BOISE — Coming off a season in which they set a school record with 20 losses, the Boise State men’s basketball team could have played an easier schedule to help ensure a better record.
Coach Leon Rice had other ideas.
The Broncos announced their 2019-2020 schedule Tuesday and it appears to be a challenging one — seven games away from ExtraMile Arena in November and December and the potential to play multiple top 25 teams before the meat of the conference schedule gets going.
“It’s probably the hardest, from top to bottom, that we’ve put together here,” Rice told The Idaho Press. “At Tulsa? Nobody is even looking at that one and that’s a hard one to win at. At Pacific is another hard one, Northridge here, they are good. Irvine here, they are really good.
“I’m thinking game to game, it’s got to be the most challenging we’ve had. And then you throw in the travel and it’s going to be tough.”
And that’s not even including a road game at a potential top 10 team in Oregon, a home game against a possible top 25 team in BYU and the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii in which the Broncos open with Georgia Tech, but could face ranked teams Houston and Washington.
Following the season opener at home against Life Pacific on Nov. 5, the Broncos have a daunting four-game stretch that includes at Oregon on Nov. 9, at home against UC Irvine on Nov. 15 and BYU on Nov. 20, and a road game at Pacific on Nov. 23.
“It’s remarkable how tough the start is,” Rice said. “You might be an underdog in all four of those games. Those games matter a lot in November. In the old days it would be like ‘well, I just want to be playing good in conference and late in the season’, but now you have to play good in November. It’s tough to be good from the last day to the first day, that’s a long period, but when you’re trying to put together an NCAA Tournament resume like we are, that’s what you have to be able to do.”
Boise State also hosts UNC Wilmington on Nov. 29, Alabama State on Dec. 14 and Cal State Northridge on Dec. 28. The Broncos will play at Tulsa on Dec. 11 and in the Diamond Head Class is Dec. 23-25.
The Broncos also play at New Mexico on Dec. 4 and at home against Colorado State on Dec. 7 as part of the Mountain West league slate, which includes a week of games in December this year due to an earlier start to the Mountain West Tournament.
The Broncos bring back four starters including potential NBA Draft pick Derrick Alston Jr. from last year’s 13-20 season. The Broncos went 1-9 in games decided by three points or less or overtime and lost 10 games in which they held a lead at the half. KenPom.com ranked them as the unluckiest team in the country last season.
And they’ll have a challenging schedule, but one that should give the Broncos an opportunity at playing in the NCAA Tournament should they take care of business.
“We have a veteran team and we’ve done a great job here of scheduling as far as putting ourselves in a position for at-large bids,” Rice said. “We have the only two at-large bids in the history of the school. We also look at the years we went to the NIT and you get those the same way.
“To put yourself in position to play in the postseason is what you want your guys to have the opportunity to do, and with five seniors and the group that we have, we felt like we needed to do that.”