Boise State vs Wyoming: Preview
Both squads look to carry on their winning momentum on New Years Day.
Two of the Mountain West’s hottest teams help kick off conference play in Laramie on New Years Day.
WHO: Boise State (10-4, 1-0 in the MWC) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (11-2, 0-0 in the MWC)
WHEN: Saturday, January 1st, 2:00 PM MT, 1:00 PM PT
WHERE: Arena Auditorium-Laramie, WY
WATCH: CBS Sports Network
STREAM: FuboTV — Get a free trial
Line: KenPom, Cowboys are favored by 1-point
SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads all-time series 14-19
Gone is non-conference play and at our doorsteps is the exciting feel of a brand new calendar year coupled with Mountain West play. With a New Year’s Day packed with conference games.
Maybe the game most evenly matched will take place in the Dome of Doom between two teams with winning momentum as well as players hitting their strides.
Boise State is riding a seven-game winning streak at the moment. Coming off of two impressive wins against Washington State of the Pac 12 (58-52) and a solid 65-55 conference home opener against Fresno State on Tuesday night.
When the Broncos engineered a 17-5 run to close out the game, led by redshirt senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr. and his 18 points and 4 assists. Also lending his hand in 9 of those last 17 points.
Starting the season with an eight-game winning streak, the Cowboys have since won three of their last five. Dropping games to Pac-12 opponents Stanford and top-10 ranked Arizona of late. But in that same span they have also secured wins against very solid programs in Northern Iowa, Utah Valley and Southern Florida.
That most recent matchup against the Bulls resulted in a 77-57 win in their last game of the Diamond Head classic in Honolulu.
Wyoming was led by sophomore big man Graham Ike, who had 20-points & 7 rebounds. The 6-9 big man drew fouls all game long, heading to the line for a combined 16 free throw attempts, knocking down 12 of them. His co-star senior point guard Hunter Maldonado who resumed his role of maestro extraordinaire, contributed 22 points of his own along with 10 assists and only 2 turnovers.
The last time these two conference foes met was January 13th of this year. When the Broncos beat the Cowboys by twenty-points in their 90-70 win inside Arena-Auditorium.
This is a very underrated Mountain West matchup, with plenty on the line as they meet up to bring in the new year.
Matchup of the game: Graham Ike vs. The Boise State frontcourt
Ike has been a dominant big for the Cowboys thus far this season. He’s managed to score double-digits in every single game this season.
His Bronco counterpart Mladen Armus, is a different sort of big man. Focused a big more on the boards and helping patrol the paint the best he can, Armus averages 7.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG & 1.3 BPG.
His defensive assignment on Saturday may require some assistance. As Graham averages nearly 20-points a game, has knocked six 20+ point performances so far. He also draws more fouls than anyone in the nation (per KenPom) while going to the line 92 times this season also (2nd in the country). And he knocks them down at a fair rate for a young big.
His presence on the court requires plenty of attention. Don’t expect Armus to silent one of the best scorers in the conference this season, but with the right help from his teammates they can maybe hold him to below his season low of 12 points (against UNI).
And far away from his season high of 35 points against Denver. The length and vertical quickness of teammates Emmanuel Akot and Abu Kigab may be what’s needed, but they’ll likely be busy on their own.
For Boise State: Perimeter defense
The Broncos have won seven games straight, mostly in part because of the an impressive defensive run by this squad of late.
A quick glance back at the Broncos 10-point win over Fresno State would show another dominant performance by Mountain West Wire & Heat Check CBB’s Andy Dieckhoff’s Swiss Army Knife Orlando Robinson. The 7-footer still managed a game-high 22 points, including 15 points in the second half.
Boise State may not be able to slow down Graham Ike. Where they may find their edge is taking the Cowboys three-point shot out of the picture. Which may be easier said then done.
Jeff Linder’s squad as a whole shoots 35.4% from deep. But with a couple of snipers in senior Drake Jeffries (48.1%) and sophomore Xavier DuSell (39.1%) on nearly 173 attempts combined, perimeter defense will be key.
For Wyoming: All hands on deck offensively
The Broncos are in the middle of a historic defensive streak in their seven-game winning stream. Holding opponents to sixty-points or less along with shooting averages of 37.5 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from three-point range.
And while that 58.2 PPG opponent average is good enough for 15th in the country, the Broncos don’t necessarily shoot teams out of the gym either. Averaging 69.1 PPG, and modest shooting percentages of 44.7% from the field and 34.2% from deep.
Wyoming needs to come out, and come out shooting to keep that W at home and break a seven game losing streak to the Broncos on Saturday.
To do that, they need more than just a stellar performance from leading scorer Graham Ike (19.5 PPG) in this one. As mentioned above, the Broncos can survive a big showing from a dominant big man and still win a game.
Although, unlike the Bulldogs, who average a mere 65.7 PPG and lack other consistent scoring threats. The Cowboys when clicking can get points from multiple positions.
With four players averaging double figures in Ike, Maldonado (17.3 PPG), DuSell (11.5 PPG Jeffries (10.0 PPG). Totaling 77.5 PPG as a team (72nd in the country), Wyoming has the options to outscore the Broncos. But need solid facilitation from Maldonado (5.9 APG) and hot hands from his Perimeter scorers to aid their big man for the win.
Prediction: Wyoming 65, Boise State 64
This game is going to be as close as predicted by KenPom. Which makes taking a guess here very challenging but also a bit exciting.
The argument for home court advantage becomes a little hard to argue in this one. Because although the Broncos are the winningest Mountain West team in Laramie since joining the conference in 2011-2012 (8-3). The Cowboys are undefeated at 6-0 this season at home.
Though it may not seem so clear cut. I do think the Cowboys have more on the line in this one. Ranked 33rd in the recent NET Rankings and also being highlighted in recent bracketology projections, this appears like a must win and quality test early on in conference play at home. I think coach Linder’s squad gets it done on New Years Day.
— Wyoming Cowboy Basketball (@wyo_mbb) December 29, 2021
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.