It’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season. Over the coming weeks, we will examine what comes next for each team in the Power 5 conferences and also those outside the Power 5 who could make noise on the national stage. Today: the Boise State Broncos.
Boise State’s breakthrough season ended in the oddest of ways as the Broncos became the first team in the modern era of the NCAA tournament to officially play a road game. The Broncos, whose 25 wins were the most since the 2007-08 season, faced the Dayton Flyers in the First Four on the Flyers' home court and were eliminated 56-55.
A scenario like that will probably never happen again, but it is highly likely that Boise State could make back-to-back tournament appearances for just the second time in school history, and the first time since 1993 and 1994.
Coach Leon Rice has the Broncos trending upward. They tied with San Diego State as the Mountain West regular season co-champions -- their first league title since winning a share of the Western Athletic Conference in 2007-08. They had watershed moments on the road, posting first-ever wins at UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State. Boise should again be a favorite to win the Mountain West with what it has coming back.
The Broncos scored their first victory of the season when the NCAA granted Anthony Drmic a medical redshirt and a fifth year of eligibility. Drmic injured his ankle seven games into last season and had season-ending surgery in January. He will start this season 417 points from breaking the school’s all-time scoring record of 1,944 points set by Tonoka Beard from 1989-93.
Drmic was the team’s leading scorer as a junior in 2013-14, averaging 15.9 points per game. In his absence last season, Derrick Marks took the bulk of the scoring burden, averaging 19.4 points and earning Mountain West Player the Year honors. With Marks now gone, Drmic will again be the Broncos’ top scoring threat.
Boise made its biggest strides last season defensively. The Broncos ranked 56th in adjusted defense according to Ken Pomeroy, which was the first time during Rice’s five-year tenure they cracked the top 100. It was also their best effort since being 38th during the 2003-04 season. Boise held opponents to 41.6 percent shooting, the lowest since it became a four-year school in 1968-69.
What the immediate future holds: Boise returned four players who started a majority of its games last season and adding Drmic back into the mix gives it a solid nucleus. The Broncos could have a special season if a couple of players who showed flashes last season continue to improve.
If forward James Webb III has the type of season Rice thinks he can, it might be his last year in Boise. The 6-foot-9 junior averaged 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds last season while shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range. His skill and athleticism have many NBA scouts planning on seeing the Broncos this season.
Junior forward Nick Duncan led the team with 76 made 3-pointers last season -- the eighth highest for a single-season in program history. He’ll need to round out his game a bit as 80 percent of his total shots came from 3-point range.
Sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison, who started the final 18 games of last season, is also expected to make a big leap in his second year.
Freshman point guard Paris Austin might not have ended up at Boise had he not signed in November. He surged late in recruiting circles, many coaches discovering his talent only while watching his Bishop O'Dowd High School teammate and the eighth-ranked player in the ESPN 100, Ivan Rabb. Austin was a scoring point guard in high school, which means he should settle in well into Rice’s system.
Lonnie Jackson, a graduate transfer from Boston College, should too. Boise initially targeted the California native in high school, but he chose to go East. Jackson appeared in just three games last season before being sidelined by a lower leg injury. As a junior, Jackson averaged 7.0 points and shot 37.9 percent from 3-point range. He should feel at home on a team that accounted for 37 percent of its total points scored from behind the arc.
The Broncos hope to get more from the post this season. Redshirt freshman Zach Haney used last season to bulk up, gaining about 25 pounds. The 6-foot-11 Houston native can score on the block -- an option that was missing from Boise’s big men lineup last season -- and step outside and shoot from deep.
Haney will have a chance to play big minutes after Kevin Allen's decision to transfer left David Wacker as the only other center. Wacker, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, had surgery on his left shoulder in March.