To provide a glimpse of what might have been for the Boise State Broncos men’s basketball team in 2018-19, look no further than the first three games and the final game of Mountain West play. The Broncos won all four of these games by an average margin victory of 22.5 points.
It was the in-between stretch of 14 games when frustration — for the team and fans alike — set in. Boise State (12-19) went 3-11 in these conference games, including a mark of 1-5 in games decided by one possession or overtime.
The result of this long stretch, which also included a six-game losing streak? A streak of 20-win seasons is over at six. There will be no talk of being a bubble team or possible NIT matchups. This year for the Broncos, it’s Mountain West Conference tournament title or bust.
A drop-off was to be expected in 2018-19. Gone was first-round NBA pick Chandler Hutchison, plus fellow starters Lexus Williams and Chris Sengfelder. The Broncos were to be led by a trio of juniors and, with Robin Jorch taking a redshirt season, only two seniors would be active.
Choosing to play only nine players all season was certainly a risky decision by head coach Leon Rice. But the Broncos were more than competitive, taking regular season co-champions Utah State Aggies and Nevada Wolf Pack to the limit on separate occasions.
On senior night, the Broncos played their most complete game since the second game of conference play, a 88-64 victory over San Diego State. Last Saturday, Boise State defeated Air Force 80-52.
Senior Zach Haney scored a career-high 20 points in his last home game, while fellow senior David Wacker finished with five points and seven rebounds.
The Broncos open Mountain West tournament play on Wednesday at 12 pm MT, facing off against the Colorado State Rams. Even with a possible first-round victory, awaiting the Broncos would be the Wolf Pack. Boise State hasn’t picked up a tournament win since 2015. Is winning the championship impossible? No. But it’s going to take near-perfect play and some luck. Luck of which has been bad most of the season but might finally decide to give the Broncos some karmic retribution.
Mountain West all-conference selections
The Mountain West all-conference teams, as selected by the *media, were announced on Monday, with two Boise State players making the list.
Junior guard Justinian Jessup was selected to the third team while sophomore Derrick Alston was voted to the honorable mention team.
Jessup had the most consistent season of Bronco players, leading the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and made three-pointers (85). Jessup is shooting 43 percent from deep and pulls down 4.5 rebounds per game.
He really stepped over the last six games, averaging 19.5 points per contest. Jessup connected on 23 threes during this span and pulled down 4.9 rebounds. He also averaged 3.8 assists, with seven against Air Force.
Alston took his game to the next level in 2018-19, setting the stage for hopefully a huge junior season. Alston has started 19 games and averages 13 points per game. He is connecting on 48.7 percent of his shots and is second on the team with 50 made three-pointers.
*The media and the coaches have separate honors, meaning two sets of all-Mountain West teams for the men.
Colorado State Rams
The season series between the Rams (12-19) and Boise State saw each team pick up a victory on the other’s home court.
Boise State won a close game on the road, 70-68. Colorado State returned the favor with an easy 76-62 victory in Boise.
In these two games, Jessup averaged 22.5 points. He also made seven threes and dished out 10 assists.
Colorado State enters the tournament on a three-game losing streak. The Rams lost to New Mexico by 12, Utah State by 4 (in OT) and to UNLV by 5 to close out the regular season.
The Broncos will have to contend with Colorado State big man Nico Carvacho. Carvacho averaged a double-double in 2018-19, scoring 16.2 points and pulling down 13.2 rebounds per game. He averaged 15.5 points and 15 rebounds against Boise State this season.
He may have been a one-man rebounding machine, but Boise State mostly held their own in the rebounding department. The margin was -9 over the two games (-1, -8) so if they can keep the rebounding total close, the Broncos will be in the game.
Wednesday’s game will be available to watch on the Mountain West Network.
If the Broncos win on Wednesday, they advance to play Nevada in the quarterfinals. That game would start at 1 pm MT on Thursday.