Boise State Broncos vs. No. 17 Houston Cougars Preview
The Boise State Broncos enter the Fertitta Center in Houston for an exciting showdown.
Tip time: 3 p.m. ET
Teams: Boise State (0-0) vs. Houston (1-0)
Radio: Boise State
Odds via BetMGM: Houston -12
The Broncos have yet to suit up this season and play their first game in a challenging environment regardless of fans. The Cougars are off-the-heels of a convincing win over Lamar from the Southland. In that decisive win, sophomore Marcus Sasser had 25 points while ringing down seven threes. Aside from Sasser, the Cougars are a guard-laden team and Quentin Grimes, Caleb Mills. A key player for Houston is Tramon Mark, the player tasked with replacing Nate Hinton. The way Houston plays is three bigs that play equal minutes and double the opposing big often. What does that mean for Boise? Honestly, it doesn’t affect them all that much because they are so guard reliant.
Kelvin Sampson likes playing slow, ranking 300th in adjusted tempo. If Boise lets The Cougs dictate the pace of the game, it will be a long night.
Keys to the win:
Getting your star (Derrick Alston Jr) the ball in favorable spots, and don’t force shots.
Second chance opportunities. One thing that often can make the team more lethal. The Broncos struggled heavily in that area last season ranking 256th in the country with a 25.5% O-Rebounding rate on KenPom.
Getting the supporting cast to produce meaningful production (Shaver, Akot, Dennis, Kigab)
The five for the Broncos:
This is my prediction for the starting five.
PG: RayJ Dennis
SG: Marcus Shaver
SF: Derrick Alston Jr
PF: Abu Kigab
C: Mladen Armus
That’s a super balanced lineup featuring superb guard play with Dennis, scoring punch with Shaver and Alston, versatility with Kigab, and stout defense with Armus.
A one-on-one matchup I’m curious to see is how RayJ Dennis defends Marcus Sasser coming off his breakout game. Dennis showed throughout his freshman season that he could defend anybody and won’t back down from any matchup. I’m sure Houston will try to get Sasser involved early, but they have so many options that they could use Sasser as a decoy.
Dennis could even take advantage of Sasser on defense also. While Sasser is a fine defender, Dennis is a far superior athlete and will make Sasser stop him.
The Player Spotlight:
Naje Smith 6’7 Forward
Smith adds a ton to the with his stretch-big prototype. Smith for Cochise JUCO last season posted 23.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG while shooting 56% from the field, and shot 38.3% from three. In today’s Basketball, you need some bigs that can shoot, and Smith fits the bill at 6’7 and his well-above-average three-point-percentage. With the lack of size Houston plays with, and you can try to run out a lineup with Alston, Smith, and Armus and get an advantage. If Smith can play 20 minutes-or-so, and add 8 Points, that could end up being the difference-maker in a close game.
Houston 72, Boise State 65
Houston has more talent, depth, and versatility when it comes down to it, but Boise should keep it close throughout the game. The scoring may be too much, with Grimes, Sasser, Mark, Mills being four legitimate scorers.