The University of Idaho and Boise State women’s basketball teams both have individual players who rank among the NCAA leaders in several statistical categories this season.
It was only a matter of time before their respective teams started to receive some national recognition, too.
In the latest ESPN bracketology from Charlie Creme, the Broncos (19-3, 10-1 MW) and Vandals (13-8, 10-2 Big Sky) are projected to make the 64-team field for the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Boise State, which has qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times in the last four seasons, was given a 12 seed. The Broncos were paired against No. 5 Miami (Florida) in the first round of the Albany Regional in Corvallis, Oregon, providing them a chance to face an opponent on a neutral court.
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“It’s cool to see the recognition that we’re getting, but it also can come and go just as easy,” said Boise State junior Braydey Hodgins, whose 3-point field-goal percentage of 44.8 ranks No. 14 in the nation. “Like Coach said, last week we weren’t even in it.”
The Vandals received a No. 15 seed and a first-round matchup against No. 2 Marquette in Milwaukee as part of the Chicago Regional. They’re led by the “Splash Sisters” — seniors Mikayla Ferenz and Taylor Pierce. Pierce leads the nation with 96 made 3-pointers this season. Ferenz is the No. 10 scorer in the country at 22.0 points per game.
ESPN’s projections assumed both Gem State programs won their respective conference tournaments to lock up automatic NCAA bids.
Boise State currently sits atop the Mountain West standings going into its game Wednesday against third-place Fresno State (15-7, 8-3). The matchup begins at 7 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.
Depth has helped carry the Broncos this season, and the bench likely will play a key role again Wednesday. After missing last Saturday’s win at San Jose State, leading scorer Riley Lupfer remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
But the Broncos have had 10 different players lead the team or share the team lead in scoring in a game this season. That figure is tied for the national lead with No. 11 South Carolina.
Hodgins has paced the Broncos in scoring the last two games, including a career-high 28 points against UNLV to earn Mountain West Player of the Week honors. Junior guard Jayde Christopher provides the Broncos’ offense a behind-the-scenes spark, averaging 5.7 assists per game, which ranks 19th in the nation.
“I don’t think (scoring) necessarily needs to come from me. I think it can come from anyone on our team,” Hodgins said. “We have a depth bigger than most in this conference and I think the nation, so it can come from anyone. ... It’s an opportunity for anyone to step up.
“Riley’s obviously a big production piece in what we do, but on any given night anyone can step up.”