2022 NCAA Tournament: Boise State vs. Memphis Preview, How To Watch & More

2022 NCAA Tournament: Boise State vs. Memphis Preview, How To Watch & More

Boise State

2022 NCAA Tournament: Boise State vs. Memphis Preview, How To Watch & More

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2022 NCAA Tournament: Boise State vs. Memphis Preview


The Broncos look for their first ever NCAA Tournament win against the Tigers. 


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Boise State’s first round draw is a rematch against 2021 NIT foes the Memphis Tigers. 

WHO: Boise State 27-7 (18-3, 1st in the MWC) vs. Memphis 21-10 (13-5, 3rd in the AAC)

WHEN: Thursday 17th, 11:45 AM MT/12:45 PM CT

WHERE: Portland, OR-Moda Center

TV:  TNT

STREAM: FuboTV – Get a free trial & March Madness Live

SERIES RECORD: Memphis leads all-time series 1-0

The 2021-2022 season brought a lot of firsts to the Boise State men’s basketball team. The Bronco program experienced their First Mountain West Freshman of the Year, first outright regular season championship and first conference tournament championship.

As impressive as that is, they also broke plenty of records as well. Including, the highest win total in a single season (27), the most conference wins ever (15), the most consecutive wins (14) and the highest AP top-25 ranking to end the year at No. 23. Mountain West Coach of the Year Leon Rice has certainly reached what he calls milestones for the program.

And as of last Sunday they can add highest seed ever received in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 selection. With that announcement they were also given their opponent in No. 9 seed Memphis Tigers. They’ll face off Thursday morning in Portland, Oregon inside the Moda Center.

This Mountain West conference season has been rough for most teams and absolutely entertaining for fans and those covering it alike. It feels like it’s battle hardened the Broncos. And although Memphis has players like none Boise State have faced this season, this team has shown it can handle adversity with the best of them and certainly have the Tigers’ coaching staff at the drawing boards just the same.

Both squads looked primed for their returns to the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos return for the first time since 2015. Winning 24 of their last 27 games played and as previously mentioned, shattering expectations while doing it.

While the Tigers make their first appearance since 2014. Head coach Penny Hardaway’s first since taking over his alma mater in 2018 and likely just at the right time. This program certainly turned around a season that began with a top-15 preseason ranking. Then proceeded by them possibly missing out on the big dance all together (9-8 on Jan. 20th) and ultimately into an at-large bid.

The Tigers won 14 of their last 16 games to close out the season and finish as runner ups in the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Fort Worth, TX on Sunday. Although they let a close game slip away and turn into an 18 point loss (71-53) to the Houston Cougars. A team they beat twice prior in the regular season to help get them that at-large bid.

Last Time Out

These two programs had never met on the hardwood before their 2021 National Invitational Tournament matchup in Denton, Texas. Although hard-fought, the Broncos couldn’t overcome a poor first half of ball security which resulted in a 59-56 Tiger win. Boise State was led by Serbian forward Mladen Armus in that one, with a team high 12 points, 7 rebounds & 2 blocks. Missing from that game is reigning Mountain West Tournament MVP, who sat out with a shoulder injury that would end his season.

Memphis was led by two players who are no longer with the program. As both Boogie Ellis (USC) & D.J. Jeffries (Mississippi State) chipped in a team high 11 points. This helped push the Tigers past Boise State, Mountain West member Colorado State and eventually winning the championship game in Frisco all together.

Players to Watch:

F-Abu Kigab Boise State

After his shoulder injury Kigab’s postseason ended this time last year. The 6-7 Canadian forward decided to return for his extra season of eligibility. Since, he has helped lead this Boise State squad to their first outright conference championship and anchoring one of the toughest defenses in the country.

The combo forward posted regular season averages of 14.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG 2.4 APG & 1.3 SPG. Earning Second-Team All-Mountain West honors along with a spot on the All-Defensive Team. Kigab added to the resume as a member of the All-MWC Tournament team and it’s MVP.

Kigab is all over the floor and makes his money taking tough defensive assignments, attacking the glass and getting to the free throw line while doing it. As the team’s leading scorer he doesn’t need to have the most points every game for Boise State to win, his contributions pile up elsewhere for his team to survive and advance.

