A single team meeting changed the direction of Boise State’s basketball season

·5 min read
Boise State Athletics

The details are scarce, but Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice says one meeting changed the direction of the Broncos’ season.

Since that meeting, the Broncos have won 12 consecutive games and sit atop the Mountain West standings with Wyoming headed to town Tuesday night for a first-place showdown at ExtraMile Arena. Tipoff is 7 p.m. and the game will be streamed live online at watchstadium.com.

“There was a meeting that maybe I’ll make public at the end of the year that really changed the direction of this team,” Rice said Monday during a Zoom interview. “It’s just a super positive thing and kind of just an eye opener of perspective and where we were and what we could and wanted to accomplish.”

Before their win streak began, the Broncos opened the season 3-4, including a Quadrant 4 home loss to Cal State Bakersfield. Now they have two Quadrant 1 road victories and have climbed to No. 43 in the NET rankings, which the selection committee uses to pick the NCAA Tournament field.

Out of the meeting emerged a stronger team chemistry and a better understanding of the role each player would take on for the Broncos. It is unclear if Devonaire Doutrive left the team before or after that meeting.

“If nothing changes, nothing changes, and a lot changed. A lot of the way we played together, the chemistry of the team completely changed,” Rice said. “I’m not making one guy the victim or the villain. I’m saying we have a shared responsibility in what we did and how we flipped it. And it was shared to a man, to everybody in this program.

“It’s one thing to declare we were at rock bottom, but if we don’t have a way to get out of it, then it’s: ‘Big deal. What does the declaration matter?’ So I think the plan we had since then has been terrific, and the guys have been enjoying themselves. We’ve been playing really hard.”

Key to Boise State’s run has been the team’s ability to stay in the moment, Rice said. It’s Marcus Shaver Jr. going 0-for-10 from the field only to sink the winning 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left at Utah State. It’s the Broncos overcoming a near 10-minute scoreless stretch to win at San Diego State for only the third time in program history.

It’s also a stifling defense that’s climbed to No. 8 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Boise State has now held 12 opponents to fewer than 60 points this season, which is the second-most in a single season during the Rice era, and just two shy of 2014-15 — when the Broncos won the Mountain West regular-season title.

With the help of the coaching staff, these Broncos can identify what needs to be done and go out and execute.

“You can go in (at halftime) and rant and rave and hit the whiteboard as much as you want and kick garbage cans and talk about rebounding. Whatever you want to do. However you want to deliver the message,” Rice said. “But if they don’t go out and do it, the message doesn’t matter.”

As their win streak has grown, the Broncos have also started to receive votes in both The Associated Press and Coaches Top 25 polls. In the latest polls, Boise State garnered three points in the AP poll, and it’s up to 14 in the coaches poll.

But the Broncos are determined to stick with their winning formula of staying in the moment.

“I think that is the key and that is what I’ve been most impressed with is our ability to just erase what’s behind us, and not look what’s ahead of us,” Rice said. “It could have been overwhelming to look at all those games that we had in a row and on the road, but we just haven’t done that and that takes the maturity of a group of guys that have been through stuff before.”

Note: Boise State’s game at Wyoming, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 1, has been moved to Feb. 3. The game in Laramie had to be postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Broncos’ program.

WYOMING AT BOISE STATE

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: ExtraMile Arena (12,380), Boise

Live stream: watchstadium.com

Radio: 670 AM (Bob Behler, Abe Jackson)

Records: Boise State 15-4, 6-0 MW; Wyoming 15-2, 4-0 MW

Series: Boise State 19-14

Last meeting: Boise State swept last season’s series by scores of 83-60 and 90-70 in Laramie.

Vegas line: Boise State by 4.5

KenPom rating: Boise State 42; Wyoming 61

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 68% chance of beating Wyoming. His score prediction is a 67-62 Boise State victory.

ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index: Boise State has a 77.2% chance of winning with a predicted point differential of 7.3.

Women’s basketball: Broncos set for rematch with Cowgirls

For the second time in the last three games, Boise State will face Wyoming in Mountain West action. The game, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 3, will tip off at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

The Broncos (7-11, 3-4 MW) are coming off back-to-back victories last week over Wyoming (70-59) and Colorado State (69-64) and have climbed into a tie for sixth in the conference standings.

Wednesday’s game will be streamed live online on the Mountain West Network, or listen on the radio on 670 AM.

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