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Mar 19, 2024 3:23 am

Baffled Boise State, Colorado deal with Dayton assignment

Degenhart

With seven wins against NCAA Tournament teams, Boise State was not expecting to board a charter flight to Dayton and the First Four on Monday afternoon.

The Broncos are making a third consecutive appearance in the field and have a few days to shake their shock and bewilderment over being sent to the play-in portion of the NCAA Tournament. Boise State (22-10) meets Colorado (24-10) in the final game of the eight-team, pre-tournament showcase on Wednesday night.

“A little surprised to be honest,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said of the Broncos’ fate. “I don’t think anyone had us projected there. I thought we’d be a higher seed because two things that were emphasized were the schedule you put together and then winning games on the road and we did both of those. But hey, we’re grateful. We’re in the greatest sporting event there is.”

The winner of Wednesday’s game advances to Indianapolis for a first-round matchup with No. 7 seed Florida.

The Broncos finished No. 26 in the NET rankings, which projected as the equivalent of a No. 7 seed. They were second in the Mountain West standings with a 13-5 record and the conference has six teams in the Field of 68.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few knows a thing or two about Bracketology. The Bulldogs are a No. 5 seed appearing in the tournament for the 25th consecutive time. But Few needed colorful words to come up with an apt description for his thoughts on Boise State missing the main bracket.

“That’s one of the worst screw jobs I’ve seen man,” Few told reporters Sunday night. Rice is a former Gonzaga assistant under Few.

Boise State has four players averaging double-figures in scoring, led by Tyson Degenhart at 17 points per game. Rice’s son, sixth-year guard Max Rice, averages 12.5 points per game.

Colorado is coached by Tad Boyle, who is a close friend of Rice. The Buffaloes were not thought to be in consideration for a tournament spot until they closed the season with eight wins in a row to reach the Pac-12 tournament title game in Las Vegas, where Oregon prevailed.

“He’s a good friend, and you hate playing good friends in this business because you don’t have a lot of ’em,” said Boyle. “When I saw (the matchup), I can’t lie, I was disappointed. Leon and I talked (Sunday), I said, ‘The good news is one of us is moving on. The bad news is one of us is going home.’ ”

The friends met in Myrtle Beach last season with Boise State beating Colorado because Boyle said “they were tougher than us.”

Coming off three games in three days in Las Vegas, the Buffaloes are newbies in the First Four format.

“Sometimes it’s an advantage,” Boyle said.

Boyle said he doesn’t expect guard Julian Hammond III, out since Feb. 17 with a knee injury, to be ready for Boise State but forward Tristan da Silva is likely to be on the floor.

KJ Simpson and da Silva lead the Buffaloes with a combined 35.4 points per game. Simpson had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in the 68-55 win over Boise State last season.

Colorado opened as the favorite at sportsbooks, which is added fuel if Boise State is looking for any added motivation on top of the bracket placement.

“I think that’s kind of what we’ve had all year long. It feels like the disrespect has been consistent,” Rice said. “We got second in a league that’s a six-bid league. You get that good of a league and you get second and that low of a seed? It’s a head scratcher but it’s nothing new for us.”

Also of note, Boise State is 0-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including four setbacks during Rice’s tenure.

–Field Level Media

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