Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice often talks of needing to consistently play at an "A level" to win in the Mountain West Conference.
After the Broncos' first at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with a team that had only one senior, Rice thinks his team made the grade over the season as a whole.
"I'd give us an 'A' with how young we were, how good the league was, and we threw a tough schedule at them," Rice said Thursday. "They exceeded expectations - pretty much everyone had them eighth. They did some pretty remarkable things."
The Broncos came into the season off a three-win Mountain West campaign, but went 9-7 in league play. They won't be picked eighth again, with 96 percent of their scoring back and other schools in the league needing to fill in more holes.
"We have the bar where we want it," Rice said. "It's tough to always elevate that's the big challenge."
Rice pointed out guards Mikey Thompson and Igor Hadziomerovic as two players he thinks can make a big jump next season. He added that the majority of his roster has at least two years of experience in his system under its belt, which should give the team some flexibility with personnel.
"It gives you a little more freedom to be more creative with them," Rice said. " We took a jump up offensively this season, and now hopefully we can defensively."
Here are a few more notes from Rice's interview with the Idaho Statesman on Thursday.
NEW FLOOR: Rice said Taco Bell Arena will have a brand-new, redesigned surface for the 2013-14 basketball season. He said he prefers a more "traditional" look, then said that it will be all-blue. He was kidding; it won't.
BON VOYAGE: The team will take a foreign trip in August, but Rice wasn't prepared to say where. A foreign tour allows teams to play exhibition games against teams from those countries while giving them up to 10 extra practices. Australia would seem a likely destination, with two players and an assistant on the roster from Down Under, though European tours are also popular. The Broncos have players from Serbia and Latvia currently on the roster.
MAKING ROOM? The Broncos are expected to add three new players for 2013-14, while lone senior Kenny Buckner has departed. That means two players are likely to leave the program. Rice said he hasn't had those discussions yet, but said, "That always sorts itself out. Guys want to play, guys figure out their roles on the team, some want to be in that role and some seek out options to create new roles somewhere else."
SCHEDULING SOON: Boise State has not solidified its 2013-14 nonconference schedule, but with 18 conference games with the additions of San Jose State and Utah State, there are fewer free spots. Rice said the team will host Utah, Texas-Arlington and Seattle, while playing on the road at New Orleans and in Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic (which includes teams such as Iowa State, Saint Mary's and Oregon State). The games against Creighton and Michigan State this season were part of tournaments, so they aren't expected to be returned.
HIGH PRAISE: Rice said one of the broadcasters on hand in Dayton told him the Broncos reminded the broadcaster of the 2008-09 Butler team, which lost to LSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs didn't have a senior on that squad, then went all the way to the championship game in 2010 in 2011.