Predicting Boise State Basketball’s Non-Conference Record
The Broncos could pick up some early résumé-boosting victories
Boise State will need some big wins to get back to the Big Dance
Boise State comes into the 2019-20 season looking to bounce back after last season’s toothless 13-20 finish. However, the Broncos were not nearly as bad as that record would indicate. The team finished 139th in the KenPom ratings, ahead of other mid-majors such as Rhode Island and George Mason that had winning records. They were a Top 50 team in terms of shooting the ball and they were great at keeping teams off the offensive glass.
This wasn’t a terrible team. So, what gives?
The biggest issue for Leon Rice’s club may have been closing out games. Boise State was 1-8 in games decided by five or fewer points last season, including head-scratching losses to Idaho State (in the home opener), Illinois State, Grand Canyon, and Loyola Marymount. Those losses pushed the Broncos’ non-conference record to 5-8 and undoubtedly sapped some of the confidence from the team. Perhaps that would explain their uninspiring 7-11 mark in league play, too.
Can Boise State fare better in their non-conference games this season? Here’s how the early season schedule looks for the Broncos, including predictions for each of their games.
11/9 Oregon (Eugene, OR)
After highly-touted freshman Bol Bol went down with an injury last season, the Ducks stumbled. But they recovered well enough to finish tied for fourth in the league, win the conference tournament, and make a shock trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a #12 seed. This season, Dana Altman gets veteran guard Payton Pritchard back. He also added Pritchard’s brother, Anthony Mathis, on a grad transfer from New Mexico. The Ducks will once again enter the season with high expectations. The influx of talent continues with former UNLV forward Shakur Juiston, JUCO standout Chris Duarte, and the country’s fourth-best recruiting class, headlined by Top 50 players N’Faly Dante, CJ Walker, and Addison Patterson. This will be a very difficult opening game on the road for Boise State.
11/15 UC Irvine (Boise, ID)
The Anteaters were really, really good last season. Russell Turner’s squad won 31 games, snagged the Big West regular season title and won the league tournament, and pulled off a first round upset of Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament. Irvine will need to cope with the losses of two All-Big West players: Max Hazzard, who transferred to Arizona, and Jonathan Galloway, the league’s top defensive player last season. But cushioning their fall are the returning senior trio of Evan Leonard, Eyassu Worku, and Tommy Rutherford. Big man Collin Welp will likely play a much larger role this year after coming off the bench in all 37 games in his freshman season, scoring 8.6 points per game and shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc.
11/20 BYU (Boise, ID)
The Broncos received a bit of good news last month when the NCAA announced that it was levying a nine-game suspension against BYU star Yoeli Childs. The big man was found to have erred in the agent hiring process during his foray into the NBA Draft waters. Though Childs will be back for the WCC season, the Cougars will be relying heavily on senior guard TJ Haws during the non-conference schedule. It’s not an ideal start to new head coach Mark Pope’s return to Provo. Pope spent four seasons as an assistant under Dave Rose before taking the reins at Utah Valley. Now, he’s back – and he brought along the reigning WAC Player of the Year, Jake Toolson. The grad transfer actually started his college career in Provo, before transferring to UVU ahead of his junior season.
11/23 Pacific (Stockton, CA)
After three disappointing seasons with the Tigers, head coach Damon Stoudamire may be running of rope. Pacific finished ninth in the WCC last season – a big letdown coming off the heels of a surprise fourth-place finish in 2017-18. And with five of their top seven scorers departing through either graduation or transfer, Stoudamire has his work cut out for him this season. Jahlil Tripp and Jeremiah Bailey are the two returning players with the most experience on this team. But Pacific brings in a couple grad transfer sharpshooters in Austin Vereen (VMI) and Gary Chivichyan (Idaho State), as well as big man Shaquillo Fritz, who joins the Tigers after graduating from Arkansas State. This seems like the first matchup on Boise’s schedule that can be safely projected as a win.
11/29 UNC Wilmington (Boise, ID)
The Seahawks really struggled last year on their way to a 10-23 record and a last-place finish in the Colonial. And now, their top two scorers from 2018-19 are gone. Devontae Cacok is playing for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, while Jeantal Cylla parlayed a standout season into a spot on former Nevada head coach Eric Musselman’s Arkansas roster. But Kai Toews and Ty Gadsden are poised to join forces in the UNCW backcourt again. Toews led the CAA in assists in his freshman year, finishing fourth in total assists behind Ja Morant, Cassius Winston, and Alex Robinson. Not bad company. If he plays at that level again this season, Toews should enjoy a higher level of name recognition in 2019-20. A player of his caliber could cause problems for Boise State, but he has fewer weapons to deal to this time around.