The Mountain West men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are a little more than a month away.
While both Boise State squads have played nine league games and have nine more left on the schedule, their games Wednesday against UNLV could play a crucial role in determining seeding for next month’s conference tournament.
The Bronco men (10-12, 5-4 MW) are currently tied for fifth in the conference standings with UNLV (11-10, 5-4), and only the top five teams at the end of the regular season earn first-round tournament byes. Meanwhile, the Bronco women remain neck-and-neck with New Mexico for the regular-season title with identical league records of 8-1.
“That’s playing in league, the next one’s always big,” Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said.
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Here are three things to look for Wednesday when the BSU men host UNLV at 9 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena (ESPNU) and the women (17-3, 8-1) hit the road to face the Rebels (7-13, 5-4) at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas (7 p.m. MT, 1350 AM):
No second chances
The UNLV men average 15.05 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks second among all Division I teams. Those second-chance boards allow the Rebels to get 36.8 percent of their missed shots back — the fifth-best offensive rebounding percentage in the country.
“These guys, it’s just about their pursuit. They go after the ball really well and they come up with it,” Rice said. “That’s an art in itself. They just have a good knack for getting the ball.”
Three Rebels — sophomore Cheikh Mbacke Diong and freshmen Joel Ntambwe and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua — have 40 or more offensive rebounds this season. Tchamwa Tchatchoua actually has more offensive (52) than defensive rebounds (39).
For comparison, senior Zach Haney leads the Broncos with 36 offensive boards this season.
The Broncos will counter the Rebels’ ability on the offensive glass with a defensive rebounding percentage of 78.8 percent that ranks 11th in the nation.
“You know how Leon is about getting boards and not giving up boards,” Haney said. “As a big man, that’s what we’re going to emphasize.”
Where’s McCoy and Juiston?
UNLV’s Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston were a powerful duo on the boards last season, ranking first and third in the Mountain West for total rebounds.
The 7-foot McCoy was named the conference’s freshman of the year and chose to enter the NBA Draft. He was not selected by any team but was later signed — and waived — by the Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans. McCoy is now playing for the Wisconsin Herd, an NBA G League team.
Juiston returned to the Rebels for his senior season, but he suffered a knee injury on Dec. 8 at Illinois that led to season-ending surgery. The Rebels are expected to apply for a medical redshirt for Juiston.
“I’ve heard that they’ve got other bigs that have stepped up for them,” Haney said. “They’re still pretty athletic and they’ve got depth.”
Ntambwe, a 6-9 forward, averages 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds. The 6-11 Diong averages 6.3 points and 6.5 rebounds and has a team-leading 30 blocked shots.
No sweaters allowed
Boise State women’s basketball coach Gordy Presnell admits he’s “really into statistics,” so it’s not surprising to hear he has a specific number in mind when it comes to Mountain West road games.
“We want to be able to make 25 field goals on the road,” Presnell said. “It seems like if you make less than 25 field goals on the road, you’re kind of in trouble.”
Presnell’s 25-basket benchmark — regardless of venue — has held true in seven of the Broncos’ nine league games this season. The two exceptions were a Boise State win at SDSU with 24 field goals and a home victory against Colorado State also with 24 field goals.
“Film and stats don’t lie,” Presnell said.
That also applies to Presnell’s game-day wardrobe. You won’t see him wearing any more sweaters this season.
“We’ve lost a couple games when I wear sweaters,” Presnell said. “And I don’t wear a tie anymore. ... Right now, without a suit coat we’ve had a good season.”