The celebration period is over after the men’s 77-72 upset win over UNLV Saturday night in the lively Taco Bell Arena. Tournament dreams need to settle and Bronco Nation needs to come to terms with the reality of the remainder of the schedule.
Nine games remain on the schedule, four away and five at home, but the concept of home court advantage is near obsolete in Mountain West play. Twice the Broncos must face No. 25 San Diego State, an away game at No. 15 New Mexico, and revenge home matches against Colorado State, Air Force and Nevada. However, combine the three scores (243-196) and the average deficit in those losses for the Broncos is 16.
In that three game skid, the Broncos shot just around .400 percent from the field, which is not terrible, but it does not look pretty compared against the .504 percent their opponents shot.
Of course, there are factors that need to be taken into account, such as senior center Kenny Buckner (.639 field goal percentage, 5.0 rebounds per game) missing the Air Force game, the injury absence of junior guard and “glue man” Jeff Elorriaga (11.3 points per game, No. 29 overall in 3 point percentage in the nation at .472) and even the obstacle of playing Mountain West road games.
That excuse does not cut it as the month of March approaches, with road games being the norm come tournament time. And Boise State’s 4-5 road record, despite the marquee Creighton win, isn’t noteworthy.
If the Broncos want to continue their momentum into postseason play and be more than just an occasional surprise win team, a few things need to happen.
First, the sophomore scoring tandem guard Derrick Marks and forward Anthony Drmic need to have productive offense nights to keep the Broncos in the game. In those three consecutive losses, Drmic averaged 18 ppg and shot just around .4 from the field and Marks averaged 10 ppg and .39 from the field, both below their season averages in field goal percentage. It would be unfair to say Marks is expected to put up 35, like in the Creighton game, or Drmic’s 25 point performance away at Seattle needs to be expected, but for them to hit that .45 field goal percentage would be crucial.
Next, the foul problem needs to be addressed. In the last five out of six games, the Broncos had at least one player foul out of the game: three for junior center Ryan Watkins (UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico), and one a piece for sophomore forward Igor Hadziomerovic (Colorado State), Marks (Nevada), Drmic (Air Force) and Buckner (Nevada). Keeping the fouls at bay means the Broncos continue with their key players on the floor.
Last, each starter needs to hone in on their specialty skill set to push the Broncos to victory. Whether it’s Watkins hitting his 9.6 rebounds per game mark, or Elorriaga shooting at his .472 mark from the 3 point field or Marks hitting the .480 field goal percentage he has on the season, those factors need to come together.
Boise State is only three games out of first in the Mountain West standings and if all three elements can come together for Bronco victories, expect the men to make a statement come tournament time.