Boise State visits San Diego State with first place, NCAA Tournament position at stake

Darin Oswald/

For an early February college basketball game, a lot is on the line Friday night when Boise State visits No. 22 San Diego State.

For starters, first place in the Mountain West Conference will be up for grabs when the teams tip off at 7 p.m. Mountain time at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

But there also are NCAA Tournament implications. Both teams are ranked among the top 30 in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings, making this a Quad 1 victory for the winner. The Broncos, 21st in the NET, are 2-2 in Quad 1 games, while the Aztecs — at No. 27 — are 2-4. Quad 1 victories help boost a team’s resume in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

“Their program’s based on their consistent defense and their consistent rebounding and their pressure they put on you,” Boise State coach Leon Rice told KBOI 670 AM on Wednesday in a recorded interview. Rice was not made available to the media for interviews prior to Friday’s game.

“First and foremost, you have to handle that. And we’re gonna have to handle a blitzkrieg. They’re gonna come at us so hard.”

The Mountain West has five teams in the top 40 in the NET, giving Boise State a chance at three more Quad 1 wins before the regular season is done: at San Diego State (Friday), vs. San Diego State (Feb. 28) and at Utah State (March 4). The Broncos are a combined 7-4 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games, which is tied for the most wins in the Mountain West alongside Nevada (7-6).

According to bracketologists, San Diego State (17-5, 8-2) and Boise State (18-5, 8-2) are both comfortably projected to make this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs are between a 6 and 8 seed right now, while the Broncos are coming in between a 9 and 11. Those projections could flip-flop should Boise State earn a big road win and take over the top of the Mountain West standings alone.

“I’m sure their students will be juiced up Friday night and ready to go,” Rice said. “But we embrace that. It’s a fun place to play.”

In The Associated Press Top 25 poll, San Diego State is currently ranked No. 22. The Broncos are among those receiving votes, with 31 points.

The Aztecs lost at Nevada on Tuesday and could lose ground in the polls regardless of what happens against the Broncos, but Boise State could vault into the Top 25 with a victory.

Boise State’s best wins to date, considering NET rankings, are against Utah State (No. 31), Nevada (No. 34), Texas A&M (No. 48), Washington State (No. 68) and Colorado (No. 71). The Broncos’ losses to New Mexico (No. 37) and Nevada (No. 34) could be considered “good” losses. A victory against the Aztecs would go down as the best win this season.

The only “bad” loss the Broncos have was their home-opening 68-66 setback to South Dakota State, which goes down as a Quad 4 loss.

San Diego State owns a 17-10 edge in the all-time series, but Boise State has won the past three meetings in a rivalry that’s used to close contests. Games have been decided by an average of 2.3 points between these teams, with 16 games decided by single digits and nine by 3 points or less.

“They’re one of the best defenses in the country, so you’ve got to be ready to get good shots,” Boise State redshirt senior Max Rice told KBOI 670 AM. “And obviously they’re big and physical this year. They’re deep. They’re really deep, so we’ve got to try to stay out of foul trouble and then just attack them. It’s gonna be a dogfight, and I think everyone’s really excited for it.”

If the postseason began today, here’s where experts think the Broncos would land.

Joe Lunardi, ESPN

Seed: No. 10

Opponent: No. 7 Michigan State

Region: West (Las Vegas)

First-round location: Sacramento

Total MW bids: Three (No. 6 San Diego State, No. 10 New Mexico, No. 10 Boise State)

Jerry Palm, CBS Sports

Seed: No. 9

Opponent: No. 8 Northwestern

Region: West (Las Vegas)

First-round location: Denver

Total MW bids: Four (No. 6 New Mexico, No. 7 San Diego State, No. 9 Boise State, No. 10 Nevada)

Brian Bennett, The Athletic

Seed: No. 11

Opponent: No. 6 Saint Mary’s

Region: South (Louisville)

First-round location: Denver

Total MW bids: Three (No. 6 San Diego State, No. 8 New Mexico, No. 11 Boise State)

Andy Katz, correspondent

Seed: No. 9

Opponent: No. 8 N.C. State

Region: South (Louisville)

Total MW bids: Three (No. 8 New Mexico, No. 8 San Diego State, No. 9 Boise State)


When: 7 p.m. Mountain time Friday

Where: Viejas Arena, San Diego, California

TV: Fox Sports 1 (Alex Faust, Casey Jacobsen)

Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler, Abe Jackson)

Records: Boise State 18-5, 8-2 MW; San Diego State 17-5, 8-2 MW

Series: San Diego State leads the all-time series 17-10

Vegas line: San Diego State by 5.5

KenPom rating: Boise State 24, San Diego State 27

KenPom & ESPN predictions

Ken Pomeroy, who created the popular college basketball statistical website, ranks every Division I team using an adjusted efficiency margin, which Pomeroy defines as the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency.

According to Pomeroy’s detailed statistical analysis, Boise State has a 40% chance of beating San Diego State. His score prediction is a 69-66 SDSU victory.

ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index: San Diego State has a 68.6% chance of winning with a predicted point differential of 4.9.