PROVO, Utah — The Boise State men’s basketball team boarded a bus and started the six-hour drive to Provo Tuesday afternoon with no assurances that the trip would be worth it.
Welcome to college basketball in 2020.
Boise State received all negative COVID-19 tests and was cleared to travel and play Wednesday night’s game at BYU, but the Broncos had yet to receive word from the Cougars when it was time to depart Boise.
“What if we drive all the way down there and get a no?” Rice told the Idaho Press during a phone interview while on the bus. “We weren’t left with many choices so we hopped on the bus.”
Boise State received confirmation from BYU later Tuesday that everything came back negative and the game was officially on. But it’s a dilemma and worry the Broncos will face all season — not knowing if a game will happen until the night before.
“It’s such a weird dynamic,” Rice said. “It’s almost like you don’t want to get your hopes up. You are keeping your fingers crossed but who knows. You just don’t know.”
The matchup with BYU is a big one for the Broncos. The Cougars are a top-80 team at KenPom and figure to be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid come March. Boise State hopes to be in the same position — and a win against the Cougars would look nice on the resume on Selection Sunday.
BYU (5-1) is coming off an impressive 67-64 road win at Utah State and also has a win over St. Johns. The Cougars have four players with at least six made 3-pointers and two — Alex Barcello and Trevin Knell — shooting greater than 50 percent from behind the arc.
“They look really, really good,” Rice said. “They are shooting the ball great. They have a lot of guys that can make the 3. They have really, really good size and they can protect the rim, but probably the biggest thing is how well they shoot the ball.”
Boise State (2-1) last played Friday and posted an 85-49 win over The College of Idaho. Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot had nine points in his debut while playing 26 minutes off the bench.
“The biggest thing was to get him some game experience and let him relax and play,” Rice said. “That’s why that game served its purpose. I think each game he gets in a uniform he’s going to feel more and more comfortable.”
It’s unclear whether Akot will continue to come off the bench or move into the starting lineup against BYU. Guard RayJ Dennis has been worthy of keeping the spot through three games, ranking second on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game.
Guard Marcus Shaver, who left the College of Idaho game early with an injury, is expected to play.
Tipoff at the Marriott Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by BYUtv, which can be found on DirecTV channel 374, Dish Network channel 9403 and on the BYUtv app.