This season, both Nevada and Boise State’s basketball programs have been a tier ahead of the rest of the Mountain West. For the third time this season, Nevada is currently the 23rd ranked team in the AP Poll with a 20-4 overall record and a 9-1 record in conference. Boise State is 19-4 overall and has posted a 9-2 record in conference play this season. Both teams are deserving of NCAA tournament bids, but with the Mountain West Conference being painfully average as a whole, that may be tough to come by.
For Nevada, the goal is to win the regular season conference title and Mountain West tournament. Last season they won both and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. This season the expectations were even higher, as Nevada added both Caleb and Cody Martin along with Kendall Stephens, to go along with an already talented core of Lindsey Drew, Jordan Caroline and Josh Hall.
The resume for this Nevada squad should be enough to get them in, barring any unforeseen meltdown. The Wolf Pack has two very important wins under its belt this season — a home win early in the season against Rhode Island, who have gone 18-2 since and climbed to no. 18 in the AP Poll, and a win against Boise State in late January.
The Pack’s four losses this season are by a combined 13 points. The first loss was in overtime to Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX. The Red Raiders are currently no. 9 in the AP Poll so Nevada fans should continue to root for Texas Tech’s success. The second loss came days later in Los Angeles to then-undefeated no. 20 ranked TCU Horned Frogs team. TCU is another Big 12 school that is solidly into the tournament, even after the loss of star guard Jaylen Fisher for the rest of the season. The last two losses are more damaging. A neutral site loss in the last seconds to the University of San Francisco and a double-overtime loss to Wyoming in Laramie, have hurt the Pack but nothing they have not been able to recover from.
Nevada has eight regular season games left, including two against arch-rival UNLV. If Nevada wins each of those games, it would clinch the regular season title and winning the conference tournament would be icing on the cake.
Boise State is also a talented team, but with a less impressive body of work. Boise State guard Chandler Hutchison has been in the conversation for Mountain West Player of the Year opposite of Nevada’s Caleb Martin. Hutchison scored 27 against Nevada as Martin scored 28 for the Pack.
The Broncos are in either the Last Four In or the First Four Out in each three of ESPN’s, CBSSports and Yahoo Sports’ Bracketology. The Broncos’ four losses are not as forgiving as Nevada’s. Boise lost the first head-to-head matchup between the schools. Like Nevada, Boise State was defeated by Wyoming on the road. Boise State lost to a bad Iowa State team in non-conference play and a streaky SMU team. All four of the Broncos’ losses have been on the road, which is something pollsters should keep in mind come Selection Sunday.
Boise State needs one signature win if they want to secure a spot in the tournament. The only issue is that there is only one opportunity for that to happen, a Valentine’s Day rematch against the Wolf Pack in Boise. Even if Boise State loses that game, if they win the rest of their regular season games and perform well in the conference tournament, there should be no argument against a 25+ win team making the NCAA tournament.