Leon Rice is a fantastic basketball coach. In fact, Leon Rice is—without question (do not question me on this)—the best basketball coach in Boise State history. Leon Rice is such a good—and transformational—coach that he has really earned the mulligan he’ll graciously receive for the 2018-2019 basketball season...because hoo boy, it has been a stinker. To my knowledge, OBNUG’s lack of basketball coverage this season isn’t the reason for the slide; that’s been a combination of scheduling conflicts and apathy. No, it’s a lack of consistency, leadership, star power, and good old-fashioned bad luck at the heart of Boise State’s woes.
While the women’s team was racking up the wins and winning their first outright MWC title, the men’s team was finding creative ways to lose and wearing out the term “heartbreaking” for local sportswriter’s ledes. Few realized back in November that the Broncos two-point loss to Idaho State in their opener—a game they led by 18 points at one juncture—would set the stage for their horribad season, but here we are in March and the madness (do you see what I did there?) hasn’t subsided. Four of the Broncos losses in their current six-game skid have been decided by 2 points or fewer or in overtime. Their mid-January loss to top-10 Nevada was by one-point...and came at the expense of a buzzer-beating three-pointer no less. Yeah, it’s been one of those years.
But does it matter? If the Broncos had won those close games they eventually lost, they still probably wouldn’t be in the hunt for a regular season title...not with the wonder years from Utah State and Nevada. They’d have a slightly better seed for the MWC tournament...a tournament where they haven’t historically fared well even with a plum seeding. So, it’s off to the stat books to find silver linings in this dustbin liner of a season. Justinian Jessup has become a leader for this team as the season has wore on, and Derrick Alston...the impossibly-thin walk-on has turned heads as possibly Boise State’s next best prospect. Alston is second on the team in scoring with 12.7 per contest and considering he’d scored just 7 points ALL of last season, he might be a real force if that trajectory continues. Also, Leon Rice made the slightly head-scratching decision to redshirt every single freshman...which hurt our bench depth this year (and possibly failed to keep one now-departed elite recruit out of trouble), but could pay big dividends next season. Boise State will also add two big-time Pac-12 transfers moving forward in Abu Kigab (Oregon) and Emmanuel Akot (Arizona). Rice is right to be troubled by this lost season, but his optimism for the future isn’t misplaced.
Also, he has this guy’s blessing
Leon Rice greets the legendary ‘Snake’ on his entrance into the arena. He’s befriended Snake over the years and has had him come to shootaround and talk to the team before. pic.twitter.com/zZBEX01Kz4— B.J. Rains (@BJRains) March 7, 2019
So, let’s leave this season the ash heap of history (the Broncos will pick up their all-time worst 20th loss sooner or later) and look to the horizon. We all have a bad day now and again...the Broncos have just had like dozens of ‘em. Best to rip those band-aids off quick, right?