Boise State Broncos (17-4) Utah State Aggies (14-6)
Game one of the series of the year in the Mountain West was as advertised. Boise was able to win 79-70, despite the close game throughout. Derrick Alston Jr was simply tremendous, posting a season-high 26 points on 3-6 from three. We also saw key contributions from guys like Marcus Shaver, RayJ Dennis & Abu Kigab. The defense from Armus & Milner needs to see vast improvement to sweep this series.
The Aggies struggled shooting from deep at only 3-16 for the day, but Neemias Queta had a career-game. The Portugal-born big posted 32 points on 12-21 shooting, simply decimating both Mladen Armus & Lukas Milner; neither of Boise’s bigs had an answer for Aggie’s go-to guy. Ideally, for the Mountain West, Utah State will emerge victorious in this game, making the odds of a four-bid Mountain West most plausible.
I’d imagine that Queta plays a large role in this one once more, but for Utah State to win on the road, guys like Steven Ashworth & Brock Miller will have to better shoot the ball.
Utah State will also have to limit turnovers, something that’s plagued them this season.
Keys to the game:
For USU, the inconsistent shooting hasn’t been a huge issue this season. I’d imagine that doesn’t continue here.
Double Neemias Queta at all costs, You know they’ll look to feed their dominant big early & often.
Players to watch:
USU: Steven Ashworth
Boise: Mladen Armus
Saint Louis Billikens (11-3) Dayton Flyers (11-7)
When you think of how odd this 2020-21 season has been, seeing these two teams’ records epitomizes the oddities. That’s mainly due to have few games SLU’s played to this point, only clocking in 14 games prior to this one, a conference low, with a prolonged COVID pause hindering their ability to play for over a month, which made things difficult. After that pause concluded, the Billikens hosted Dayton, which resulted in a loss. That loss was followed by a loss to La Salle before winning four consecutive, currently still active streak.
So, what went wrong in that game? Saint Louis couldn’t shoot from deep at all, plain & simple. That’s been a continuing trend for Travis Ford’s Billikens since the COVID pause; the three-point shooting has dramatically dipped from its early-season success. Look for Gibson Jimerson, Javonte Perkins & Yuri Collins to turn the tide on the shooting problems.
The rapid drop in Hasahn French’s stats are noticeable. It may seem like he’s not performing to the same level on the surface but at slightly better efficiency. I have noticed with the senior big-man that the once ultra-aggressive big-man isn’t playing nearly as aggressively this season. You can see that from watching, but also with the three fewer free throws per-game that French is taking. For the Billikens to be at their best, French has to play like the All-Conference player that we’ve seen he’s capable of. We could see a dream matchup for French here with the constant foul trouble of Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanga.
The Flyers don’t have an Obi Toppin kind of guys this season; we knew that entering the season, with constant reaffirms. We did see a phenomenal performance from Zimi Nwokeji in Dayton’s stunning loss against URI. Nwokeji had 29 points on 10-11 shooting. It’ll be interesting to see how the bounceback comes for Nwokeji in this one. Mustapha Amzil has shown consistency throughout the season after enrolling mid-way through the season.
Anthony Grant’s squad’s guard play is what has & will continue to win them Basketball games. That starts with Jalen Crutcher along with continuing with Ibi Watson, two ultra-talented players with a killer shooting ability.
I’m not sure what Saint Louis did to Crutcher, but he seemingly has some sort of vendetta against them. Every time Crutcher plays SLU, it seems like Crutcher’s on a different level; we saw last season, the game-winner in Chafitz that coined Jalen the nickname “Clutcher” hitting a dagger three. Crucher’s had 17+ in all of his past three games against the Billikens; I’d imagine there’s no reason for that to change.
Keys to the game:
The shooting struggles since SLU’s returned from COVID pause are concerning, as I mentioned earlier. That will have to change in this one.
Turnovers for Dayton are one of the worst in the conference at a 21% clip. Facing an elite, feisty defense like Saint Louis, be careful with the ball.
Players to watch:
SLU: Gibson Jimerson
Dayton; Mustapha Amzil