Perhaps it’s fitting that the both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Tournament Committees are burying the Broncos and their Idaho loving faithful in shoulder chips leading into March Madness.
The women’s team got seeded to start tournament play vs. Tennessee in Knoxville, so while it would be fantastic if Bronco Nation could show up to support the team and all, it’s still the powerhouse of the Lady Vols on their home turf we’re talking about here. The 2 seed vs. the 15. Real David and Goliath stuff. Winning can happen for the correct orange and blue, but it’s going to take a perfect storm to get there.
The men also are between a rock and a hard place – their last venture on to the court ended in a
stupid miracle banked three pointer in OT with what seemed like half the team unable to make anything happen offensively. That half included MW Player of the Year, Derrick Marks. It was as heartbreaking as it was infuriating to watch. But now, they’re back in Dayton, OH for the second time in 3 years, facing off against yet another fire hot team in the hometown Dayton Flyers. Dayton finished second in the Atlantic Ten, and some of their fans felt slighted by having to go to the play-in game. There’s some less than enthused faces around the player’s table during the announcement as well. These boys are ready to cause a bloodbath on their way to the Sweet 16 and Boise is just in the way. Shoulder chips all around, then!
However, it depends on point of view. Yes, Dayton is a very good basketball team riding a home winning streak in a tough conference. So were Utah State, SDSU, and New Mexico. The venue and experience of playing in Dayton won’t be new to the leadership of this team. If the Broncos are loose and ready to go, this game will be a metaphorical fist fight full of three-ball haymakers. The home team is a walking, talking, shot-sinking highlight reel, not unlike some other gentlemen we know.
The Flyers are a scrappy, small-ball team that shoots 35% from the arc and averages 68 points. They’re led by senior Jordan Siebert, a guard who averages just under 17 points a game. There are three point threats all over their squad, which I guess is the tradeoff when you don’t have a player over 6’6 on the roster. James Webb III and Rob Heyer should be gorging themselves on the boards all night. However, that means that the big time Boise defense that we saw in the thick of the run through the MWC better return in force. The Flyers are fast and dangerous, scoring 68.2 ppg and holding teams to 60.9 points on average. Boise State is just as stingy on defense, but has been averaging 70.8 ppg.
Also have to remember that Dayton was last season’s Cinderella. They made a run to the Elite 8. They also have fought through some tough stuff, with their starting big guys all dismissed from the team amongst…circumstances…and having to regroup in January. Huh. I mean, it’s not exactly the MWC POY candidate in the midst of having a stellar senior season getting injured and having another senior stand up and put the team on his back leading to a stellar conference campaign and POY accolades for him, and the team tied for first place in the regular season, but it’s a pretty good story.
Thinking in the context of giant killers, this is probably new ground for Dayton. They spent last season winning the country’s collective hearts and minds with their improbable run, and now they are the home team against what is probably the biggest name connected with the idea of a Cinderella in Division 1. Sport be damned. Of course, that line of thought won’t matter much if the Boise State Broncos that Wyoming has managed to tame all season show up in Dayton on Wednesday. Because bricking three pointers and allowing anybody and everybody to drive to the basket willy-nilly will not a win make.
With it basically being a home game for Dayton (even though the Broncos will be in their home whites), the fact that, well, Dayton has won in the Dance before and the Broncos have not stacks the deck some. It felt fortunate to even get to the play-in game with the way the committee was hosing the mid-majors this season (Sorry, CSU, but your tears are still delicious.) On the other hand, Boise State has been very good at spoiling other team’s good times at home. IF Derrick Marks plays his A game AND Nick Duncan can get hot AND Webbie does what he should on the boards and Hutchison plays some stellar, lights out defense and IF Rob Heyer and Montigo Alford both are on their collective game and can cut down the outside threat as well as protect the paint effectively, then, it’s going to be a real good time. The Broncos did that a lot this season. Now they just need to do it again. Everything after this game is a bonus.
It’s truly a great year to be a Bronco fan. Football champions, regular season men’s basketball co-champs, women’s basketball tournament champions. So much hardware coming to Boise, we’re going to have to start storing them at the University of Idaho downtown campus offices. Running out of space over there Vandals, sorry. They’re in preparations over across the river, yanno. It’s the Broncos vs. the World.