Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice mouthed ‘wow’ and shook his head Monday at a question about six of the Broncos’ next eight games being against teams currently ranked in the top 100 of the KenPom rankings.
The Broncos, who come in at No. 63 themselves, start what Rice called a ‘daunting’ stretch of the season Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at ExtraMile Arena against a Santa Clara team ranked No. 92.
“You can’t look at that,” Rice said of the upcoming stretch. “We’re just looking at this one. … It’s the next one, which is Santa Clara. And they are really, really good.”
Boise State (6-4) enters on a three-game winning streak. The Broncos are looking to move up in the computer rankings and put themselves in better position to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament – and a win tonight would certainly help.
After facing Santa Clara the Broncos host NAIA Montana Tech on Sunday before traveling to Spokane to play Washington State (No. 41 KenPom) next Wednesday. Then the Broncos open conference play with a stretch that features a home game against Fresno State (No. 98 KenPom), at Wyoming (No. 106), at Utah State (No. 57), home to Colorado State (No. 37) and at Nevada (No. 75) in the next four weeks.
But that’s why Rice scheduled tough games early in the season. The Broncos have already played four top-100 teams and seven in the top-165 heading into an even tougher stretch. Rice believes the Broncos are battle-tested already, which he hopes will pay off starting Tuesday.
“Oh absolutely,” Rice said. “It made us confront some issues and make some changes to those issues. I think if you would have asked me four weeks ago if we could score 97 points in a game, I’d have probably said we couldn’t score 97 in an empty gym. But we look a little different now.
“It’s got us playing better. The competition has us playing better and we’re improving and now we’ve got a bunch of games that are resume-type games. A lot of tough ones ahead of us right now, but it’s all about the next one and right now that’s Santa Clara.”
Santa Clara (7-4) already has wins over Nevada, Stanford and TCU this season.
Rice said he hoped a big crowd would show up to cheer the Broncos on. Fans that bring new or gently-used winter coats or shoes to drop off for the Avalos Family Christmas Drive can purchase tickets for just $5.
Rice met with the media Monday afternoon to preview Tuesday’s game. Here’s the full video of his interview: