic effort by both teams kept this conference showdown tight down the stretch. After trading baskets in the last two minutes, Abu Kigab drove for a layup to put the Broncos up one with 1:28 to go. Colorado State jumped back on top via a James Moors offensive rebound and putback. On the ensuing possession, Tyson Degenhart got a clean look at a three, but came up just short. A David Roddy turnover nearly led to the Broncos regaining the lead, but Shaver lost the ball on a drive to the rim. Whether there was enough contact for a foul call is up for debate. Boise State intentionally fouled Kendle Moore and he did miss the front end of a one and one, but Roddy came up with the offensive rebound to give Moore a second chance at the line. Moore converted both free throws and the lead was up to three with 13 seconds on the clock. The ball was placed in Marcus Shaver Jr.’s hands, but he wasn’t able to find a clean look and the Broncos’ last shot ended up wide left.
Colorado State 71 – Boise State 68.
The Rams earned a sweep over the conference champion and sent their seniors out with a win. With this, we saw them climb into the last edition of the AP Poll for this season, checking in at #23. It looks as though Colorado State will enter the NCAA tournament as a six or seven seed, depending on how the Mountain West tournament shakes out.
Boise State fought until the end when they didn’t have to. They could have limited their starters to depleted minutes in order to rest them for the tournament. But that is not what this team is about. They will fight tooth and nail until the clock shows triple zeros. Even though they didn’t achieve the result they wanted, some within the team like Abu Kigab feel that this game will light a fire under them for the conference tournament. Projections for NCAA tournament seeding vary for Boise State, but it seems that anything from a seven to a nine is in play.
For Colorado State, they had three players reach double figures. David Roddy, the official Mountain West Player of the Year, scored 23 points and made the veteran plays needed to pull out the win. Kendle Moore added 19 points and made three triples while Isaiah Stevens contributed 12 points and dished out seven assists. The Rams shot 55 percent from the field and converted over 80 percent of their attempts from the foul line.
The Broncos also had three players score ten points or more. Abu Kigab led the team with 15 points and helped all over the court with six rebounds and five assists. Marcus Shaver Jr. made more of an impact driving the ball as he went for 13 points, including one three-pointer. Max Rice did his part off the bench and tallied 11 points with three shots from beyond the arc. The Broncos shot 53 percent from the floor, but went an impressive 89 percent from the charity stripe on nine attempts.
Moving forward, Colorado State awaits the winner of #7 Utah State and #10 Air Force. The Rams earned a bye and won’t play until Thursday in the quarterfinals. If the bracket went chalk and they moved on to the championship, Colorado State would have to go through Utah State, San Diego State, and Boise State. The conference tournament serves as an opportunity for Colorado State to only improve their seeding in the Big Dance.
As for Boise State, they also have a bye as the one seed and will take on the winner of #8 Nevada and #9 New Mexico on Thursday. The chalk scenario for the Broncos would include Nevada, Wyoming, and Colorado State. The conference tournament has been a bug-a-boo for Leon Rice and company in previous seasons, which will make this season’s tournament even more intriguing considering their success. Boise State will play at 1:00 MST on Thursday, March 10th and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN).