The Boise State men’s basketball team returns its top four scorers from last season and will add a key reinforcement at the end of the semester in Oregon transfer Abu Kigab.
While those two pieces of information have the Broncos brimming with confidence, the media remains less convinced.
The Broncos were picked to finish fifth out of the Mountain West Conference’s 11 teams in a preseason media poll released Tuesday at the league’s 2019 media day at Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.
“It’s so great to have a veteran group. We’ve had a lot of guys that have been through a lot of stuff together,” Boise State coach Leon Rice told the Mountain West Network. “They’re coming out on the other end and they’re hungry, and they’ve been a hard-working group.
“You’re going to see a group that really knows how to play together, move the ball well. I think we’ve got a lot of weapons. It’s not going to be if you shut down one guy, you shut us down. You’re going to have to choose your poison a little bit.”
Boise State has outperformed its preseason ranking in six of the past nine seasons.
Defending Mountain West Tournament champion Utah State was the unanimous pick at No. 1, receiving all 17 first-places votes and 187 points. The Aggies are the first unanimous preseason pick in league history. San Diego State was second with 150 points, New Mexico was third with 141 points and Nevada was fourth with 135.
Boise State totaled 128 points, and redshirt junior guard Derrick Alston was voted to the five-member preseason all-conference team along with Air Force senior forward Lavelle Scottie, Colorado State senior center Nico Carvacho, Utah State senior guard Sam Merrill and Utah State sophomore center Neemias Queta.
Alston wrapped up the 2018-19 season as the Broncos’ second-leading scorer at 13.4 points per game and earned honorable mention all-league honors. He led the Broncos with 16 points per game in Mountain West play, including a pair of 30-point games. The Houston, Texas, native had averaged just 0.6 points in 11 games off the bench as a redshirt freshman. His scoring increase of 12.8 points per game was the second best in the NCAA last season and a Boise State record.
“He can score a lot of different ways — around the basket, in transition, making threes,” Rice said. “But he also is a weapon at making a lot of guys better, too. He can get guys easy buckets because of his abilities, and I think you’re gonna see a big jump in that aspect this year.”
Merrill also was chosen as the Preseason Mountain West Player of the Year, while San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn was named Preseason MW Newcomer of the Year and Nevada’s K.J. Hymes garnered Preseason MW Freshman of the Year accolades.
The Broncos play West Coast Baptist College in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, at ExtraMile Arena. Their season opener is at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, against NAIA program Life Pacific.
2019-20 Mountain West Preseason Media Poll
1. Utah State (17) 187
2. San Diego State 150
3. New Mexico 141
4. Nevada 135
5. Boise State 128
6. Fresno State 103
7. UNLV 89
8. Air Force 76
9. Colorado State 59
10. Wyoming 36
11. San Jose State 17