LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Marks has nothing against Kentucky, but the Boise State guard will probably be rooting against the Wildcats this week. Same with Alabama, Baylor, Virginia, Tennessee and all of the other NCAA tournament bubble teams.
Boise State is one of them now following Wednesday’s 73-67 loss to San Diego State. Even though the Broncos said they’re confident they’ve done enough to earn a berth, they could still use a little help.
“Hopefully,” Marks said, “the right teams lose.”
Boise State probably wouldn’t be in wait-and-see mode if it had taken care of business in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Five days after beating San Diego State in their regular-season finale, the Broncos wilted under pressure in one of the most important games in recent program history. Boise State, which has made only one NCAA tournament appearance in the past 19 years, shot just 34.9 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half.
Marks (4-of-22) and Anthony Drmic (7-of-20) combined to make just 11 of their 42 field goal attempts. Each entered the game shooting about 45 percent.
“I don’t know what happened,” Drmic said. “We did the same thing we do before every game. We came in confident, loose. It’s hard putting up a performance like that in a big game. It happens sometimes, but it’s unfortunate that it happened tonight.”
As much as they struggled to find their shooting touch -- Marks missed his first 12 shots --- the Broncos certainly didn’t go down without a battle. Leon Rice's squad trailed 49-36 with 11:48 remaining but fought back to take a 50-49 lead on a pair of foul shots by Drmic.
San Diego State, though, responded with a 6-0 run that gave the Aztecs all the momentum they would need to close out the game. Steve Fisher’s squad made 14 of 15 free throws down the stretch.
Boise State went 1-2 against the Aztecs this season, with the three games being decided by a total of 11 points.
“That’s a really good basketball team we just lost to,” Rice said. “They were dialed in. They played terrific defense and got us a little flustered.”
Especially Drmic and Marks.
“I saw frustration on their faces,” Rice said. “You can’t play like that.”
“Boise State, without question, deserves to be in the NCAA tournament,” Fisher said. “The league is so good ... if Boise doesn’t get in the tournament, I’m going to demand a revote.”
San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State are virtual locks to make the 68-team field. Things aren’t as certain when it comes to the Broncos, who are now 21-10. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi dropped Boise State out of the “at-large” field following Wednesday’s loss and now lists the Broncos as the “first team out.”
The move is somewhat understandable.
Boise State’s only head-turning win in nonconference play came against Creighton, but league victories against UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State give them four high-quality W’s, which is more than some bubble teams can say.
Other highlights that could impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee include a close road loss (74-70) at Michigan State and victories in seven of their past 10 games prior to Wednesday.
Rice said he won’t spend the next few days listening to bubble talk and stressing about his team’s postseason hopes.
Asked if he was nervous, Rice said: “No, no. If you look at our résumé with four top-50 wins, I think 16 top-100 games ... we went out and played people. We played people in the preseason. We played on the road at Michigan State and at Creighton. We played at Utah on (Rick) Majerus Night. That was a big night there.
“I think the committee really (considers) that. Did you go out and schedule? Did you play a lot of high-level teams? There are some teams we’re talking about getting in that have one top-50 win. We’ve done everything we could.”
Except beat San Diego State Wednesday.
“Even if you win this one, you never know,” Drmic said. “Anything can happen. We’ve done the best that we could. It’s in the committee’s hands. We’re just going to pray, I guess.”