C-Jalen Duren Memphis

Upon reclassifying from the 2022 high school class to the 2021 class and committing to Penny Hardaway at Memphis back in. Setting off a chain reaction which caused also just reclassified phenom Emoni Bates to eventual commit to the Tigers. Before his departure from national high school powerhouse Montverde Academy as a five-star recruit who also led Team USA U16 squad and captured gold medals in 2019.

Since then, Bates struggled to live up his once No. 1 NBA Draft Pick potential. And like plenty before him have spent time off the court due to injury. Duren on the other hand has been Memphis’ best player. Leading the Tigers to the American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship.

Duren is a big man in every sense of the label. His season averages of 12.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG & 2.2 BPG shooting 62.6% from the field in just 25.3 MPG earned him 1st-Team All-AAC, All-Freshman Team and AAC Freshman of the Year honors. Standing 6-11, 250 pounds the Sharon Hill, PA native does it all. Posterizing defenders, running the floor, blocking shots and making it look very effortlessly while doing so.

Bronco big man Mladen Armus needs to stay out of foul trouble in this one, as not many other players on the roster can battle down low with the projected NBA Draft Lottery pick this summer effectively.

Keys to the Game

For Boise State: A solid defensive showing, Limit Turnovers and knock down the three

Neutralizing an opposing team’s best player doesn’t always mean victory. And I don’t see Mladen Armus having a giant affect on Duren’s totals. and honestly Memphis doesn’t necessarily need his points to win the game. The Tigers average 75.4 PPG as a team (top-60 in the nation), but Duren is their leading scorer at just 12.2 a game. This team has four players averaging 10+ points a game, five if you count guard Landers Nolley II (9.9 PPG).

So limiting Duren’s touches on the offensive end may be pointless if his teammates are knocking them down. Also last time these two met, the Broncos committed 15 turnovers, 13 in the first half. Which was honestly the difference maker in their 3 point loss last time out. If Boise State can avoid turning the ball over and knock down open shots, they keep their Cinderella hopes alive.

For Memphis: Attack the rim, Utilize size and depth & Force Bronco Turnovers

With as much size, athleticism and raw talent that this Memphis team has, the advantages are easy to speak to. The Tigers like the Broncos win when they hold their opponents to a certain amount of points a game. For Memphis it’s 69.0 PPG and for Boise State it’s closer to 60.0 PPG. Both programs also tend to outrebound their opponents and top it all off with top notch defenses.

Memphis just has to utilize that aforementioned size, athleticism and professional talent (not to mention depth) better than Boise State to seal their victory. Although possibly the biggest question mark of the first round may be the return of Emoni Bates. Which is still up in the air at the moment, but he did travel with the team and took part in the team’s open practice this week, so anything is possible.

Prediction: 

KenPom ($) has the Tigers as the one point favorites in this one. Now that is a testament to just how close this game is to call, especially being a No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup. In fact Memphis is ranked 28th in the KenPom rankings with Boise State right behind them at 29th.

So, this game will simply come down to who brought their A game to the Rose City and maybe who wants it more. Sure Memphis has the professional talent, recruiting stars and depth to put this one away. But the Broncos have performed as a motivated and tenacious unit this season. With a continually progressing leader in Kigab to help lead them to the second round of the tournament for the first time ever.

With the right set of circumstances I think the Broncos pull this one off. I mean they’ve already compiled a list of firsts this season (see above), why not add another?

Boise State 70, Memphis 69

Next Up

The winner of this one will advance to the Round of 32 to face either championship favorites and region No. 1 seed Gonzaga or No. 16 seed Georgia State. The Bulldogs face the Panthers at right after the Broncos and Memphis at 1:15 PM PT on TNT.

A weekend game against Gonzaga will pit the Broncos head coach vs. his former employer and mentor Mark Few. Rice left Spokane in 2011 for Boise State, after chipping in more than a decade to help make Gonzaga what it is today.

“Leaving Gonzaga was hard,” said Rice “It was family and it was like a divorce when I left.”

That contest will take place on Saturday March 19th in Portland, OR with the remaining details TBA at the moment.

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.

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