Welcome to Part III of our NIT preview of Boise State. You can find Part I here where I gave an in-depth look at each of Boise’s 7 primary rotation players. And Part II is here where I looked at how similar the Broncos are to previous UW opponents. Also a reminder to sign up for the UW Dawg Pound Tourney Pick’em group by tomorrow morning before the games kick off.
Date: Wednesday, 3/14/18
Tip-Off Time: 7:00pm Pacific
TV: None (ESPN3)
Radio: KOMO 1000
Location: Seattle, Washington
Line: Boise State -1
Like every other team in the NIT, the Huskies and Broncos both had disappointing ends to the season which denied them an NCAA berth. Boise State went 3-4 over their final 7 games including a pair of losses to conference straggler Utah State. The second of those losses came in the 1st round of the conference tournament when a trip to the finals at a minimum was needed to get to the NCAA tourney because of the first loss. Sound familiar? Has anyone seen Utah State and Oregon State in the same room together? Are we sure one isn’t the other wearing masks?
There aren’t many teams built just like Boise State in the Pac-12. They are completely dependent on their star player to the degree that no one is in the Pac. Jaylen Nowell led the conference in % of shots taken and still came several percent behind SF Chandler Hutchison. Plus, Hutchison also leads the team in rebounds, assists, and steals. Generally, the approach to this kind of one-dimensional team is either to try to take him away or to give him his points and refuse to let any of his teammates beat you. We’ll see which approach Hopkins takes.
While no one else is on Hutchison’s level, this Boise team isn’t bereft of talent. They normally play a 7-man rotation but have size across the floor. Four of the Bronco starting 5 are 6’6 or taller which most closely resembles teams like UCLA or Stanford that Washington struggled against.
Boise State likes to shoot a lot of 3-pointers but don’t take it completely overboard with their approach as they are also content to work it inside on occasion. They start a trio of players who shot 40% of better from beyond the arc this season including 6’6 Justinian Jessup and 6’9 Christian Sengfelder so they also have height in their shooting. The Husky zone has been great over the last few months at taking away the 3-point shot but we’ll see how well they do it against this tall Boise perimeter. It also may be more of a challenge since the experimental NIT rules will move the line back almost 2 feet. The change will make 3-point shots more difficult but also will open more room in the middle of the zone.
That may be an issue for both teams as Boise State ran zone on about 30% of their possessions this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them run it quite a bit tonight against a UW team that doesn’t have an ideal high post player. Considering how much zone they run it’s surprising to see that Boise State leads the country in defensive rebound percentage. They don’t give up second chances so Washington will have to win the turnover battle handily to get the edge in total possessions.
This game may come down to whether a full week off allows UW, and in particular Jaylen Nowell, to rest their legs a little. Nowell shot 53% on 2-pointers and 32% on 3-pointers in the Huskies’ first 24 games of the season. Over the last 5 weeks though he shot just 38% on 2-pointers and 31% on 3-pointers. The Husky offense is going to need someone other than Noah Dickerson to step up and have an efficient scoring night and it’d be huge if it could be Nowell.
I’ve gone back and forth on who to take in this game. Boise State was a better team this year. There’s no getting around that. They had both a better offensive and defensive efficiency than Washington. But I feel like both teams will be able to stop one another for the most part and this one will turn into a defensive struggle. Unless the Huskies shoot over 40% on 3-pointers I don’t see them keeping pace with the possession disadvantage and that hasn’t happened very often in the 2nd half of the year.
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