BOISE — The Boise State men’s basketball team has won 13 games in a row, is 13-1 on the season and ranked No. 14 in the NET heading into Friday’s matchup with Fresno State.
But despite that success the Broncos have yet to receive much national attention. The Broncos aren’t ranked in the AP or Coaches Polls, and while they are receiving some votes, they haven’t received nearly the traction toward landing in the Top 25 that some fans think they deserve.
That might soon be changing. CBSSports.com national college basketball reporter Gary Parrish moved Boise State into his daily Top 25 rankings Thursday at No. 25 and other national reporters are taking notice of what the Broncos have been doing lately as well.
“They definitely pass the eye-test for me,” Parrish told the Idaho Press. “And it’s not like they’re just recording wins over bad teams. They’re smashing basically everybody, which is why they’ve improved 52 spots in KenPom since the start of the season.
“So yeah, I think they’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, the best way to ensure that is to secure the Mountain West’s automatic bid. But even if that doesn’t happen, I think the body of work and the computer numbers will be strong enough to get the Broncos an at-large bid — provided, of course, that they handle things going forward the way I assume they will.”
Parrish says the reason the Broncos haven’t gotten as much national love yet is due to their schedule, which lost several opportunities to play good teams early in the season due to COVID-19. On paper and in computer rankings such as KenPom where they rank No. 56, the Broncos just don’t have a strong enough resume at this point to make it a criminal offense to keep them outside the top 25.
“The issue facing Boise State is that if you start the season off on the national radar, you usually have to do something big — like record a signature win over a power-conference school — to get on the national radar and the Broncos just haven’t had an opportunity to do that since losing the season opener to Houston,” Parrish said. “When you lack big wins and you don’t have strong KenPom numbers, it’s easy for folks to justify ignoring you. But, that said, 13-1 is undeniably nice — especially when the lone loss is a 10-point loss to a Houston team that’s ranked in the top 10 and in possession of a more lopsided victory over Texas Tech.
“Combine that with the fact that the Broncos have a Quadrant 1 win over the BYU team that’s beaten San Diego State and Utah State, with the fact that they’re 14th in the NET, and with the fact that they’re being led by a possible future NBA player in Derrick Alston Jr. and I can understand why Boise State fans might be frustrated by the lack of national attention. But, for what it’s worth, I have moved the Broncos into my Top 25 and 1, so please tell those fans I’m trying to do my part.”
Andy Katz, a longtime college basketball reporter, has been higher on the Broncos than some. He’s had them ranked for much of the season, and said recently they were among the top non-Power teams in the country.
“I have consistently ranked Boise State in my Power 36,” said Katz, who is currently with NCAA.com and FOX Sports. “It’s unfortunate that the rest of the country isn’t paying attention to what the Broncos are doing. They will take notice when we get to March and suddenly Boise State has a higher seed than some traditional brand names.”
Like Katz, Jeff Goodman of Stadium has covered college basketball for 20-plus years and has been impressed with the Broncos. He told the Idaho Press the talent and depth on Boise State’s roster makes it the best team in the Mountain West.
“I like this Boise team because they possess a star in Alston who can do so many different things, they have terrific guard play and are unselfish,” Goodman said. “Max Rice and (Mladen) Armus are perfect in their roles, (Abu) Kigab plays so hard and helps cover mistakes on the defensive end and RayJ (Dennis) is a great leader.
“I’m not sure they are quite as good of a shooting team as in the past, but I think they are tougher than they have been and that’s what makes them the best team in the league in my opinion.”
Jon Rothstein, a TV analyst for CBS Sports and a national college basketball reporter, noted the lack of chances for quality wins due to a preseason tournament in Orlando being canceled, but he said he’s been impressed with what the Broncos have done to this point.
“When healthy this is a really good basketball team and the best Leon Rice has ever had as a head coach,” Rothstein said. “How good? We need to see them play the best that the Mountain West has to offer. Will we know more about this team after it plays Utah State and San Diego State? Of course. But their schedule was set up to have marquee games early and COVID got in the way of that. In the meantime, they’ve won every game they’ve been supposed to win.”
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello was one of the few to have the Broncos on his radar going into the season, and he’s seen nothing to change his opinion so far.
“I was pretty high on Boise State heading into the season and I thought there was a really strong case to be made the Broncos were the most talented team in the league,” Borzello said. “And what appeared like the case on paper has played out so far this season. Derrick Alston Jr. is a baller and Leon Rice has done a really good job on the transfer market.
“Abu Kigab, Emmanuel Akot and Devonaire Doutrive are all high-major talents and Marcus Shaver and Mladen Armus have now been productive at multiple schools. I think in terms of sheer talent it’s certainly the best team Rice has had since the NCAA Tournament teams. Those teams certainly shot the ball better, but this year’s team can beat you in a number of different ways.”
Like the others, Borzello said the Broncos probably haven’t gotten any national buzz due to the lack of quality opponents. That will soon change with the Broncos playing Colorado State and Nevada on the road the next two weeks before playing Utah State and San Diego State to finish the regular season.
“The two road games at Colorado State will be telling and I think we will start seeing some hype starting to build if Boise wins both games,” Borzello said. “But I think the real national attention will have to come toward the end of the season, during that four-game stretch against Utah State and San Diego State. The Mountain West title will likely be decided in those two weeks, so the Broncos will have plenty on the line.”
Momentum is starting to build for the Broncos to become more relevant nationally. All they can do is continue to win — starting with Friday’s game at home against Fresno State.