Mountain West Basketball: Boise State vs. New Orleans–Preview, Odds, Prediction
Broncos look to stay hot, host Privateers
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Game 11: New Orleans Privateers (2-6) @ Boise State Broncos (8-2)
When: Tuesday, December 13th – 7:00 MT
Where: ExtraMile Arena; Boise, ID
How To Watch: Livestream on Mountain West Network
Odds: Boise State -24 Over/Under 142
Non-conference play begins winding down as the holidays approach, and Boise State returns home following their best win of the season, one that stretched their winning streak to seven games. In their first true road game of 2022, the Broncos went to Saint Louis and made enough plays to knock off the Billikens 57-52. They will now host two low-major opponents this week, before ending non-con play at Santa Clara shortly before Christmas.
First up is a visit from New Orleans, a Southland Conference team off to a rough start at 2-6, and largely non-competitive against the few mid-major/power six schools they have faced so far. The Southland has the dubious distinction of falling into a competition for the worst league in Division I hoops, a spot previously owned by either the SWAC or the MEAC. With conference realignment shifting some schools around, a few new teams beginning play in D1, and the SWAC and MEAC seeing an upgrade in talent due to the transfer portal, the Southland finds itself with several of the most under-resourced, and struggling programs in the country.
UNO actually finished 18-14 and second in the conference a year ago under long-time coach Mark Slessinger. But they had to replace a pair of all-conference guards who combined for 37 ppg, and that has proven difficult, despite a large group of other returners. There are three double-figure scorers – Jordan Johnson (14.6), Khaleb Wilson-Rouse (12.3), and Tyson Jackson (10.5). Both guards, Johnson and Wilson-Rouse have been the only two to consistently make perimeter shots for the Privateers, as the three-pointer is not a huge weapon for this team. They play at a frenetic pace, top 10 in tempo as per KenPom, prefer to run in transition as much as possible, and relentlessly attack the rim. Often times they can be out of control, as evidenced by their average of 20 turnovers per game, worst in the country. Boise State does not force a ton of turnovers, but UNO will give it away unforced quite a bit.
Jackson, at 6’9” is a physical player inside and has been quite efficient, shooting 58%, largely from in close. He has a partner in the paint in 6”10” Simeon Kirkland, though both struggle from the foul-line, and have below average rebounding statistics. If there is one advantage Slessinger attempts to gain most nights, and specifically tonight, it is depth. Because of the breakneck tempo at which New Orleans plays, he is constantly subbing out tired players for fresh legs. As a result, there are 10 Privateers getting double-figure minutes each game, compared with only 7 Broncos.
BSU head man Leon Rice will hope his troops are fully engaged from the start, on the heels of Saturday’s big revenge win. It was a typical, grind-it-out, rock fight the Broncos have grown comfortable playing, and winning. It can be added to a trio of prior solid, if not great wins over fringe NCAA tournament hopefuls – Washington State, Colorado, and Texas A&M. While tonight’s game will not do much in terms of boosting a resumé, it may afford Rice the opportunity to get some other players minutes and build some needed depth, as a rugged Mountain West Conference schedule looms.
The five starters have been rock solid as expected, but they account for over 80% of the offensive production. Finding someone who can provide scoring punch off the bench would be crucial moving forward, and games like tonight and this coming Saturday against Oakland may help in that regard.
Developing players has been a staple of the Boise State program under Rice, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it happen again.
As for the current run of seven straight wins, the defense has been outstanding, which is not surprising, ranking in the top 10% of just about every important defensive metric. If you set aside the A&M game, no opponent has cracked 70 points, and the Aggies only did it when the game was well in hand down the stretch. Leading scorer Marcus Shaver returned from a one-game absence to play 34 minutes against the Billikens, so there should be no lingering concerns there.
There will definitely be a contrast of styles tonight. The Broncos aren’t super slow on offense, but they will make you work for everything you get when you have the ball. It will be interesting to see how the Privateers handle that. They want to get a shot up within the first 12-15 seconds of the shot clock, and the only way that is likely to happen against Boise State is with a rushed/bad shot. That is the fastest way to get run out of the gym, especially against a more talented team. On the opposite end of the floor, UNO has not played stellar defense thus far in 2022, and that’s being kind. Even though the Broncos have been inconsistent offensively, they should have their way tonight, either attacking the basket, in transition, or posting up.
How do we expect this one to play out? It’s a Division I College Basketball game, and none of those are shoo-ins. Just last night, Rice (the University in Houston, not BSU’s coach, or his son Max) took Texas to overtime as a huge underdog, although there were some extenuating circumstances surrounding that contest. And it would not be a major shock to see New Orleans hang around for the first 10-12 minutes if the Broncos are still in quasi-celebratory mode from their Saturday victory. But the talent disparity is too wide in this one; as Dick Vitale would say, it’s an m-and-m’er, a mismatch. The Privateers have played two comparable opponents, and the results have not been pretty – an 89-53 defeat at Butler, and a 91-62 drubbing at LSU. This one seems headed for the same type of scoreline.
Prediction: Boise State 81 New Orleans 54