How Boise State Basketball Can Win Mountain West Title
Broncos have one of its best teams ever under Leon Rice
Is this the year for Boise State?
It’s been a decade since Boise State joined the Mountain West following realignment and the Broncos have notched just one regular-season title and have never won the Mountain West conference tournament.
Head coach Leon Rice has had multiple players drafted into the NBA, but Boise State still hasn’t been able to get over the hump and win that second conference title. Now, with top scorer Derrick Alston Jr. (17.3 PPG) returning and several high-impact transfers joining the roster, Leon Rice has pound-for-pound his best team since coming to Boise.
The Key Players
Alston, a former walk-on, comes into the season as the preseason Mountain West Player of the Year, and he looks to expand upon his high-scoring junior season. He is a lanky 6’9, weighing just 188 pounds, and his versatility allows him to play 2-4 spots in the lineup but primarily played the four this past season.
The biggest space for improvement in Alston’s game would be for him to force fewer shots, which could end up making him a better shooter than the 33% performance he put up from three last season, which is slightly below what you’d want from a primary scorer. The tall, agile wing is an explosive athlete that gets to the foul line at a massive clip, shooting over five free throws per game.
What does @GBrianBennett have to say about a certain Bronco on the list?
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) November 20, 2020
One issue for Alston last year was his defense. He posted a -0.3 defensive box-plus-minus (DBPM) this past season, but there is reason to believe that number will improve. If he plays more in his natural wing position, his strength won’t pose an issue for him like it did when he was asked to play the four at times in 2019-20. With the depth and size the Broncos have this season, Alston shouldn’t have to play the four as often, with Abu Kigab and Emmanuel Akot likely candidates to fill that role.
Kigab became eligible in the middle of last season and quickly became a massive contributor for Leon Rice,. He played mostly on the wing as a junior, but the former Oregon transfer’s best position may be as a four-man.
He needs to improve on his efficiency, as he shot below average from the field at 42% overall and 32% from three, and adds tremendous strength, and feel for the game which helps him find his spots on the court. The talent is undoubtedly there with Kigab, and a chance to play a full season mixed in with being played in his more natural position should bode well for the senior.
RayJ Dennis is my big breakout pick in the Mountain West this season. When looking at Dennis’s freshman statistics, they aren’t exactly eye-popping, but that is exactly why he has flown below the radar. Dennis had just 4.1 points per game to go along with 1.8 rebounds and the same number of assists per game. Dennis is a good athlete with a massive ceiling for the Broncos.
The biggest flash of that potential was shown in a January game between the Aggies and Broncos, where Dennis dropping four three’s late brought Boise back from the grave to send the game to OT, and later win.
The incoming transfers
A pair of Arizona Wildcat transfers join Leon Rice’s lineup as Devonaire Doutrive, a former top-100 prospect, and Swiss army knife Emmanuel Akot, who sat out the 2019-20season after failing to get a waiver from the NCAA. The other two transfers who sat last year are Mladen Armus, a 6’10 defense-first big man from ETSU, and Marcus Shaver Jr., a high-volume scorer that started his career in the WCC for Portland.