Mountain West Basketball: Fresno State vs. Boise State–Preview, Prediction, Odds
Bulldogs, Broncos meet in Boise
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What: Fresno State Bulldogs (7-11, 3-4) @ Boise State Broncos (15-5, 5-2)
When: Tuesday, January 24th – 7:00 MT, 6:00 PT
Where: ExtraMile Arena; Boise, ID
How To Watch: FS1
Odds: Boise State -11 Over/Under 126
Boise State will try to shake off the disappointment of a last second loss in Albuquerque over the weekend, as they welcome Fresno State to town. The Bulldogs put a great team effort together Saturday in a home victory over UNLV. It helped to have Isaiah Hill back in the lineup after missing the prior game while in concussion protocol. The senior point guard poured in a career high 28 points to help FSU stop a three game slide. Getting a second consecutive win will be a monumental task, as they’ll take on arguably the best team in the Mountain West Conference.
We are less than a month into the conference schedule of this 2022-23 season, but fans have already been treated to a plethora of exciting games and thrilling finishes. Topping the list though has to be the Friday night affair, where 15,000 packed The Pit to watch two of the most underappreciated teams in the country duke it out. It was high level basketball with great coaching, great atmosphere, great execution, one buzzer beater to send the game to OT, and another one to give victory to New Mexico. Both teams came out of the game winners, as college basketball fans saw how truly elite those two teams are. We’ll hold off making Final Four reservations for now, but after a few poor performances by the MWC in the NCAA Tournament lately, there is no doubt a few teams have the ability to reach the 2nd weekend (Sweet Sixteen) in two months.
We’ll get a good measuring stick on the resolve of this Boise State team Tuesday night. Falling short in a highly energized environment when you play well, often brings a letdown the next time out. Add to that, while Fresno State is dangerous and should not be taken lightly, they probably won’t catch the attention of the Broncos players the way a matchup with San Diego State or Utah State would.
It’s likely to be a return to basics for BSU, and that means digging in defensively. It took the extra five minutes, and some exceptional shot making by the Lobos, for an opponent to score more than 74 points against this defense, which has very few deficiencies. Good fundamental post defense, difficult to find anymore, complements tremendous ball pressure on the perimeter. Get by your initial defender and expect help from several teammates, as the team D is phenomenal. To top it off, the defensive rebounding has been elite. As an offense that already has had its struggles this year, Fresno State has their work cut out for them.
Getting their two guards healthy and back in action is a good start. In addition to Hill, Jemarl Baker Jr. missed the previous two games. Both played against the Rebels, and while Baker scored just 3 points, his minutes deepened the bench and added a scoring threat. On the inside, Isaih Moore has also been in concussion protocol and missed the last two contests. His status for Tuesday is still up in the air. The Bulldogs could certainly use his athleticism and rim presence on defense, but fortunately, they have seen Eduardo Andre emerge recently. The 6’11” junior was not used much in the early going, but has recorded two consecutive impressive double-doubles, showing off nice hands, solid footwork, and good body control around the rim. The main issue for FSU is that they just are not a good shooting team – 42% from the field, and a meager 29% from three-point land. They also have not done a good job of using the foul line, ranking in the bottom 20 nationwide in FTA’s. Throw in the fact that they play at an extremely slow pace, and it shouldn’t be surprising that they only average 61 points per game.
That the Bulldogs sit 3-4 in conference play is a testament to their own defensive efforts. That 3-4 could easily be 4-3 were they not missing 3 starters in a close loss to Air Force a week ago. The defense has been consistently good all season, even if it doesn’t quite rate as highly as Boise State’s. Their opponent’s shooting percentage (42%) is well below the national average, though they don’t seem to cover the three-point line as tightly as their interior D. They are susceptible on the boards though, and that will hurt them versus the Broncos, who relentlessly pounded the offensive glass against New Mexico to the tune of 19 second chance points.
Boise State sports 4 players averaging in double figures, with a fifth just a shade under 10 per night. If there is one weakness with the Broncos it is the fact that they get very little scoring or production from their bench. When you have multiple go-to-guys, that might not matter though. Both Max Rice and Tyson Degenhart are coming off huge weeks, and they have each taken turns dominating halves of basketball, like they did Friday night. Rice looked like an old throwback player in the first half, making a series of off-balance shots mixed with some crafty passes. In the second half it was Degenhart who caught fire and nearly carried BSU to victory. If either of them has an off night, there is still veteran point guard Marcus Shaver and versatile forward Chibuzo Agbo ready to fire off a 20 point outing. Also of note as rotations usually shorten late in the season, Mohamed Sylla gave really good minutes in the time he was on the floor for the Broncos. He likely won’t provide much scoring, but some frontcourt depth, rebounding, and toughness would be good enough for head coach Leon Rice.
Fresno State will come into this affair confident, after defeating a talented opponent in UNLV. Also, they handled the vaunted Rebels pressure, only turning it over 13 times, against a team that was forcing almost 20 a game. But points will be tough to come by for them on Tuesday night. Head coach Justin Hutson has a history of playing superior teams close, but they have trouble closing the deal. Will Boise State play with the same energy they played with for 45 minutes in The Pit? If they don’t they’ll be in for a dog fight. It won’t be a runaway, but there’s just too much scoring in the Broncos lineup, and too much defense as well.
Prediction: Boise State 65 Fresno State 56