Mountain West Basketball: Boise State vs. Colorado State–Preview, Odds, Prediction
Broncos, Rams meet in Fort Collins
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What: Boise State Broncos (19-6, 9-3) @ Colorado State Rams (11-14, 3-9)
When: Wednesday, February 15th – 8:00 MT
Where: Moby Arena; Fort Collins, CO
How To Watch: FS1
Odds: Boise State -3 Over/Under 137.5
As the regular season nears its end, different teams find themselves playing with different goals and objectives. We’ll see that on Wednesday night in Fort Collins as Boise State finds themselves right in the thick of both the Mountain West Conference regular season title chase, and a bid to the NCAA tournament. Colorado State on the other hand is winding down a disappointing season that will see them miss the postseason, barring a miraculous run to the MWC tournament championship. That does not mean that this game is a free spot on the bingo board though, as the Broncos fellow contenders New Mexico and Utah State can speak to first hand.
Anyone who follows college basketball knows that winning on the road is a tough task. So while these teams met less than 3 weeks ago, and Boise State rolled to a 20 point win, it would be unwise to think of this one as a foregone conclusion. CSU boss Niko Medved still has his troops playing hard, as evidenced by their prior two outings. Last Tuesday they went to Air Force and picked up a double-digit road win in a dominating performance, made even more impressive when the Falcons rebounded three days later to cream a desperate New Mexico squad.
Their previous game against Utah State was equally noteworthy even if it did end in a defeat. Playing down multiple expected contributors (as they have much of the season), the Rams went toe-to-toe with the scorching hot Aggies, playing incredibly on the offensive side of the floor. Unfortunately, Medved was almost forced into deploying a zone because of his lack of healthy bodies and a bit of foul trouble. What resulted was a clinic in ball movement and shooting, with USU making 12-21 three-pointers in the second half alone (18 for the game), assisting on a ridiculous 24 of 29 made field goals, and scoring 55 second half points. It overshadowed what was really an amazing final 20 minutes of offense by Isaiah Stevens individually, and the team as a whole. Stevens scored 21 points and had 5 assists in half number two, and as a group the Rams made 17 of 19 two point shots in scoring 47 points. All that being said, Colorado State can expect more resistance on Wednesday night.
Boise State is coming off a workmanlike performance at home Saturday night, knocking off a depleted Wyoming club 75-63, in a game that was never really close. That was their first game after a well-deserved week off following a humbling defeat to league leader San Diego State. They also welcomed senior captain Marcus Shaver back to the lineup. The veteran point guard has been hobbled for much of the season, and missed the loss to the Aztecs. Not only did he return on Saturday, but he looked more assertive than he has in some time, scoring 10 early points, playing 30 minutes, and appearing ready for the stretch run.
The first meeting between the two was typical Boise State basketball – hold your opponent to a low shooting percentage, take care of the basketball, let your main guys do the lion’s share of the scoring, go on a couple of scoring runs, and get out with a victory. Rinse. Repeat. BSU held the Rams to 41% from the field and 18% from deep and only turned it over 8 times for the game. They got a combined 39 points from Tyson Degenhart and Chibuzo Agbo (5-10 from 3 point land), with Agbo chipping in 6 boards and 7 assists. The Broncos were in control most of the way, but the game was won with the help of two Leon Rice timeouts. After a back and forth beginning, Rice used one with his guys up 20-18 midway through the first half. They responded on both ends of the floor with a huge run to close the half, and a 44-29 lead. Then after the Rams sliced into that deficit in the first 5 minutes of half number 2, Rice wisely used another TO at 51-45. BSU allowed 14 points the remaining 15 minutes and coasted to a 21 point victory. That would be a good use of your timeouts right there.
Medved will likely have one more key player at his disposal Wednesday night, as Tavi Jackson has been practicing and should be a full go. Jalen Lake however, is still not out of concussion protocol, and will not play. Jackson will help defensively, but does not provide the offensive pop that Lake on occasion can. For the Rams to spring the upset, John Tonje and/or Patrick Cartier will need to help out Stevens in the scoring column. The problem with that, is the Broncos wing defenders are so well-disciplined, they don’t allow big games to their counterparts very often. Tonje only had 8 in the first meeting. Cartier is very efficient in the post, and will have a minor size advantage inside for much of the game, but Boise State does not allow a huge amount of easy paint touches. As such, Cartier also only tallied 8 in the matchup a few weeks ago.
Jackson’s availability will stretch the rotation a bit more for CSU, and that will help. He will also do his best to pester Shaver with his length and athleticism. But this isn’t Shaver’s first rodeo; he’ll be perfectly content to let his running mates attack the soft spots of the Rams defense. If Medved does decide to go zone at all, Boise State will be just fine with that, they share the ball well, play for each other, and have shot it well from deep better than most expected.
This is a tricky little spot here for the Broncos, who despite a shiny record, and passing the eye test for most, find themselves very much on the bubble for an at-large NCAA bid. This is the kind of loss that would put a dent in the profile the committee will look at in a few weeks. In their favor though, is the fact that they will have only played one game the prior 12 days by the time they take the floor in Moby Arena. And they seem to be fully healthy again. Curiously, oddsmakers have put out a very short number in this game, as Boise State is just a 3 point favorite. We are usually keen to side with what those guys think, they are the wise-guys after all, it’s just not a good move to bet against Leon Rice. Stevens has the potential to take over a game, and will probably keep this one close most of the way, but there are too many bullets in the chamber for the Broncos, and the call here is for them to get a nice road win and stay in the MWC title mix.
Prediction: Boise State 70 Colorado State 63