Boise State vs Wyoming: Preview
The Broncos return home and look to secure their place atop the MW standings.
Boise State welcomes Wyoming on Tuesday night, with 1st place up for grabs.
WHO: Boise State (15-4, 6-0 in the MWC) vs. Wyoming (15-2, 4-0 in the MWC)
WHEN: Tuesday, January 25th, 7:00 PM MT, 6:00 PM PT
WHERE: ExtraMile Arena-Boise, ID
Line: KenPom, The Broncos are favored by 5 Points
SERIES RECORD: Boise State leads all-time series 19-14
The “Battle of the Undefeated” takes place inside ExtraMile Arena Tuesday night. When the Boise State Broncos (15-4, 6-0) host the Wyoming Cowboys (15-2, 4-0) for first place in the Mountain West.
Both programs are enjoying some of the best seasons in years. While also riding winning streaks and receiving votes in the latest AP Top-25 poll.
Boise State secured a pair of quadrant one road wins last week. Their most recent game on Saturday was a five-point road win over San Diego State where neither team broke the 50-point seal. Reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Week Tyson Degenhart led the way against the Aztecs with 14 points and a perfect 8-8 performance from the free-throw line.
The Cowboys hit the road after enjoying a pair of home wins this past week. Most recently holding off an upset from last place New Mexico this past Saturday. Just edging the Lobos 93-91 in what can only be described as an offensive shootout, which saw both teams shoot above 50% from the field and had eight players reach double figures combined.
Sophomore big man Graham Ike led the way in that one, logging 29 points and 15 rebounds. The reigning Mountain West Player of the Week Hunter Maldonado put in a stellar performance with 25 points, 7 assists & 6 rebounds.
This is one of the more underrated Mountain West matchups around. Boise State has won nine of the last ten meetings between the two programs, including the last seven straight. The Cowboys have not made the trip to Boise since January 1st, 2020, losing the last three games at home in the Dome of Doom.
Aside from 1st place in the Mountain West, there is plenty more on the line tonight between these two conference foes. Wyoming has the chance to secure back bragging rights for the first time since 2018.
Matchup of the game: Hunter Maldonado vs. Marcus Shaver Jr.
Maldonado is putting up first team all-conference caliber statistics so far this season. The 6-7 point forward is averaging 17.8 PPG, 6.7 APG & 5.8 RPG and is relied upon run the Cowboys offense. Maldonado is a better facilitator than Shaver Jr. and also holds a distinct height and weight advantage over the 6-2 combo guard. But Shaver Jr. does split time at the point with the 6-8 Emmanuel Akot who may be up for the defensive assignment if needed.
Shaver Jr. leads the Broncos in scoring at 13.2 PPG, but more importantly, he has the ball in his hands when it counts. Boise State owes the redshirt senior for their last two wins. As a pair of clutch three-point shots in their 62-59 win over Utah State and their 42-37 over San Diego State from Shaver Jr. kept the Broncos 12 game winning streak alive and atop the conference standings.
I don’t predict these two to be leading each squad in scoring by the end of the night. But still, both teams are very dependent on quality all-around performances from these two when they are at their best. So pay attention to these two, when you’re not paying attention to who might possibly stop Graham Ike from reaching 20+ points for the fifth straight time.
For Boise State: Top Notch Defense
Leon Rice’s squad is holding teams to just 57.9 PPG this season. Good enough for third best in the Mountain West and 6th best in the country. Although on the road against the always tough San Diego Aztecs last time out, they held the home team to just 37 points on the day.
Boise State’s opponents have only broken the 60+ point seal five times this season. In which those games they are still 3-2. Though I think they’ll need they’ll need to bring their offensive and defensive best against Wyoming. With one of the best bigs in the conference in Ike down low and a plethora of talented perimeter players to worry about on top of that. The Broncos really need to exhibit their elite defense to secure the home win, especially if shots aren’t falling.
For Wyoming: Take and make the three-pointer
The Cowboys are one of the top three-point shooting teams in the conference. But as of late they have been shooting lights out from all areas of the floor. Shooting a combined 58% from the field over their last two contests, Wyoming is proving dangerous all-around offensively.
Still, Jeff Linder’s squad as a whole shoots 37.1% from deep. And with a couple of snipers in senior Drake Jeffries (49.1%) and sophomore Xavier DuSell (38.7%) on nearly 173 attempts combined, perimeter defense from the Broncos will be key for a win by the home team.
Prediction: Wyoming 70, Boise State 65
The Broncos are projected as 5-point favorites by KenPom, a much larger margin than I expected honestly. Boise State has the home court advantage in this one and has “historically” secured wins against the Cowboys on the road. But I think Wyoming has been playing better basketball at the moment and really just needs to have the better offensive performance to win.
Boise State can struggle to put points on board at times. So without the proper defensive performance down low against Ike and on the perimeter against DuSell and Jeffries, they may experience their first conference loss of the season on Tuesday.
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.