March Madness is nearly upon us, and teams are running out of time to prove their worthiness for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Two teams hoping to be a part of the field of 68 are Boise State and San Diego State, who meet tonight.
One of the narratives of the current season is that “power conferences” like the ACC and Pac-12 are down. There is no argument there and the NCAA Selection Committee is going to be looking for some other leagues to award non-guaranteed bids to.
The league at the top of that list this season is the Mountain West Conference. Right now, Boise State is at the top with a 12-2 league record and San Diego State is in third at 9-3. That means there is a lot at stake tonight at ExtraMile Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Right now the Aztecs are right on the edge of the bubble in most bracket predictions and how they finish will determine how much leeway they have in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
Their own success or failure will help/hurt the other teams in the MWC too, a league where 5 teams are ranked in the top 53 at KenPom.
Boise State and San Diego State are the highest-rated teams and #26 and #23 respectively.
A road upset for the Aztecs might push them off the bubble tonight.
San Diego State Aztecs vs Boise State Broncos College Basketball Matchup Info and Betting Odds
- Game Matchup: San Diego State Aztecs (17-6, 9-3 Mountain West, 3rd in the MWC) vs. Boise State Broncos (21-6, 12-2 Mountain West, 1st in the MWC)
- Venue & Location: ExtraMile Arena (Boise, Idaho)
- Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2022
- Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Spread: San Diego State +1.5 (-110), Boise State -1.5 (-110)
- Total: OVER 120.5 (-110), UNDER 120.5 (-110)
- Moneyline: San Diego State +105, Boise State -130
Odds are via BetMGM.
Does the First Team to 50 Points Win?
There are lots of teams that are better on defense than offense across the country. And then there is San Diego State.
Right now, they are tops in the nation in defensive efficiency. They have good personnel but more important than that, like a Texas Tech, or Houston, they lean into being a great defensive team and using that to exert their will on the game.
They are much better than average in terms of steals and blocks but the real thing is fighting opponents for a full 40 minutes so that every shot is contested.
Boise State is no slouch on defense either, ranking 11th nationally in defensive efficiency. It has certainly been a key to their success this season, but they do not have the same reputation that SDSU has earned.
When these teams met earlier in the season Boise State won at San Diego State. The final score in that game was 42-37, which is staggering. It was a game with elite defense for sure, but also one where each team showed its limitations as well.
The question is whether the NCAA Selection Committee will want to include teams that play such “ugly” basketball from non-major leagues.
The Aztecs are looking to get some revenge and improve its standing tonight.
A Key Game for the Mountain West’s NCAA Tournament Outlook
It is interesting that many bracketologists see Boise State, Wyoming, and Colorado State as locks for the Big Dance but think San Diego State might be on the outside looking in. In my opinion, these teams are pretty even, though if you like KenPom, SDSU should be comfortably in with the rest of the group.
I do wonder if the Aztecs’ brand helps or hurts the Mountain West on Selection Sunday. Whether they are the best team in the MWC or not, they are the strongest basketball brand and they have not fared well in the Tournament recently, losing in the first round in both of their last two entries (last year and 2018).
In 2020, they were ranked as high as fourth in the nation, but COVID canceled the NCAA Tournament that season, leaving them (and Dayton) among the biggest losers.
Is there some fatigue with the Aztecs that they have to overcome? If so, an upset tonight will help even more.
One Is a Key Number for San Diego State
In addition to that being the ranking for San Diego State’s defense, it is also the number of points they scored in the first 10 minutes of the second half in their home loss to Boise State. That is what ultimately turned a super low-scoring game against them.
Guard Matt Bradley, the transfer from Cal, is leading the Aztecs in scoring this season. He is averaging 17ppg, the only player in double figures for the Aztecs and an expected All-MWC player.
San Diego State has to find a way to get more offense to have a chance to win this evening. He had 7 points on just 3 of 13 shooting in the first game.
Avoiding a significant scoring drought is going to be key.
San Diego State Aztecs vs. Boise State Broncos Prediction and Pick
San Diego State 57, Boise State 53 (San Diego State +2 & UNDER 120.5)
Boise State is a good team, they are not just fooling all the metrics. Still, they have proven can be beaten at home.
They have just six losses on the season and so far, half of them have been in Boise, all to teams considered worse than San Diego State. ExtraMile Arena is far from a fortress this season.
This game is very likely to be low scoring but probably not quite as low as the first time these teams met. Boise State is not nearly as dependent on one player as San Diego State but that is not always a good thing. Sometimes you have to just let your best players play and Bradley is the most accomplished scorer on either side.
That previous game against Boise State was Bradley’s worst scoring game in league play prior to the last game the Aztecs played, a 17-point win over Fresno State.
After the loss to the Broncos, Bradley bounced back with 27 points against UNLV. I am looking for a similar response to this latest rough shooting game and it will be enough to get the Aztecs a big win and really boost their NCAA Tournament resume.