Boise State men's basketball fighting for a critical day off

A win over Air Force gives the Broncos a first-round bye in the Mountain West tourney.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMarch 8, 2014 

— With its 83-81 double-overtime loss to Nevada on Wednesday still fresh, the Boise State men’s basketball team still has the same opportunity Saturday it did before the home finale.

The No. 3 seed in next week’s Mountain West Tournament is gone, but a bye into the second round and avoiding four games in four days for the title remains attainable.

All the Broncos need to do is win at Air Force, and the bye is theirs. That’s not a given, especially since BSU lost 91-80 last season in its last visit to Colorado Springs, Colo.

“(The bye) is huge,” coach Leon Rice said. “But we’ve got to go play a great road game, and everyone knows how tough that is in this league.”

There are plenty of scenarios for the Broncos when it comes to their seeding or their opponent in the Mountain West Tournament — the most simple is win Saturday and get the No. 4 seed.

No matter what else happens in the league on the last day of the regular season, if the Broncos beat the Falcons, they get a bye through Wednesday’s first round and open tournament play in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Should they win, the Broncos will face UNLV, Nevada or Wyoming on Thursday. To avoid playing UNLV on its home floor right off the bat, Boise State will need the Rebels to beat Nevada in Reno on Saturday despite one starter (Bryce Dejean-Jones) suspended and another (Roscoe Smith) out with a concussion.

If the Rebels win, the Broncos would face Wyoming if it wins at home against Colorado State, or Nevada if the Cowboys lose.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’re still right where we need to be,” Boise State senior Ryan Watkins said Wednesday.

Even with a loss, the Broncos still likely will play in the 4-5 game Thursday. The only way they would get the sixth seed, and therefore open play Wednesday, is if they lose to the Falcons on Saturday and San Diego State, Nevada and Wyoming win.

“There are too many scenarios right now,” Rice said. “We have to control what we can control and focus on Air Force.”

With five teams within two games of each other from third to seventh, and the regular-season champion decided Saturday night between New Mexico and San Diego State, it’s another edition of the wild, wild Mountain West. In fact, the only seeds set in stone are Air Force as the 10th and San Jose State as the 11th.

For the Broncos, there is a bit of comfort knowing they have some control over when they play, but that’s only if they win Saturday.

“This league is so crazy, who knows who is going to be where,” Boise State senior Jeff Elorriaga said. “We have to look one game ahead.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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