Boise State basketball opts out of postseason as Vegas 16 teeters

Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice has seen his team’s season come to a close with a 20-12 record.
Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice has seen his team’s season come to a close with a 20-12 record. The Associated Press

Anthony Drmic’s storied career has a bittersweet ending.

Boise State’s stalwart guard/forward is No. 2 in Boise State history with 1,942 points. That is the way it will finish after the school announced Monday it will forgo a men’s basketball postseason berth. Drmic ends up two points shy of tying Tanoka Beard’s school record from 1989-93.

“Obviously, I’m a little disappointed we weren’t able to play anymore. That’s a selfish thing for me; of course I’d like to break the record,” Drmic said via phone Monday night. “If not everyone wanted to do it, that’s the way it’ll be.”

Drmic, who averaged 13.4 points per game this season for Boise State (20-12), said he plans to sign with an agent in the next week or two with sights set on beginning his pro career in Europe or Australia. He played in a school-record 131 games and also finishes No. 7 in school history with 606 rebounds.

“It sucks, but I’m moving on,” Drmic said. “I’m very disappointed how it ended, personally and on a team level. We had high expectations, too. It’s been weird in my (five seasons) to go from having no expectations to expecting the world.”

Many of Drmic’s teammates told media Thursday they wanted to continue playing, with junior forward Nick Duncan and freshman guard Paris Austin specifically mentioning Drmic getting the record as motivation.

“That’s huge to have teammates that care about something like that. It’s something they didn’t have to think about,” Drmic said. “... A lot of people will say this year was disappointing, but being an NCAA Tournament contender every year wasn’t in the realm of possibility when I got here. I’m proud of where this program is compared to where it was five years ago.”

It was a fittingly strange end to a strange season.

The Broncos’ up-and-down year, which ended with Thursday’s 88-81 loss to Colorado State in the Mountain West Tournament, would not continue after the inaugural Vegas 16 tournament imploded in the 24 hours leading up to its announcement of the field Monday afternoon.

Major conference teams that didn’t make the NIT such as LSU, Ole Miss, Marquette and Stanford declined to continue their seasons. A bracket for the Vegas 16 was expected at 10 a.m. MT Monday but was not released for more than five hours. It featured only eight teams, none from major conferences.

“After discussing the options with our coaching staff, we didn’t think the postseason opportunities available to us were in the best interest of our program moving forward. It has been a long season, and we’re excited to focus our energies on next year,” Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said in a statement.

Interviews with Apsey, Boise State coach Leon Rice and Vegas 16 tournament director Jon Albaugh were requested, but not granted Monday. Teams that agreed to the Vegas 16 were to pay a $50,000 fee, with airfare and rooms covered by the tournament. The College Basketball Invitational and Tournament have per-game fees to host, or teams must cover travel costs, so each win means more money out. Apsey said Thursday the Broncos would not play in the CBI or CIT. The Las Vegas Review-Journal said a primary factor in Boise State bowing out of the Vegas 16 was the lack of marquee names in the field.

“We had originally hoped to launch this new tournament with 16 teams, but only if we could secure top-quality programs,” Brooks Downing, president of bd Global, the tournament organizer, said in a statement. “With highly unusual results in many of the conference tournaments, we were hesitant to just fill out the bracket with ‘available teams.’ So by choosing quality over quantity, we settled on eight teams, many of which were considered for an NIT berth, and all of which have had outstanding seasons they want to celebrate in our event.”

East Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois, Oakland, Old Dominion, Tennessee Tech, Towson and UC Santa Barbara make up the Vegas field.

Boise State enters an interesting offseason as it loses key players in Drmic and senior guard Mikey Thompson (45.3 percent shooting, 11.9 ppg in Mountain West games). Junior forward James Webb III also could put his name in the NBA Draft, but a new NCAA rule would allow him to return to school if he does not sign with an agent. Three scholarships are open for next season, and the spring signing period begins April 13.