The madness of March is nearly ready to descend on college basketball. First for the Boise State Broncos men’s basketball team is securing a first-round bye for the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Four regular season games remain for the Broncos, starting with a contest at ExtraMile Arena against the nation’s fourth-ranked team, the San Diego Aztecs.
Not only would a victory Sunday be a monumental upset, it would move Boise State (17-9, 9-5) one step closer to securing said first-round bye.
The top five teams in the regular season earn a first-round bye in the MWC tourney that starts March 4. Currently the Broncos sit in a three-way tie for second place with the Utah State Aggies and Nevada Wolf Pack. One half game behind is the Colorado State Rams while UNLV sits one game behind the Rams in sixth place.
Coach Rice is 🔥d up for Sunday. We need you in the stands to MATCH the intensity! #BleedBlue
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) February 13, 2020
A strong run for the Boise State Broncos could mean a finish as high as second place. A skid could sink the Broncos all the way down to eighth place, depending on how other teams fare.
An ideal finish for Boise State would involve them finishing with the second or third seed, meaning they get a first-round bye. This would also mean avoiding the first-place Aztecs until the championship game, if things moved along that far.
Winners of six of their last seven games, Boise State is playing some of their best basketball to date. A 3-1 record to close out the season is more than doable. After Sunday’s game, the Broncos close with a road game at San Jose State, home against New Mexico, and finish on the road at UNLV.
Boise State Broncos: Rising to the occasion
In the first matchup between the Boise State Broncos and Aztecs this season, Boise State fell behind by double digits early and, despite better play in the second half, fell 83-65.
If Boise State is to pull off the upset on Sunday, the Broncos will need near perfect games from top to bottom. This includes players like Justinian Jessup and Derrick Alston, Jr.
Jessup has been locked in over the past few weeks. Now the Mountain West Conference’s all-time three-point leader, Jessup is also moving up the Broncos all-time scoring list. He’s tied with Chandler Hutchison for ninth-place at 1478 career points and is only eight points from passing Roberto Bergersen for eighth place.
The senior guard is averaging 18.5 points per game during the last six games, connecting on 20 three-pointers in this span. On the season, Jessup is second on the team in scoring (15.7 ppg) and has made 77 threes.
Jessup is surging the same time Alston has struggled with his shot. Alston is 8-31 from the field the last three games, including a disappointing 3-17 from deep. The redshirt junior did find his rhythm the second-half against Air Force and finished with 15 points.
Alston leads the Broncos in scoring at 18.4 points per game. He and Jessup combined to go 6-21 from the field with 16 points last time out against the Aztecs.
An important factor will also be RJ Williams. Williams is having a solid senior season, averaging 11.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Williams has eight double-doubles this season and had 16 points and 9 rebounds in the last matchup with San Diego State.
The Aztecs are led by Malachi Flynn. The junior guard averages 16.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Flynn had 19 points and 6 assists against Boise State. It was the duo of KJ Feagin and Yanni Wetzell, however, who really hurt the Broncos. The two were a combined 18-28 from the field, scoring 43 points. Feagin had five 3’s in that game.
San Diego State is averages 76 points per game while holding opponents to 58.4. Part of their success is due to holding teams to 37.6 percent shooting from the field and only 27.8 percent from three-point range.
Tip-off is scheduled for 2 pm (MT) on Sunday. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.