The Boise State men’s basketball team will play arguably the most high profile matchup in conference history when the Broncos travel to legendary Rupp Arena to take on No. 3 Kentucky on Tuesday.
“Out of all of my years of coaching, I think it’s going to be the most athletic top to bottom team I have ever coached against,” head coach Leon Rice said.
Those are big words coming from a man who was an assistant coach at Gonzaga from 1998-2010 – when the Bulldogs consistently played well against top ranked teams like North Carolina and Michigan State.
Boise State, at 8-0, are one of 17 unbeaten teams remaining in the country. The Broncos also rank second in the nation in scoring at 91.9 points per game.
Rice isn’t worried about Boise State’s ability to score against the Wildcats however – what scares him is whether or not his team can grab rebounds against the size disadvantage of Kentucky.
The Broncos will have their hands full trying to grab boards over a Kentucky team that ranks ninth in the nation in that category.
Throughout the season, the Broncos have relied on senior Ryan Watkins as the guy to grab rebounds. The 6-9 Watkins leads the team with an average of 10.4 rebounds per game.
“There’s no question that Ryan can’t do it by himself,” Rice said. “For us to even compete [against Kentucky], we have to rebound like our hair’s on fire.”
Rice likened the size mismatch to playing in his driveway with his nine year old son.
One thing Boise State will have an advantage over Kentucky on his experience.
While the Wildcats are starting four freshman and a sophomore, the Broncos returned their entire starting lineup from last years NCAA tournament squad.
Despite this, Rice believes Boise State shouldn’t have that thought in the front of their mind.
“The classic blunders are fight a land war in Asia, and underestimate Calipari with his freshman,” Rice said.
An important factor for a Boise State victory will be for the Broncos to treat this like any other game according to Rice.
As a coach, nothing changes for Rice his game preparation from team to team.
“You have to get over some things when you’re playing at Kentucky with 23,000 fans, and there’s the ‘Kentucky’ on the front of their jerseys,” Rice said.
Tip off will be at 7 p.m MT from Rupp Arena.