Two Teams Who May Not Live Up to Their Preseason Poll Predictions
Why Boise State and Nevada may fail to live up to the hype
Do the Broncos have a go-to scorer that will step up this season? And will Nevada’s new roster and coach live up to expectations?
With media day for the Mountain West wrapping up this week and the start of the college basketball season around the corner, fans from around the conference are eager to take a look at who the media predicted to win the league in 2019.
Surprising very few, Utah State was picked to finish on top of the Mountain West this season followed by San Diego State, New Mexico, Nevada and lastly Boise State to round out the top five.
But what may be a bit surprising is the Aggies receiving all first-place votes to safely secure that spot. But what should we expect after a dominant run that led to a regular season tie with Nevada and a conference tournament championship win over San Diego State?
That lead to the Aggies making their first NCAA tournament appearance since they left the WAC back in 2011.
Now, the Aggies are no longer capable of a surprise finish like that and have the rest of the conference on their heels to dethrone them. The Aggies along with Fresno State and Air Force were among the teams last year who outplayed their preseason ranking.
While others like New Mexico, Boise State, and Wyoming were just a few who underachieved compared to their preseason rankings. So, we thought it would be an interesting approach to take a look at a couple of teams picked in the top five of the Mountain West Preseason Poll who may underachieve a bit this season in relation to their rankings.
Now this will be based on the rankings presented on media day by the conference here.
But if you want to take a look at our preseason picks which differ very little, especially in the top five which just has the number four and five picks flipped, you can do so here.
The Broncos who were picked fifth by the media this past week after a 13-20 2018-2019 season overall where they went 7-11 in conference play to be a part of a three-way tie for seventh with New Mexico and Colorado State. And going into Leon Rice’s ninth season at the helm of the Broncos program last year a big question that needed to be answered was, who was going to replace first round draft pick and leading scorer Chandler Hutchinson?
Well a few had junior guard Justinian Jessup pegged to replace him as leading scorer and go-to guy. While others thought top ten junior college wing R.J. Williams from East L.A. College would replace him. But both failed to replace Hutchinson’s impact on the court, even though Jessup became the broncos leading scorer with 14.0 points per game and had the ball in his hand in late game situations at times last year.
Although William’s made an impact in his first year at the division one level, it was a bit underwhelming, especially in conference play where his numbers dipped. The player who surprised many last season who may grow into this team’s leader is junior guard Derrick Alston who averaged 13.4 points a game and 4.5 rebounds a game after averaging just two minutes in 11 games as a freshman.
Now not to say this team doesn’t have capable scorers would be incorrect and we wouldn’t have them in the top five to begin with. But I think someone needs to evolve into this teams go-to scorer to finish close games out this year.
Despite the losing record in both non-conference and conference play. The Broncos could have easily finished higher in the Mountain West, but losing close games to Nevada, Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State, UNLV and New Mexico last season put them in seventh place and that three-way tie. And I think finding someone who can take over late in games can solve that problem.
Next is their lack of depth in the frontcourt for the upcoming season. They lose a pair of seniors in Zach Haney (6-11 235) and David Wacker (6-10 233) who will be missed down low. Especially, Haney who had an impressive five-game run at the end of conference play. Even though Rice’s staff went out and got 6-10, 230 pound Junior forward Mladen Armus from East Tennessee State after averaging 8.0 points a game to go along with 7.7 rebounds a game.
They have to wait to see his potential production as he sits the 2019-2020 season due to transfer rules along with former five-star recruit Emmanuel Akot from Arizona. That leaves senior center Robin Jorch who sat out the entire season last year with a shoulder injury to eat up minutes in the middle for Boise this season. Though his numbers in 2017-2018 weren’t eye-popping only averaging 1.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.1 blocks a game in twenty-eight appearances. So it will be hard to gauge what impact he will have this season.
It’s also hard to make these things huge problems for the Broncos in today’s age of positionless basketball where we could even see Williams taking up some time at the five but with impactful centers with length throughout the Mountain West this year it’s also hard to think it may not be a pain point this year for them.
With so many games lost in their final minutes a scorer and leader needs to step up to close that gap. Also, these are pain points for the Broncos based on the assumption that everyone stays healthy, which was another paint point for them early last season in non-conference play.