One Shot Short
A raucous red crowd in Dayton, Ohio roared as a white-clad Derrick Marks dribbled up the floor. Announcers on the sideline gesticulated wildly while the amped-up home fanbase goaded on their Dayton Flyers.
The Boise State Broncos weren’t fazed. They kept their shoulders square in the face of unbridled opposing momentum and inbounded the ball.
Anxiety emanated off the crowd as nervous eyes drifted from the court to the scoreboard and back. Marks had the ball at the top of three-point line with three seconds left in regulation, down by one. A Dayton defender was draped over him like a blanket, but Marks couldn’t find an open teammate. He forced up a shot that missed everything, and it bounced across the court as the Dayton crowd roared in delight.
Since then, Boise has missed the NCAA Tournament for four consecutive seasons. That’s all the more disappointing when you consider that Boise went 76-53 in that time span, including three seasons of 20+ wins.
Another 20 win season is on their radar. Boise is currently sitting at 17-9. Only four games are left on the year, and three more wins are more possible for Boise. But they face an undefeated SDSU squad at home, and afterward play games against San Jose State, UNLV, and New Mexico.
A Path To March
An at-large bid for Boise to the NCAA Tournament is likely out the window. But if they win out and finish at 21-9 with a win against San Diego State, that would put them in the conversation.
If there’s one loss mixed into their final four games, Boise would have to win the conference tournament to make it to March. That’s a much steeper task than winning out in the regular season. Tough opponents like Utah State and Colorado State would stand in the Bronco’s path, which is a more daunting path than what the rest of Boise’s regular-season presents.
Yet it’s been four long years of agonizingly good seasons for Bronco fans, and they’re anxious for a breakthrough. The sold-out crowd on Sunday afternoon is going to push it’s hardest for the biggest Boise State win in team history.
Those same folks in the crowd would be quick to agree on a rather bitter conclusion. Just like Boise State kickers, Leon Rice’s squads usually play well throughout the season and come up short in the end.
If Boise can pull off a stunner and beat San Diego State at home, Leon’s legacy will be cemented by that win.
But if the usual occurs, and another promising season slips out of Boise’s grasp, questions will be asked. Those questions won’t be fair questions. They certainly won’t be fair to Boise’s best basketball coach since the turn of the century. Yet they will be asked.
A coach’s legacy is on the line. A fanbase is as tense as a guitar string. The number four team in the country is marching into Boise State with staunch vigor.
Mountain West Basketball simply doesn’t get better than this.
Boise State will be keen to pull off the upset with the home crowd on their side. That being said, it’s extremely difficult to bet against the Aztecs.
But it’s even harder to bet against a team desperate for a breakthrough.
Boise State: 73