Redshirt senior James Reid left Las Vegas dejected, not knowing whether he would suit up for the Boise State men’s basketball team again.
He and his teammates found new life Sunday night.
The Broncos lost to San Diego State 87-68 in the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals Thursday, putting their postseason chances in jeopardy. They were invited to the NIT, much to the delight of Reid, his teammates and coaches. Boise State (19-11), a No. 6 seed, plays at No. 3 seed Utah (20-11) at 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPNU).
“It hurt. Coming out and finishing our season, conference-wise, the way we did was not how we wanted to. So that stung,” Reid said. “We’re fortunate to have a chance to end it the way we deserve to and the way we want to.”
After Thursday’s game, head coach Leon Rice sat at the podium with senior Nick Duncan and cried, not knowing whether the two had just taken part in their last game together. Rice was all smiles Sunday, delighted at another chance to coach his veterans and his young players. The Broncos had a normally scheduled practice Sunday night and checked into ESPN’s selection special for the news.
“If you’re waiting on an at-large for the NCAA, you kind of know you have the NIT as a backup. But we were in there, kind of standing on the edge of the cliff,” Reid sald. “We’re happy for sure.”
After being picked fifth in the Mountain West’s preseason poll, Boise State spent much of the year battling for first place. A postseason berth builds on the foundation set and is a chance for Rice to coach seniors Reid, Duncan and Matt Grooms at least one more time.
“It tells you how bad I wanted to keep playing with these guys, because I was starting to get pretty sad again,” Rice said. “When you look back on a season, and you see the forest through the trees, where we were picked, and finish in the top three in the Mountain West and get 12 wins and now get a postseason NIT bid, I think you have to be pretty excited.”
The Utes are led by junior Kyle Kuzma’s 16.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Kuzma is joined by three other players who average double-figures in scoring.
Boise State will make its 14th postseason appearance Tuesday at Utah. In four previous appearances, the Broncos are 3-4 in the NIT, with one of those wins coming over Utah in 1987. The Broncos are 3-4 against the Utes and last met them Dec. 3, 2013.
Utah head coach Larry Krystowiak was head coach of the Idaho Stampede during the 2013-14 season, and associate head coach Tommy Connor played at Borah High. Krystowiak is 115-84 in six seasons at Utah. Prior to joining Krystowiak’s staff, Connor spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Westminster in the NAIA and amassed a 264-114 record.
The 2017 NIT will employ a series of rule changes that could potentially take place in the NCAA in the future. The game will still consist of two halves, but fouls will reset every 10 minutes to make it similar to a quarter system.
Teams get five personal fouls per 10-minute segment before an opponent shoots two free throws — a format that emulates the NBA. The shot clock will also be reduced from 30 seconds to 20 when the ball is inbounded in the frontcourt.
The winner will advance to play the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 2 Illinois and No. 7 Valparaiso. The second round will take place between Friday and Monday. The higher-seeded team will host.
NIT first round: Boise State at Utah
- When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
- Where: Huntsman Center (15,000), Salt Lake City.
- Records: BSU 19-11, Utah 20-11
- Broadcast: ESPNU
- Radio: 93.1 FM, 670 AM
- Vegas line: Utah by 10 1/2
- Last meeting: BSU won at home 69-67 on Dec. 3, 2013