2021 NIT: Boise State vs SMU Preview
Boise State heads to Texas for their first round NIT matchup.
The Broncos begin their postseason journey against the SMU Mustangs in Frisco.
WHO: No. 2 Boise State Broncos (18-8, 14-6 in the MW) vs. No. 3 Southern Methodist Mustangs (11-5, 7-4 in the American)
WHEN: Thursday, March 18th 9:00 PM ET/8:00 PM CT/7:00 PM MT/6:00 PM PT
WHERE: Comerica Center, Frisco, TX
TV/Stream: This matchup can be seen on the ESPN, Stream via FuboTV and get a seven-day free trial.
RADIO: Boise State
Line: KenPom, Mustangs 1-point favorite
SERIES RECORD: Mustangs lead all-time series 6-5
It’s March folks and the Boise State Broncos who narrowly missed out on an at-large NCAA Tournament bid this year haven’t hung up the practice jerseys just yet. Instead they’ll head to Frisco, TX this week for their first round NIT matchup against the Southern Methodist Mustangs on Thursday night.
Boise State and SMU will meet Thursday (March 18) at 8 p.m. CT/7 p.m. MT at the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPN. https://t.co/NWCkTeKGGH
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) March 15, 2021
Both squads received early exits in their conference tournaments this year, but for the Mustangs give them a little credit, they hadn’t played a game in nearly a month.
The Mustangs took on Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Fort Worth, TX as the 4th seed. They received a monster performance from junior guard Kendric Davis who ended the night with 35 of his teams 71 total points. Though impressive, it wasn’t enough for SMU to survive and advance, falling 74-71 to Cincinnati.
They played well enough for a team a month removed from the court. Mainly behind Davis as he received little to no help from his teammates against the Bearcats. With the rest of the team shooting, 14-47 (29.7%) from the field, 6-23 (26.0%) from deep and 2-7 (28.5%) from the free-throw line.
The Broncos entered their conference tournament after a tough three-game stretch to end Mountain West play. Ending the regular season with a three-game losing streak that ultimately flowed over into their on game in the Thomas & Mack Center last week.
Where the Wolf Pack, led by Desmond Cambridge who ended the night with 31-points, shot 50.8% from the field and 50.0% from deep. It was very close, but Boise State gave up too many second chance opportunities and had no answer for for Warren Washington down low (18-points, 11 rebounds).
With the slight spurn of Selection Sunday now behind both squads, they’ll need to bring all they can to Frisco and leave it all on the floor if they hope to get out of one very tough corner of the bracket.
About the matchup
These two programs have met just 11 times over the last two decades. Most recently splitting what appeared to have been a home and home matchup back in 2016-2017 where Boise State won 71-62 in Boise. Followed up by a Mustang romp at home of with a 86-63 SMU win the following season in Moody Coliseum.
Derrick Alston Jr. is the only Bronco still around from that last matchup in Dallas. Where as the Mustangs have Ethan Chargois, Everett Ray and William Douglas still around from that SMU win.
The previous nine matchups came as league opponents in the Western Athletic Conference between 2001 and 2005.
KenPom has SMU as the 1-point favorites, which really means this is anyone’s game on Thursday night. Given the form the Broncos have displayed of late and the absence of forward Abu Kigab and redshirt sophomore guard Max Rice.
Rice suffered a broken bone in his foot against Nevada. He is one of the team’s primary three-point shooters (3rd on the team with 26 made threes this season) and is a big contributor off of the bench in his 17.5 MPG.
With that, I say SMU takes this one.
SMU 74, Boise State 70
For Boise State: Devonaire Doutrive
Doutrive has been a great addition for coach Leon Rice midseason. After playing his first game as a Bronco on January 6th against Air Force. He has gone on to average 8.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG & 0.9 APG in 21.6 MPG.
With the absence of second leading scorer and sort of do-it-all forward Abu Kigab (11.9 PPG) due to a shoulder injury and now shoulder surgery this week. Doutrive got his first start of the season against Nevada, logging his first double-double with 17-points and 10 rebounds on 6-11 shooting.
Kigab did a little bit of everything for Boise State, Doutrive plays a similar game as a 6-5 guard who can rebound, distribute and defend. But like anyone coming in mid-season to a very deep squad at his position, has struggled with consistency.
He’ll need another strong performance to help push this Bronco’s squad out of it’s current losing slump.
For SMU: Feron Hunt
Hunt earned Third-team All-AAC honors this season and tested out NBA Draft Waters last summer before returning to Forth Worth for his junior season. He is a 6-8, 195 bouncy combo forward with length and finds majority of his points inside the arc.
He started in SMU’s conference tournament quarterfinal loss to Cincy, but only played 12 minutes to what is only labeled as an injury on the teams post-game recap. If healthy, the Mustang’s second leading scorer can surely provide a problem on both sides of the court.
He’ll likely be tasked with guarding Boise State’s Derrick Alston Jr., any bad scoring night imposed on the 6-9 junior guard would put a strain on an already short handed Bronco squad.
Matchup of the night: Battle of the Bigs
I was dangerously close to going with a “battle of the leading scorers” section here. But if the past few games are any indication of what’s needed for a win for either program. Big nights from their big time scorers isn’t it. The theme for the winner will be scoring support.
One of the more intriguing matchups I see when looking at the lineups for each squad is in the post. For the Mustangs it’s 6-9 235 forward Ethan Chargois, who averages 9.1 PPG (4th best for SMU), 5.5 RPG and 2.5 APG.
Chargois’ averages have dipped a bit after a very promising sophomore campaign back in 2018-2019. But he is a bruising scorer, who can battle down low but also stretch the floor. By stepping out to a corner and knocking down the triple.
I don’t see a clear option on the roster who can do battle with him down low and guard the perimeter. Derrick Alston Jr. (6-9, 190) and Emmanuel Akot (6-8, 210) may have the length but getting either player in foul trouble because of battles in the paint is a bad idea.
The Broncos may have to play some sort of zone defense to handle guys like Chargois and Hunt on the roster who can score from a couple of different spots on the floor. All while slowing down Davis who scores it a from all three levels but takes most of his shots from inside the arc (71.7%).
The winner of this one will advance to play in a March 25 quarterfinal vs. No. 1 Memphis or No. 4 Dayton. Either draw would be another challenge for the Broncos, especially a little short handed.
Link to complete bracket here.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.