LAS VEGAS -- So now the wait begins for the Boise State Broncos. They entered the Mountain West tournament as the 5-seed and likely the fifth team in the at-large pecking order for the NCAA tournament. They now find themselves as the odd team out of the conference semifinals, and with a very long and tenuous wait until Selection Sunday.
After the game, a scruffy affair which the Broncos lost to San Diego State, 73-67, head coach Leon Rice and his players predictably (and perhaps, at this point, deservedly) stated that there was nothing they could do at this point, but that they thought that Boise State has done enough to warrant inclusion in the field of 68.
"I think if you look at our résumé with four top 50 wins, I think 16 top-100 games we played, we went out and played people," Rice said. "... I think the [selection] committee really views that. Did you go out and schedule? Did you play a lot of high level teams? There's some other teams they're talking about getting in that have one top 50 win. I think [our résumé] stands up. It's what the committee wants you to do is play a lot of good teams, not dodge teams. You can't dodge 'em in this league. We won some of 'em."
When you look around at the current landscape and compare what Boise State has done, it's hard not to see them still on the right side of the cutline at this point. They tied for fourth in (one of) the best conference(s) in the land, going 8-8 vs. the top 100 overall. They beat UNLV, San Diego State and Colorado State at home. They also went to Creighton when the Bluejays were undefeated, and won there by 13.
In comparison, a team like Saint Mary's, which a lot of people think will sneak into the field, also beat Creighton, but at home, for its only good win. The Gaels didn't have the number of chances the Broncos did in league play, but they also went 0-for-3 against Gonzaga and had two bad losses earlier in the season. Boise State also had some injury issues that the committee could give them some credit for.
That said, this is far from a lock. Now the major-conference tournaments fire up and there are going to be some teams that grab additional wins. The SEC is loaded with them, and teams like Virginia, La Salle, UMass and others still have opportunities to improve their resumes. Boise State does not. It's very possible multiple teams will pick enough enough wins to push the Broncos toward the cutline, and then how the committee feels about the Mountain West, and whether they agree with those who have competed in it all season, may end up being the difference.
"The Mountain West is a difficult league," said Anthony Drmic, who was held to 7-for-20 shooting as co-star Derrick Marks shot a ghastly 4-for-22. "There's no easy games whatsoever, definitely when you're going away. Playing on the road in this league is just so hard. The Mountain West is just showing this year [when nationally] there are so many upsets that it's just a competitive league."
Back in a corridor away from the main press conference area, Rice relayed a story from when he was a Gonzaga assistant about a game they needed to break their way in order to firm up at-large positioning. There was a late travel that led to a crazy ending that ended up costing the team Gonzaga needed to win. Because of that game, Rice claims he won't be paying too much attention this time around as individual results roll in. Drmic said much the same. In a historic year for the Mountain West, coach and star player believe the Broncos have proven enough. They have a compelling case. In four days, they'll learn if they were correct.