Boise State’s shooting struggles at home have Leon Rice thinking outside the box

·3 min read
Sarah A. Miller/smiller@idahostatesman.com

Out of the 11 men’s basketball teams in the Mountain West, Boise State has the second-most difficult nonconference schedule, behind UNLV, according to KenPom.com.

The Broncos’ trip to the East Coast for the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic produced a 2-1 result, including a near-upset of a Top 25 team (St. Bonaventure) and wins over squads from the Atlantic 10 (Temple) and SEC (Ole Miss). But on their own court, the Broncos are in danger of losing three in a row for the first time since 2012 — Boise State’s first season in the Mountain West.

Coach Leon Rice’s team hopes to stop the skid when Tulsa (4-3) comes to ExtraMile Arena for a nonconference matchup at 7 p.m. Friday. The game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network, which is available at broncosports.com/mwn.

“We’ve played good competition and grinder games and tough games that will simulate league games,” Rice said. “... That’s what I wanted. It’s hard to live it and it’s hard to go through it. It’s a lot more fun to be 7-0 and 8-0 and haven’t had to confront this stuff. ... But if you have the guys with character and the guys that don’t point a finger ... then you have something special.”

Last season, the Broncos (3-4) lost their opener at Houston and then rattled off 13 straight wins. But they finished the season losing five of their final six. Rice said he put together the Broncos’ 2021-22 schedule with the aim of challenging his guys from the get-go.

“If this was a young team having to go through all this, it might be too much,” Rice said. “But I knew I could count on their character. I knew I could count on their togetherness. And I knew it would make us better and put us in a great position.”

With seven of their 13 nonconference games behind them, Boise State is more than ready for home-court advantage to kick in. Rice doesn’t want the shooting struggles (vs. Cal State Bakersfield) or the free-throw issues (vs. Saint Louis) to become mental obstacles for his team, so he sought advice from some fellow Broncos in another department.

“I actually walked down to the golf offices and gathered up all the golf coaches and some of the good golfers,” Rice said. “I’m like, ‘All right, what do you do when you get the yips?’ They said, ‘Don’t call it the yips, first of all.’ We had a good conversation about it and some great ideas, because I believe golfers are the best in the world at being able to clear their mind.”

When asked what advice he gave Rice, Boise State senior golfer Hugo Townsend smiled and said, “That’s a secret.”

TULSA AT BOISE STATE

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: ExtraMile Arena, Boise

Live stream: Mountain West Network

Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler, Abe Jackson)

Records: Boise State 3-4, Tulsa 4-3

Series: Tulsa leads the all-time series 7-4. The Golden Hurricane won the most recent meeting, 69-56, on Dec. 11, 2019, in Oklahoma.

Vegas line: Boise State by 8

KenPom rating: Boise State 75, Tulsa 148

KenPom & ESPN predictions

Ken Pomeroy, who created the popular college basketball statistical website KenPom.com, ranks every Division I team using an adjusted efficiency margin, which Pomeroy defines as the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency.

According to Pomeroy’s detailed statistical analysis, Boise State has a 78% chance of beating Tulsa. His score prediction is a 68-60 Boise State victory.

ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index: Boise State has a 71% chance of winning with a predicted point differential of 5.3.

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