Boise State Basketball

Five NCAA Tournament teams we’d love to see in Boise

Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo, left, and Wenyen Gabriel celebrate during the second half of their game against Alabama in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday in St. Louis. Kentucky won 86-63.
Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo, left, and Wenyen Gabriel celebrate during the second half of their game against Alabama in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday in St. Louis. Kentucky won 86-63. The Associated Press

Boise State will host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games Thursday and Saturday at Taco Bell Arena.

The 68-team tournament field won’t be revealed until after 4 p.m. Sunday on TBS, but it’s always fun to imagine the possibilities for next week’s games.

Here are five teams the Idaho Statesman would love to see in the Gem State this week.

See the teams officially picked for Boise.

Kentucky

Wildcats coach John Calipari is one of the best – and most controversial – college coaches in history. The Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer has led six teams to the Final Four, and his 2012 national championship team won a Division I-record 38 games. He is one of only two coaches to lead three different schools to the Final Four, taking UMass (1996), Memphis (2008) and Kentucky (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) – but the Massachusetts and Memphis appearances were wiped from the record books because of recruiting and other violations.

The Wildcats will play for the SEC title at 11 a.m. Mountain time Sunday on ESPN; they have been projected as a No. 4-5 seed in most brackets. If Kentucky got the call to Boise, it would be a rare chance to see a college basketball blueblood. And you’d also see a lot of Kentucky fans, because they famously travel anywhere to watch their team.

Arizona

As the FBI probe into college basketball continues, ESPN reported on Feb. 25 that wiretaps intercepted a phone conversation featuring Arizona coach Sean Miller in which he discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats. Miller denied the accusation, and some Arizona fans have worn “Vindicated” T-shirts to the Pac-12 Tournament this week, but ESPN said it stands by its reporting. In addition, former assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson is facing federal bribery charges. Why not bring all this controversy – as well as a team that was considered a favorite to win it all at the start of the season – to Boise?

Gonzaga

According to San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Mark Zeigler, Gonzaga has talked about the possibility of leaving the West Coast Conference for the Mountain West as early as next season. Gonzaga, which lost to North Carolina 71-65 in the 2017 national championship game, would bring a big crowd to Boise. It would also give fans a chance to see a potential conference opponent in action. Boise State last played Gonzaga on Dec. 9, 2000, winning 94-69, and the Broncos lead the all-time series 18-16. Oh, and don’t forget that Gonzaga coach Mark Few is close friends with Boise State coach Leon Rice.

Loyola (Chicago)

Loyola earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1985 with a 65-49 victory over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference championship. The Ramblers are projected to be a No. 12 seed, which could send them to Boise for the second time this season. Boise State dominated Loyola 87-53 on Nov. 28, 2017, as sophomore Justinian Jessup connected on 6-of-7 3-point attempts and five Broncos reached double figures. Rooting for the Ramblers could be kind of like rooting for the Broncos.

Wichita State

The Shockers were ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll and will likely land a No. 4 or 5 seed in the tournament. But Wichita State doesn’t hail from a Power 5 conference, and it’s always fun to pull for the little guy, especially when they have a history of success. The Shockers, who fell to No. 21 Houston in the American Athletic Conference semifinals Saturday, have made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and twice advanced to the Final Four.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts

NCAA ticket, practice info

There are still some all-session and single-session tickets available through broncosports.com/tickets.

A free practice day at Taco Bell Arena is scheduled for Wednesday. Doors will open at 10 a.m. and practices start at 11 a.m. Parking is also free that day.

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