Over a three-day span, the Boise State men’s and women’s basketball seasons ended in disappointment. The men (20-12) lost at Illinois 71-56 in the second round of the NIT on Monday, while the women (25-8) lost at UCLA 83-56 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
The two programs combined to win 45 games, the third-best effort in school history.
Though the 2017-18 season doesn’t begin until fall, here are predictions for both programs:
1) THE MEN’S WILL BE HEAD COACH LEON RICE’S BEST GROUP AND MAKE THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
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The Broncos lose James Reid and Nick Duncan to graduation, but returning are guards Paris Austin (12.3 ppg) , Justinian Jessup (7.4 ppg) and Chandler Hutchison (17.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg). Forwards David Wacker and Zach Haney (10.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg combined) should be improved as well. Add in freshman Alex Hobbs, who scored in double-figures in four of the final six games, and there is a lot to like about Boise State going forward.
CSI transfer Casdon Jardine should help erase Duncan’s loss as a forward with outside shooting range. Austin and Hutchison have a chance to be dynamic; if Jessup finds the shooting stroke he had earlier in the year, and the big men hold up their end of the bargain, Rice will be looking at a 25-win team that could win the Mountain West.
2) HUTCHISON WILL BE THE MOUNTAIN WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Hutchison is one of two players returning from the coach’s 2016-17 All-Mountain West first team. He is joined by San Jose State’s Brandon Clarke, who needs the Spartans to rise in the conference standings to be a legitimate Player of the Year contender. Nevada’s Marcus Marshall and Colorado State’s Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo are all done, while New Mexico’s Elijah Bown has announced his intention to transfer. If Hutchison continues to lead the Broncos in scoring and rebounding, he becomes a favorite for postseason honors.
3) THE WOMEN WILL REPEAT AS MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
The Broncos lose Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa and Yaiza Rodriguez. But the foundation the seniors set this year bode well for the future, with four of the five leading scorers returning in 2017-18. Shalen Shaw (10.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Marijke Vanderschaaf (10.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Marta Hermida (8.5 ppg) and Riley Lupfer (8.1 ppg), who scored 15 fourth quarter points in a MW Tournament upset over top-seeded Colorado State, return to head coach Gordy Presnell’s roster. Also joining the team will be Arizona transfer A’Shanti Coleman and Portland transfer Ellie Woerner; both redshirted this season.
Boise State will be prolific and could surpass the school-record 25 wins it just set.
4) BOTH TEAMS WILL WIN THEIR FIRST NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
The men are 0-7 in the tournament, the women 0-4. Both teams are knocking on the door, and given they both win the Mountain West in these scenarios, are poised to make history next season. The trajectory for both programs is up; the next step is to win in March.
5) HUTCHISON WILL BE SELECTED IN THE 2018 NBA DRAFT
If Hutchison continues his growth mentally and physically, he has a chance to be the school’s first first-round pick. It doesn’t happen for Mountain West players often, but in recent years UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (first overall in 2013) and Rashad Vaughn (17th in 2015) and Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. (27th in 2015) were first-round picks. Hutchison’s 6-foot-7 height, his lanky frame and his athleticism will have NBA scouts salivating if he becomes more consistent.