January 30, 2023

Bulldogs, Broncos meet in Boise

https://twitter.com/coachmosser & @MWCwire

What: Fresno State Bulldogs (7-11, 3-4) @ Boise State Broncos (15-5, 5-2)
When: Tuesday, January 24 – 7:00 AM MT, 6:00 AM PT
Where: ExtraMile Arena; Boise, I.D
As seen: FS1
Odds: Boise State -11 Over/Under 126

Boise State will look to shake off the disappointment of a last-second loss in Albuquerque over the weekend when they welcome Fresno State to town. The Bulldogs put on a great team effort in a home win over UNLV on Saturday. It helped to have Isaiah Hill back in the lineup after missing the previous game while on concussion minutes. The senior point guard posted a career-high 28 points to help FSU stop a three-game slide. Achieving a second straight win will be a monumental task as they take on arguably the best team in the Mountain West Conference.

We’re less than a month into the conference schedule for this 2022-23 season, but fans have already been treated to a wealth of exciting games and thrilling results. But at the top of the list has to be the Friday night affair, where 15,000 packed The Pit to see two of the country’s most underrated teams go head-to-head. It was basketball at a high level with great coaching, great atmosphere, great execution, one buzzer beater that sent the game to OT and another that gave New Mexico the win. Both teams emerged victorious from the game as college basketball fans saw how truly elite these two teams are. We’ll be holding off on making reservations for the Final Four for now, but after some poor performances by MWC at the NCAA tournament lately, some teams undoubtedly have an opportunity to reach Weekend 2 (Sweet Sixteen) in two months time.

We’re going to get a good gauge of this Boise State team’s determination Tuesday night. Falling short in a high-energy environment when playing well often leads to disappointment next time. Additionally, while Fresno State is dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly, they probably won’t draw the attention of Broncos players like a matchup with San Diego State or Utah State would.

It’s likely a return to basics for the BSU, and that means digging in defensively. It took the extra five minutes and some exceptional shots from the Lobos for an opponent to score more than 74 points against a defense that has very few flaws. Good fundamental post defence, hard to find anymore, complemented by enormous ball pressure on the perimeter. Get past your first defender and expect help from multiple teammates as Team D is phenomenal. To top it off, the defensive rebound was elite. As a crime that has already had its struggles this year, Fresno State has cut out her work for her.

Getting your two guards healthy and operational is a good start. Alongside Hill, Jemarl Baker Jr. missed the previous two games. Both played the Rebels and while Baker only managed 3 points his minutes deepened the bench and added a scoring threat. On the inside, Isaih Moore was also on concussion protocol and missed the last two contests. His status for Tuesday is still up in the air. The Bulldogs could certainly use his athleticism and fringe presence on defense, but luckily they’ve seen Eduardo Andre emerge recently. The 6’11” junior wasn’t used much initially but has pulled off two impressive back-to-back double-doubles while showing nice hands, solid footwork and good body control on the edge. The main problem for FSU is that they just aren’t a good shooting team – 42% from the field and a meager 29% from three-point land. They also didn’t do a good job of using the foul line and were ranked in the bottom 20 in the FTAs ​​nationally. Factor in the fact that they play extremely slowly and it should come as no surprise that they only average 61 points per game.

The Bulldogs going 3-4 in the conference game is a testament to their own defensive efforts. That 3-4 could easily be 4-3 if they hadn’t missed 3 starters in a close loss to the Air Force a week ago. The defense has been consistently good all season, although not rated quite as highly as Boise State’s. Their opponent’s shot percentage (42%) is well below the national average, although they don’t seem to cover the three-point line as densely as their inside D. However, they are vulnerable on the boards and that will hurt them in comparison Broncos relentlessly hitting the offensive glass against New Mexico by 19 second chance points.

Boise State has 4 players averaging double digits, with a fifth playing just under 10 a night. If there’s one weakness with the Broncos, it’s that they get very little points or performance from their bench. If you have multiple contacts, this may not matter. Both Max Rice and Tyson Degenhart have had big weeks and they’ve taken turns dominating the halves of basketball like they did on Friday night. Rice looked like an old throwback player in the first half, making a series of off-balance shots mixed in with some sly passes. In the second half it was Degenhart who caught fire and almost led the BSU to victory. If either of them have an evening off, there’s always veteran point guard Marcus Shaver and versatile forward Chibuzo Agbo ready to fire off a 20-point outing. Also, with rotations typically shortening toward the end of the season, it’s also worth noting that Mohamed Sylla was giving really good minutes during the time he was on the floor for the Broncos. He probably won’t score many goals, but some frontcourt depth, rebounds and toughness would be good enough for head coach Leon Rice.

Fresno State will go into this matter confidently after defeating a talented opponent in UNLV. Plus, they’ve handled the Rebels’ vaunted pressure, turning it over just 13 times against a team that was forcing nearly 20 a game. But on Tuesday night it will be difficult for them to get points. Head coach Justin Hutson has played against superior teams in the past but they are struggling to finalize the deal. Will Boise State play with the same energy they played in The Pit for 45 minutes? If they don’t, they will get into a dog fight. It won’t be a breakaway, but there are just too many points in the Broncos’ lineup and too much defense too.

Prediction: Boise State 65, Fresno State 56


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