Bronco Basketball faces uphill battle in MWC

Leon Rice had to learn about all of his players in his first season on the job. He's doing it again in his second year. Rice had a senior-laden squad in his first season as Boise State's coach, and he has just five returning players for the school's first season in the Mountain West Conf. The newcomers include high school recruits, junior college transfers, a Pac-12 transfer and two Australians.

Leon Rice had to learn about all of his players in his first season on the job. He's doing it again in his second year. Rice had a senior-laden squad in his first season as Boise State's coach, and he has just five returning players for the school's first season in the Mountain West Conf.

The newcomers include high school recruits, junior college transfers, a Pac-12 transfer and two Australians. And Rice admits he has no idea how to project a starting five.

"I think when you have a team like this, everything is a tryout," he said. "Even the guys who played last year are trying out to see how many minutes they'll play this year. We don't know. I've never had a team with this many question marks.

"I think you have a general idea of, 'This guy is going to play.' You just don't know how many minutes."

Not surprisingly, the Broncos are predicted to finish last in the eight-team Mountain West. There are too many unknowns in terms of the players, and Boise State doesn't pack the home-court atmosphere that many of the league's other teams do.

"You have really good basketball teams with great coaches and really, really good home-court advantages," Rice said. "It's a big mountain to climb."

Boise State went 22-13 in Rice's first season while playing in the Western Athletic Conference. Forward Ryan Watkins (23 starts) is the only returner who started more than half of last season's games. Guards Westly Perryman (13 starts) and Jeff Elorriaga (11) were part-time starters.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Coach Leon Rice's 22 victories were the most by a first-year Boise State coach in program history. The 20-win season was just the school's ninth in 43 seasons as a four-year institution.
--Boise State opened the 10,000-square foot Arguinchona Basketball Complex in August, a much-needed improvement that includes expanded locker rooms, film rooms, lounges and study areas. The cost of the project was $3 million.
--The Broncos will seek to build confidence with their new group by beginning the season with eight of their first nine games at home. The only road game during that stretch is at Long Beach State, and a home contest against Utah is the only one of the first nine against a major-conference opponent.

LAST YEAR: 22-13 overall, 10-6 in the Western Athletic Conference

HEAD COACH: Leon Rice, second year as head coach (22-13 at Boise State; 22-13 career)

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are starting from scratch with the whole system, and we have to make some tweaks to adjust to the guys we have. It's a completely different team, and it's going to be a little different style than what we had last year." -- Coach Leon Rice, on rebuilding the roster in his second season on the job.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP:
PG Westly Perryman,
SG Jeff Elorriaga,
G/F Anthony Drmic,
PF Ryan Watkins,
C Kenny Buckner.


LINEUP BREAKDOWN: Perryman is the most experienced player in the program. Elorriaga, a surprise contributor last season as a 3-point shooter, will battle Australian shooting guard Igor Hadziomerovic for the starting gig. Watkins flashed on occasion last season and is in much better condition. Drmic is an Australian import who is savvy due to international experience as one of the leaders of the country's under-19 national team. Buckner, a junior college transfer, should be Boise State's top rebounder. Guard Tre Nichols and forward Thomas Bropleh are holdovers who provide depth.

SCOUTING THE NEWCOMERS: Buckner averaged 11.7 points and team-best 9.5 rebounds for Southern Idaho, which won the juco national championship last season. He is used to winning. The Australian duo of Drmic and Hadziomerovic are mature players due to their international experience. Transfer Drew Wiley is a wing who can help on the perimeter. Coach Leon Rice would like to redshirt a couple of the program's eight freshmen, as he fancies having some fifth-year seniors in the program as it develops.

ROSTER REPORT:
--Junior F Drew Wiley played his first two seasons at Oregon and transferred after the school fired Ernie Kent. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations. He will likely sit out a couple of games to start the year for a team's rule infraction.
--Freshman G Derrick Marks was a prep star in Illinois who originally committed to Albany before changing his mind and choosing Boise State.
--Freshman G Case Rada wasn't part of Boise State's recruiting class but joined the program during the summer.



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