NCAA countdown: No. 48 Boise State
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Leon Rice knows full well Boise State is a football-driven school. It doesn’t take a glance at the signature blue turf to figure that out. Yet the third-year head coach is convinced there’s room for basketball on campus if the team’s puts out a “successful product” for the die-hard, passionate sports fans.
Last year’s product, which included 21 wins through a grueling Mountain West schedule and a 14-1 home mark behind a supportive fan base, was highlighted by signature victories to decorate an NCAA tournament-worthy résumé.
Boise State enjoyed plenty of success on the hardwood during its days in the WAC before transitioning to the MWC in 2011 — finishing 22-13 in Rice’s first season — but it wasn’t until the Broncos heard their name called as an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, the first in program history, that the message rang loud and clear: Boise’s not just a football school anymore.
Now, the Broncos are the only participant from the 2013 NCAA tournament to return all five starters — giving Rice his most dangerous team yet and giving Boise fans something to cheer about.
2012-13 in review: 21-11 overall (9-7 in Mountain West), lost in first round of NCAA tournament to La Salle.
Coach’s corner: “Last year, we played a team that got hot (La Salle). Just getting there was huge for us. Now our guys know what that feels like, and they want more.” — Rice.
Path to the Dance: The Broncos should be positioned, once again, to earn a coveted at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if they’re able to hold strong in the non-conference slate before entering Mountain West play, where they’ll be one of the favorites to challenge New Mexico along with newcomer Utah State and stalwarts San Diego State and UNLV.
Projected tournament seed: No. 11 seed.
Star watch: Boise State brings back 92% of its scoring, and that’s spearheaded by reigning Mountain West scoring leader Anthony Drmic (17.7 ppg). He’s complemented by guard Derrick Marks (16.3 ppg, 3.9 apg). They were the seventh-highest scoring tandem in the country. … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 48 Boise State, click here.]