LAS VEGAS -- Boise State had an opportunity, to make a statement for itself and for the Mountain West. New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State are all playing for seeds this week in Sin City.
Leon Rice's Broncos were playing for their tournament lives -- and also in an effort to give the Mountain West a record five NCAA tournament bids. Boise entered its quarterfinal contest with San Diego State with 21 wins, a 9-7 mark in the league that put the Broncs in a fourth-place deadlock with the Aztecs. They have more than enough "résumé" wins.
You want a quality road win? How about a victory in Omaha against a Creighton team that swept the Missouri Valley regular-season and tournament titles. Want impressive league notches? Boise has split with three of the top four teams in the league: UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State.
Boise is known as a team that can spread you out and make shots. Four guys can really, really shoot it. There's leading scorer and Aussie Anthony Drmic, who leads the team at 17.2 points per contest and makes nearly 40 percent of his 3s. Point guard Derrick Marks averages 16.4 points, leads the team in assists and has made 43 percent of his trifectas. Mikey Thompson, a redshirt freshman playing in his hometown, has converted 44 percent of his shots from deep and Jeff Elorriaga leads the team at 45 percent from beyond the arc.
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The Broncos came into the game shooting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point land. They left the Thomas & Mack Arena with a missed opportunity, having made only 22 of 63 shots and 6 of 19 from downtown. Drmic and Marks were 11 of 42 from the field. The Broncos had a chance to cement their case for inclusion in the NCAA tourney, but now they'll have to play the waiting game and sweat it out when Sunday hits.
"We've done everything we could," Rice said. "Would we have liked to have won this one? Sure, but we lost to a really good basketball team."
"Boise State without question deserves to be in the NCAA tournament," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher added. "Look at their body of work. This conference is so good. If Boise doesn't get in, I'm going to demand a re-vote. Boise better get in the tournament or else it's disgraceful in my opinion."
Rice and his players said they won't be scoreboard-watchers and root against Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama in the SEC. They won't be pulling for anyone who plays La Salle or Virginia.
"I'm not going to watch," Rice said.
He did that in 2007 when he was an assistant at Gonzaga. It was a Big 12 contest and the team he was pulling for was hit with a traveling call while celebrating the call. He remembers Kansas State then hitting a game-winner as he was dejected.
"I'm not doing that again," he added.
The Mountain West is on par with any league not named the Big Ten this season. It may not have an elite level club capable of cutting down the nets, but there are four teams that are all talented enough to be included in the nation's top 25. Boise State's résumé is more impressive than most that currently sit on the bubble. Again, there are the four "résumé" victories. Of the nine losses, six have come to sure-fire NCAA tourney clubs. Boise also lost at Utah in an emotional contest in which the school honored former coach Rick Majerus. The two remaining setbacks came at Air Force and on the road against Nevada.
Saint Mary's has one "résumé" win against Creighton at home. Boise State took care of Creighton in Omaha and also has three more victories that will gain the attention of the NCAA selection committee members pouring through statistics in Indianapolis.
"We've had a great year," said a dejected Drmic. "We'll go back to Boise and whatever happens happens. Now it's in the hands of the committee."