Time to understand that five Mountain West squads will be part of the NCAA tournament

Posted: 03/09/2013 in college basketball
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I don’t believe there should be any doubt that five of the nine Mountain West squads are headed to the NCAA tournament.

Boise State deserves to join New Mexico, Colorado State, Nevada-Las Vegas and San Diego State in “March Madness” after downing the Aztecs 69-65 on Saturday.

The Broncos – picked to finish eighth in the tough basketball conference – have the same overall record (21-9) and league mark (9-7) as San Diego State. The Aztecs were predicted to rule the league – or at least share ruler duties with UNLV – prior to the season.

Boise State having the same record as San Diego State in basketball is on par with the Aztecs beating the Broncos in football. Which, um, surprisingly also happened this past season.

Boise State never trailed while defeating the Aztecs and held off a late San Diego State charge. The Aztecs are a poor outside shooting team and a 3-of-16 performance from 3-point range helped San Diego State suffer its fifth straight road loss.

Remember all the hype about how this San Diego State squad would be on par with or better than the “Sweet 16” squad of two years ago?

That sure hasn’t happened and the road failures – the Aztecs went 2-6 away from home in a league filled with tough road venues – indicate a squad more likely to be one-and-done in the NCAA tournament than one about to go on a deep run.

The Mountain West tournament will be a crucial test to see if San Diego State can gain some momentum prior to the NCAA tournament. Funny, the Aztecs will open it with a rematch against Boise State on Wednesday.

The Aztecs have solid talent in Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and now-healthy point guard Xavier Thames but don’t seem to have the same type of chemistry and cohesiveness of recent San Diego State squads.

I notice the Aztecs fell to 2-4 in games decided by four or fewer points this season. They went 8-3 in such games last season. That’s not a good trend and is as good an indicator of any for why San Diego State isn’t listed among the nationally ranked teams.

It is time for coach Steve Fisher to find the right buttons to push as this season is set up to be recalled as an underachieving one unless the Aztecs quickly heat up.

That’s not a problem per Boise State, which is ahead of schedule with standout sophomores Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks leading the way. The Broncos have overachieved and could put a scare in their first-round NCAA tournament opponent, depending on the matchup.

Yes, I am counting Boise State as being part of the big dance. The Broncos went 2-1 in a three-game run to end the regular season, a stretch that included games against Colorado State (a home win) and UNLV (a road loss) prior to facing the Aztecs.

Boise State knew its postseason fate was on the line and the Broncos came through, which is why I believe they wrapped up an NCAA tournament bid with Saturday’s victory.

The biggest problem for Boise State might occur later this month and that would be keeping coach Leon Rice in the fold.

It’s possible that two Pac-12 teams located in the Pacific Northwest – Washington State and Oregon State – might be interested in Rice, a stellar coach with deep ties in the region.

That’s the type of thing that happens when a typically unsuccessful program finds itself as part of March Madness.

And that is exactly where Boise State is headed after Saturday’s victory over the Aztecs. Count on it.

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