There has been something missing from this season’s Boise State men’s basketball team. And yes, it’s much more than timely shooting.
It’s leadership on the player level that has been lacking, especially as of late.
The leadership void was masked in December and the first part of January during the Broncos 10-game winning streak. Despite lapses in the second-half of many of those victories, Boise State was doing just enough to look formidable and a possible threat in March.
Then the ship sprung a leak, those patches no longer holding the leadership void at bay.
In reality, we should have seen this let down coming. Despite the victories, wins were too close against teams the Broncos should have been walking over.
Nothing changed and struggles mounted, culminating (hopefully) in a lackluster performance in a 61-53 loss to Air Force last Saturday.
Despite veteran players in the likes of Anthony Drmic, Mikey Thompson, Nick Duncan and James Webb III, something has been missing on the court. Their talent alone has carried them in some games, but a sense of gliding along during long stretches has knocked this team down a notch.
To be truthful, no one has stepped up like Derrick Marks did last season, making it curious to think that we as fans undervalued Marks and his importance.
We saw how good Marks was and how frustrating he could be. He was trusted with the ball so many times in a game’s final minutes over the past few seasons that we took for granted our team would just slide into a victory.
Perhaps that’s part of the problem with this season’s Boise State team.
Marks took so many big shots that no one on this current team appears to want the ball in their hands at the end of games, like Marks did. Last season’s conference MVP put the team on his shoulders not because he had to, but because he wanted to. His scoring barrages seemingly willed the Broncos to victory throughout the years.
The same can be said on the defensive end of the floor. No player is out there slapping the floor, firing up his teammates to get the key defensive stop or string of stops. There is no player offering to guard the team’s best player, like Marks did.
Win or lose, errant shots or no, Marks was that man last season. Say what you will about him, but he wanted to be the man that held the ball at the end of the game.
Collectively, this season’s team has the talent. They have battled, evident in the 16 wins they already own. In a way, a lack of leadership has given this season one of incomplete disappointment.
All four of the veteran players, plus Lonnie Jackson, have had those moments of leadership. Drmic’s energy on both ends of the floor kept the Broncos in the game versus New Mexico. Thompson is having a career season, even hitting the winning shot against Loyola Marymount.
Duncan and Jackson have had multiple games with four or more made 3’s. Webb III collected double-doubles throughout the season.
For the most part, aside from Jackson’s shooting, none of that was present last Saturday. Layups and shots within the key were being missed with regularity. Despite the athletic advantage, players were being fancy instead of just going strong to the rim.
Simply put, Boise State was out hustled. They were lethargic for most of the game, something not entirely new to this season’s team. There have been plenty of times in which it appears the Broncos are simply going through the motions.
A true leader would not allow that to happen. Instead, it seems at times the collective veteran leadership is simply resting on their laurels.
The collective leadership, at times, has served Boise State well, especially when being down. They don’t panic, but they don’t play with a sense of urgency until it is too late.
That urgency will be needed as the Broncos head down the homestretch. A true leader needs to step forward, to get those key stops on defense, to knock down the big shot. The rest of the team will feed off of that energy. If everyone on this team play to their strengths (and starts making their shots/free throws), the Boise State Broncos have an opportunity to be scary good.
Someone needs to take the reins. If one (or even two) bring the type of leadership that Derrick Marks brought to the floor, Boise State will be playing in the NCAA tournament in the third week in March. If not, this team is going to continue to go in circles, drifting and waiting for a rescue that may never come.