Bronco hoops a big winner in conference realignment

Conference realignment has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for Bronco fans over the past couple years.  But as the dust settles, Boise State’s athletic future has a bit more clarity to it and the future looks bright.

The decision to stay in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) may come as a shock to Bronco fans as the Big East deal fell through, but it appears to be a wise choice for the school and its athletic programs.  Football drives this school and has propelled it into the national spotlight over the past decade, but an upstart basketball program could put Boise State on the map for good.

Boise State men’s basketball looks like the biggest winner following the decision to stay in the MWC.

Third-year Head Coach Leon Rice knows what it takes to win as he comes from a Gonzaga program that has made the NCAA tournament the past thirteen consecutive seasons.  Rice has already established himself as a winner, taking the Broncos to just their fourth postseason tournament in the last 17 years in his inaugural season at Boise State.

Now this young Bronco squad’s 2012-2013 campaign got off to a 13-4 start that included two road wins over ranked opponents. Conference play however, brings a whole different animal for the Broncos as the MWC boasts some of the deepest and most well-coached teams in the
nation.

The powerhouses of the MWC have consistently been San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

San Diego State is led by 14th year coach Steve Fisher. Fisher, the coach of the famed “Fab Five” squads at the University of Michigan in the early 90’s, has lead the Aztecs to seven consecutive 20-win seasons including a two seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Led by Junior guard Jamal Franklin and his 18.1 PPG and 9.7 RPG, the Aztecs are once again a force to be reckoned with.

UNLV, under second year coach Dave Rice, has played in the NCAA tournament five of the past six seasons.  Rice, a member of the 1990 UNLV national championship team led the Runnin’ Rebels as high as number eleven in the rankings in a season that included a win over then number one ranked North Carolina. The Runnin’ Rebels are led by their true freshman power forward Anthony Bennett.  Bennett, averaging 18.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG, is being touted as the potential number one overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

New Mexico, coached by sixth year man Steve Alford, has risen to its most prominent era in school history.  Alford, captain of Bob Knight’s 1987 national championship team at Indiana, has led the Lobos to a 126-46 record entering the year and currently has the Lobos at the top of the MWC and predicted to take home the conference title.

In the most recent NCAA Tournament predictions on ESPN.com (January 22), ESPN expert Joe Lunardi had six MWC teams going to the tournament, third most of any conference with Boise State, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado State, with the Broncos as an eleven seed.

With other teams on the rise and the potential for the MWC to send as many as six to the Big Dance in March, the future looks bright for Bronco basketball and could be even brighter with a coach like Leon Rice at the reigns.

About the author  ⁄ michaelsteen

michaelsteen

Steen has been all about sports since he could walk. Currently, he’s an avid golfer. Steen is currently the assistant sports editor for The Arbiter, and has been a sports writer since fall 2012. Steen is majoring in communication with an emphasis in media studies to work in public relations. He will graduate in December 2014. Steen feels Boise State sports have done wonders for putting Boise on the map. Steen is also a Twitter addict, so follow him on Twitter @michaelsteen2.