Boise State Hoops: What makes them special, tough to defend

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Since Leon Rice arrived on campus and started his first season as Boise State’s head basketball coach, he’s reached the 20-win plateau in every season, except one in 2011-2012.

He’s led the Broncos to two opportunities to the NCAA First Four games, and the style of play has improved greatly since he took over the reigns.

This season is no different than past. But this team seems to have exceeded expectations.

Departures of Anthony Drmic, Mikey Thompson, James Webb III, and others, it was bound to be a rebuilding type year.

Not so fast. Boise State is now 4-0 in conference and No. 1 in the Mountain West Conference standings.

This has shown to be one of Rice’s best coaching seasons in Boise.

We know how dangerous Derrick Marks, Anthony Drmic and James Webb could be.

What makes these Broncos special, and hard to figure out?

Ball Movement

The style of play in basketball has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years.

From a big man game, to a guard-heavy, inside-outside 3-point shooting type era. It’s changed the way programs recruit and the personnel they put on the floor.

If you like little dribbling and isolation in half court sets, this Bronco team won’t do a whole lot of it. Boise State has a great reputation of moving the ball side to side.

No team wants to play 20-25 seconds of defense, and the Broncos do a good job of lulling the opposition into a daze with ball movement and hitting opposing defenses with quick hitters, and penetrating into the lane and kicking out.

This specific play doesn’t convert into points, but nevertheless a good illustration of the Broncos using the whole court, swinging the ball and changing sides, and waiting for SDSU to make a mistake in their defensive assignments.

Now Nick Duncan is not the most athletic, we all know this, but the fact he can shoot 3’s is a tough matchup for any big man. They are forced to not only defend the paint, but the perimeter as well.

Watch Duncan’s defender through this transition of moving the ball side to side. He even slips when Duncan puts the ball on the ground, he hasn’t had to guard much outside the perimeter.

He gets caught sleeping, watching the ball and not his man. Duncan then flashes up to the top of the key for a good look. A look Rice will take every time.

You don’t have to be the most athletic team to move the ball, it’s how you operate while moving the ball that makes the difference.

One Boise State assistant coach that reflects just that is assistant coach John Rillie, who hit 10 threes in one game in 2009.

The Haney Effect

The Boise State coaches found a diamond in the rough when they landed big man Zach Haney. the 6-11 sophomore had 5 offers coming out of high school.

He made a big impact in the game against SDSU on Saturday, scoring 19 points, shooting 54% from the field in 25 minutes.

The most impressive part of Haney’s performance was not how many points he had, but how he got them.

I earlier stated the game of basketball has veered away from the big man game, now big men are finding their way behind the perimeter.

Haney has a little bit of both. The points he was scoring were not garbage buckets or dump downs, it was 2-dribble hook shots or drop steps.

This play below shows one of Haney’s moves.

The SDSU player is already off balance when Haney catches the ball; having his legs spread wide, he doesn’t even have a chance to keep up with Haney.

Fundamental basketball, the most simple and effective type of play.

If Haney keeps improving and being this efficient, Boise State is no longer just a shooting threat, they have some points in the paint they can rely on.

All Eyes On Hutch

Chandler Hutchison is a player on the Boise State team that you would most likely see on other teams in the MWC: SDSU, UNLV or UNM. He’s lengthy, and athletic.

Standing at 6-foot-7 and just under 200 pounds, the junior from Mission Viejo, California has gone from a role player the last two seasons, to the player.

He’s now a complete player and the Broncos go-to guy. The thing that’s different about him is that he looks the part, and he plays the part.

Averaging 18.3ppg, and almost 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Not bad for someone that averaged 6.8 ppg last season.

Out of the 15 games, the Broncos have played he has scored 20 or more points in 8 contests.

His strongest asset is getting to the hoop and finishing with contact. You saw that numerous times against SDSU, to where it looked effortless at times.

He’s shooting all over the court, and opposing defenses have to pay attention at all times. He’s not just scoring from everywhere on the floor, his rebounding has filled the void since Webb’s departure.

Here’s how much opposing defense respect Hutchison’s ability.

3 players collapse and Hutch’s vision pays off as he dumps it to Haney for an easy bucket.

As we enter into this new year, Leon Rice & Co. are poised to make a serious run in the Mountain West Conference Tourney if this keeps up, and possibly a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Boise State will face off against Fresno State this Saturday in Fresno at 5pm.

Players to Watch

– Paris Austin

– Justinian Jessup


About Drew Vachal

Drew Vachal
I am the founder and creator of Bronco Nation News. A graduate of Boise State, basketball junkie, a husband and an uncle. Email:

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