The Boise State men’s basketball team can move closer to two goals with one big step Wednesday night.
Not only would a victory over Nevada put the Broncos in first place in the Mountain West standings, but it also would provide them with a highly prized Quadrant One win crucial to padding their resume in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Nevada (21-5, 10-2 MW) enters the 9 p.m. (ESPNU) showdown at Taco Bell Arena with a No. 15 RPI ranking and is No. 24 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Home wins over teams with an RPI rank of 1-30, neutral wins vs. teams 1-50 and away wins against 1-75 teams are classified as Quadrant One.
“It’s a big game, no doubt about it,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “... You’re fighting for a championship, and that’s where you want to be and that’s the games you want to play in. Both teams are really good, and we had a great battle at their place. I expect nothing short of another great battle.”
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Boise State (20-5, 10-3) last hosted a ranked opponent on Dec. 12, 2015, when it beat No. 24 Oregon 74-72. The Broncos are 8-47 overall and 5-10 at home against ranked opponents.
“We’re really excited, mainly because of first place being on the line,” Boise State senior point guard Lexus Williams said. “That’s the position that we want to be in. That’s what we talked about from the beginning of the year, ever since the summertime with me getting here. Winning the Mountain West is our goal.”
The Broncos left that game feeling as though they hadn’t played their best down the stretch. They had a 63-60 lead with 4:38 to play but scored just five points over the final 5 minutes.
“They were better that night. They finished the job,” Rice said of Nevada. “Now both teams get another shot at it.”
The Broncos have been a flawless 13-0 at home this season, which is the longest home winning streak in the Mountain West and is tied for the 11th-longest in NCAA Division I.
A win over Nevada on Wednesday would set the program record for consecutive home wins in a season. The Broncos’ current mark of 13 ties the 1997-98 team.
“That’s what makes this place so special is the crowd that we have and the energy it gives us,” Rice said. “It does make a difference.”
Note: As of Tuesday morning, Boise State said it had 9,800 tickets out for the Nevada game.
Women: Broncos chasing first place
Thanks to wins over New Mexico and Utah State last week, Boise State sits just a half-game back of first place in the Mountain West standings.
The Broncos (15-9, 9-4 MW) can keep pressure on the two teams ahead of them in the standings — UNLV (14-9, 9-3) and Wyoming (16-7, 9-3) — and simultaneously avenge a conference loss by beating Nevada on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. Mountain time, 1350 AM).
The Wolf Pack (11-12, 4-8) beat the Broncos 72-68 on Jan. 20, scoring seven straight points over the final 2 minutes to rally for the win.
“I think we need to be better defensively and play as a team,” Boise State senior Shalen Shaw said. “When we play as a team defensively, the offense will come with relative ease.”
Wednesday also marks the final “homecoming” game for Shaw, a Reno, Nev., native who led Reno High to back-to-back Nevada 4A titles.
“It’s almost sad in a sense that I won’t be able to play for anybody at home again after Wednesday’s game,” Shaw said. “But at the same time, it’s exciting because it is my senior year and hopefully we do come out with a win because of the last time (vs. Nevada). It’s kind of like a revenge game almost.”