Broncos poised to capture WAC's second seed

Broncos poised to capture WAC's second seed

Boise State, the surprise team in the WAC this season, has put itself in position to earn the second seed in the conference tournament. That would be big for the Broncos, who won at Nevada 72-66 on Feb. 26 to improve to 9-6 in the WAC. They entered March a half-game ahead of New Mexico State (9-5). A five-game winning streak had put Boise State in position for that second-place finish.

Boise State could win second place outright if it wins its final conference game -- at home against San Jose State on March 5 -- and New Mexico State loses once. The Aggies play host this week to league-leading Utah State and Nevada.

In case of a tie, the first tiebreaker to determine seeding for the conference tournament is the head-to-head result. Boise State and New Mexico State split a pair of games this season. The next tiebreaker is how the tied teams fared against the next-highest team in the standings ... and on down the line if necessary.

In any case, Boise State will be fired up to take care of what it can control -- and that is beating the Spartans. The Broncos will be fighting for a big prize, as the second-place team in the WAC gets a double-bye into the conference tournament semifinals. And they wouldn't have to face Utah State until the championship game, if at all.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Boise State's bus ride from Fresno, Calif., to Reno, Nev., took 13 hours on Feb. 25, and the team didn't arrive at its hotel until after midnight. Coaches canceled the team's usual pregame shooting practice so that the players could rest before playing Nevada on Feb. 26.

The travel didn't seem to affect the Broncos, who went out and beat Nevada. "I'm so proud of these guys -- they're not excuse-makers," coach Leon Rice told the Idaho Statesman. "A lot of teams would have been like 'Holy cow.' Our guys didn't allow it to affect them. I think that shows mental toughness."

--Although the regular-season finale is at home against San Jose State on March 5, Boise State will celebrate Senior Night during the week when the team plays Cal State Bakersfield on March 2. Boise State starts three seniors -- PG La'Shard Anderson, F Robert Arnold and F Daequon Montreal. Overall, the Broncos have seven seniors, including F Paul Noonan and C Zach Moritz.

BY THE NUMBERS: 46.9 -- Boise State's field-goal percentage defense in conference games, which ranked last in the WAC through Feb. 26.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really challenged him. I said, 'I've seen you be one of the best post guys in this league. That's what this team needs.' And in the second half, he was a load. He was great." -- Coach Leon Rice, in the Idaho Statesman, on senior PF Daequon Montreal, who scored all 16 of his points after halftime against Nevada on Feb. 26.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME PREVIEW:
--vs. Cal State Bakersfield, March 2
KEY MATCHUPS: Boise State looks to keep the momentum going against Cal State Bakersfield, which is 1-4 against the WAC this season, beating San Jose State early in the season, but then losing to Utah State, Idaho and Fresno State (twice). The Roadrunners, who are an independent, have a tough set of guards in sophomore Stephon Carter (14.6 points per game) and Alex Johnson (13.8 points per game). Bakersfield was 9-17 through Feb. 26.

--vs. San Jose State, March 5
KEY MATCHUPS: These teams played a four-overtime thriller at San Jose State on Jan. 6, with the Broncos prevailing 102-101. To avoid such a close call this time around, the Broncos will have to find a way to be better on the boards, as the Spartans had a 54-43 edge on the glass and pulled down 20 offensive rebounds. Look for Boise State C Ryan Watkins, who fouled out after 31 minutes in the first meeting, to be more effective.

FUTURES MARKET: Freshman walk-on G Jeff Elorriaga has become a fixture in the Boise State starting lineup. After playing sparingly for the first nine WAC games, Elorriaga had started the past five games through Feb. 27. The Broncos' record in those games was 5-0. He's not going to be a big scorer, but he doesn't need to be. Coach Leon Rice likes the freshman's hustle and spark he brings to the team.

PLAYER NOTES
--Senior F Paul Noonan, who recently became the 20th men's player at Boise State to eclipse the 1,000-point barrier, moved to 17th place on the career list with a six-point effort at Nevada on Feb. 26. He had 1,028 career points through that game, needing six more to jump to 16th.

--Junior G Tre' Nichols missed the road trip to Fresno State and Nevada because of an illness. Walk-on G.A. Hill, who normally doesn't travel, made the trip in Nichols' place, and he played one minute in Fresno. He did not play at Nevada.


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