A month with five games away from home against four teams that combined for 102 wins last season left Boise State with a 3-4 record in November.
Though the Broncos believe playing a tough schedule will pay dividends down the road, there is little room for error this month as they attempt to build an NCAA Tournament-worthy nonconference resume.
“We need to win all these other games, pinpoint the top teams in conference,” junior forward Nick Duncan said. “It was a bummer we couldn’t beat those ranked teams, but we have 25 more games left. It puts more emphasis on those, can’t lose games we shouldn’t.
“If we keep progressing, we’ll be fine. We’ve had losing streaks before, but we learned from it.”
The first test is at 8 p.m. Saturday at Portland (4-4), the Broncos’ last road game until January. Before Mountain West play begins, Boise State will have ample chances to improve its RPI, which was 214 as of Friday, at home against teams like Loyola Marymount (116), UC Davis (142) and especially Oregon (5).
The 15th-ranked Ducks, who visit Taco Bell Arena next Saturday, lost to Mountain West power UNLV 80-69 in Las Vegas on Friday night.
“You’ve got some great opportunities. This schedule’s shaping up to be the toughest (nonconference) we’ve ever had,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Of course, early-season RPI is anything but a reliable measurement. Long Beach State jumped from 123 to 60 by beating Colorado State, but UCLA moved up from 107 to 72 after beating Kentucky. Montana, which Boise State lost to Nov. 13, stands at 332.
A win against Arizona or Michigan State would have gone a long way should the Broncos need an at-large bid come March. In 2013, a November road win at Creighton made the difference between making the NCAAs and the NIT, in Rice’s own words. The team knows a marquee road victory may have to wait until conference play, but also hope the missed opportunities drive it.
“We’ve thought about it a bit, but not that much,” junior forward James Webb III said. “We let it push us, but taking it one game at a time has worked out well for us. It’s what we did last year (during a 15-1 run from Jan. 13-March 13). When we start to look ahead, it doesn’t turn out well.”
Texas coach Shaka Smart told USA Today last week when he was at VCU, nonconference scheduling was perhaps more important than league play because “the committee valued the way you scheduled, even if you didn’t win.”
Rice said the team returned from the Wooden Legacy tournament last month “down in the dumps” after playing two top-15 teams closely, but that it will help the team in the end, testing itself against the best and knowing what it takes to play at that level.
“They’ll look back on this November, and it will be a real gift for them,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said Sunday.
A PEEK AT THE PORTLAND PILOTS
Portland of the West Coast Conference has fired off 222 3-point attempts, seventh nationally entering Friday’s games, including 40 in a 90-74 loss against Colorado State on Nov. 27. Five players average at least 8.8 points per game, led by junior guard Alec Wintering’s 13.0 ppg.
“If we can’t defend the 3-point line, they’re going to be really, really dangerous,” Rice said.
Boise State (4-4) at Portland (4-4)
- When: 8 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Chiles Center (4,802)
- Video: Streaming on TheW.tv
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM)