Most expect the Boise State men’s basketball team to get into the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens Saturday at Utah State or next week in the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.
The Broncos would like to leave no doubt.
A win Saturday night at Utah State would leave nothing to chance. Another quadrant 1 win would make the Broncos a lock for the Big Dance.
“Until you see your name on that board and the dust settles, who knows,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “I’ve been through this a lot over the years and you just control what you can control.”
Tuesday’s win over No. 18 San Diego State likely was all the Broncos (23-7, 13-4 MW) needed to cement a spot in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field. But a win over another bubble team in Utah State, on the road in a sold out Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, would seemingly be enough for the Broncos to rest comfortably even if they were upset in the first round of the conference tournament.
And that’s the motivation heading into the 7 p.m. regular season finale on the Mountain West Network.
“Definitely a lot to play for,” guard Chibuzo Agbo said. “You already know they are going to have a great crowd over there. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, and still a lot to play for (for both teams), so we’re juiced up.”
For the recored Agbo thinks the Broncos are already in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a great feeling to know we’re probably going to be in the tournament but we’re still focused on this next game and the Mountain West Tournament,” he said Friday. “We’re still taking it one game at a time and focused on Utah State. We have to get this dub.”
Boise State was up to a No. 9 seed on CBS Sports’ bracketology Friday and a No. 10 seed from ESPN.
Saturday would give the Broncos another coveted quad 1 win, which could boost the Broncos’ seed for the Big Dance. A win would also lock in the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. And it would keep slim hopes alive, at least for a few hours, of finishing tied atop the Mountain West standings.
Here’s what is at stake for the Broncos Saturday:
Co-Mountain West champions
Although unlikely, Boise State remains alive for a co-Mountain West title. The Broncos would need to beat Utah State and have last-place Wyoming upset first-place San Diego State for Boise State and the Aztecs to finish tied atop the standings. If this were to happen, Boise State would get credit as co-Mountain West champions but would be the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. The Aztecs hold all tiebreakers and have already locked up the top seed.
No. 2 seed
Boise State will be the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament with a win over Utah State. The Broncos also would be the No. 2 seed with a loss to Utah State should Nevada lose to UNLV.
No. 3 seed
The Broncos would be the No. 3 seed with a loss to Utah State and a Nevada win over UNLV.
What’s the difference between the No. 2 seed and the No. 3 seed? A lot. The Broncos would play UNLV, Fresno State or Colorado State in the first round as the No. 2 seed, but have to play either New Mexico or San Jose State as the No. 3 seed.
The game times are also worse for the No. 3 seed. The No. 2 seed would play at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday and at 10 p.m. MT on Friday in the first two rounds, while the No. 3 seed would play at 9:30 p.m. MT on Thursday and 10 p.m. MT on Friday. The championship game is 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Asked about the difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seed, Boise State’s 13th year coach seemingly downplayed the significance.
“You think you have all that figured out and there’s some years I really perused it and tired to figure it out but I haven’t even looked at it this year,” Rice said. “It’s just a battle to compete and we had to recover from the game we just has so I don’t really even know about it. We have a big, big game in front of us and we’ll go down there and compete our tails off.”
The bracket will be finalized and announced Saturday evening after all games are completed.
Rice is confident the Broncos have done enough to make the NCAA Tournament already, but knows a win Saturday would basically make it official.
“This is a deserving team,” Rice said. “We’ve accomplished some things out there.”
One more big accomplishment awaits at Utah State.