Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: A wild winter ride ahead in the Mountain West

This is going to be one fascinating Mountain West season. Boise State, picked second in the MW preseason poll, may be a distant No. 6 in the pecking order going into its opener Friday night at San Jose State, but let’s take a look at the Saint Mary’s measuring stick. The Gaels, who lost 63-60 to the Broncos in Idaho Falls on December 1, are 3-2 against the Mountain West. They handed Colorado State its first loss of the season, winning 64-61 in Fort Collins. They also beat New Mexico by 14 points and UNLV by two, but they lost by 25 at San Diego State.

The teams with the best non-conference resumes are CSU, Nevada and SDSU. The Rams, currently ranked 13th, have wins over Creighton (when it was No. 8), Boston College, Colorado and Washington. They opened league play Tuesday night with a 76-68 home win over New Mexico. The Wolf Pack are coming off a championship in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, beating Temple, TCU and Georgia Tech, and the Aztecs’ best win is obviously its 84-74 takedown of Gonzaga in Spokane last Friday. The Lobos and Utah State, also well ahead of the Broncos in the computers, really don’t have any signature victories.


This is where the rubber meets the road for the Broncos’ newcomers. There’s been progress in baby steps from Roddie Anderson III, Cam Martin and true freshman Andrew Meadow. But there’s been a massive step up from O’Mar Stanley, the power forward from St. John’s. Stanley is coming off back-to-back 20-point games, including 23 against Washington State in Spokane. And he had a double-double before that versus Cal State Fullerton. The challenge for Stanley in Mountain West play will be staying out of foul trouble. The 66-61 loss to the Cougars bore a striking resemblance to a conference game, and he fouled out. Outside of Stanley, it’s imperative that Anderson gets in a groove. He’s cutting down on the turnovers, but he still averaging just 4.5 points per game.


The top of the Mountain West is a gauntlet, but Boise State best not forget the “second level.” San Jose State is that, but remember the last time the Broncos faced the Spartans on the road? That was three days before the peak night of Boise State’s season, the win over San Diego State in ExtraMile Arena in February. The Broncos laid an egg in a 74-68 overtime loss at San Jose State, blowing a 12-point lead with less than eight minutes to go and being outrebounded by a whopping 21 boards before a sleepy crowd of 2,321. It didn’t keep Boise State out of the NCAA Tournament—but you wonder what may have happened without the big win over the Aztecs.


Boise State starts the Mountain West schedule coming off an 88-65 rout of Utah Valley last Friday. That one will be remembered for Max Rice and Tyson Degenhart both going over the 1,000-point plateau in career scoring—Rice on a three-pointer (appropriate) and Degenhart on a goaltending call (weird). The Utah Valley win certainly didn’t have the feel of conference games to come, but plenty of Broncos games have, like the wins over San Francisco and Saint Mary’s and the aforementioned loss to Washington State. You would think this team is battle-tested.


That question has been answered, as Emmanuel Ugbo has enrolled in classes at Boise State for the spring semester and is on the Broncos roster—although as a mid-year enrollee, Ugbo is not eligible to play this season. Ugbo, who committed to Boise State more than a year ago, is a 6-8 forward with a 7-2 wingspan. He switched from soccer to basketball just five years ago, but he adapted quickly. Ugbo has played in Germany since 2021 and was also on the Dutch U20 national team this year. He averaged 14.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in the top German league last season.


It was an uneventful holiday weekend for Boise State football. It’s been 3½ weeks since Taylen Green entered the transfer portal, and there have been no new entries since then. In fact, only four players total have gone to the portal, and the only ones of consequence were Green and Eric McAlister. Pretty amazing in the new world of college football. Meanwhile, coach Spencer Danielson still has one spot to fill on his staff: linebackers coach. Still no clarity on who’s going to handle special teams next season for the Broncos, as newly-retained assistant Demario Warren is going to concentrate on cornerbacks. Boise State media relations staffer David Dietrich looked this up recently for Bronco Nation News. The Broncos ended the season with no touchdowns on defense or special teams for the first time since 1984.


Did NIL have anything to do with Green’s transfer to Arkansas? Probably. On the Razorbacks’ FanNation page at, Kent Smith reports that a Hogs booster, business mogul Frank Fletcher, wanted transparency in the NIL process, and he transparently said in a radio interview last Friday that he was “going to do an NIL deal with the new quarterback.” Fletcher didn’t mean whomever wins the Arkansas QB job, he meant Green. “This kid is the fastest kid on Boise State’s football team,” Fletcher exclaimed. “How you can be the fastest on the whole team at 6-6 to me is just, I can’t even get my hand wrapped around it.” Fletcher owns restaurants and car dealerships in Northwest Arkansas, and he says Green “will represent us for a lot of different brands.” And he’s sure to have a nice new ride.


The Buffalo Bills are in good shape for the NFL Playoffs next week, but the only sure path would be a win this Sunday night at Miami. If the Bills are to do that, Khalil Shakir will probably play a part. Shakir is the fifth former Boise State wide receiver to make 30 or more catches in a single NFL season—he currently stands at 33 receptions for 506 yards and two touchdowns, more than tripling the output from his rookie season. Shakir also had the first rushing attempt of his career last Sunday, gaining 10 yards in the Bills’ 27-21 win over New England. FYI, Titus Young had the best single season of any former Bronco: 48 grabs for 607 yards and 6 TDs in 2011, his rookie year in Detroit. Cedrick Wilson, now a Miami Dolphin, had 45 catches for Dallas in 2021, and Legedu Naanee made 44 grabs for Carolina in 2011.


There are lots of ECHL teams that would be happy with a 1-for-3 result on a road trip. The Idaho Steelheads are not one of them. The Steelheads lost twice in last week’s three-game series in Texas against Allen. But the news on Tuesday was good, as forward Will Merchant has re-signed with the organization. Merchant ranks fifth all-time in games played and goals for the Idaho franchise—he last played in Boise two seasons ago. He began his pro career with the Steelies seven years ago and has played in parts of five seasons for them. Merchant has spent the past two years overseas in Denmark and England. He’ll suit up for the Steelheads’ three-game series against Reading beginning tonight in Idaho Central Arena.


Things aren’t coming as easily to College of Idaho men’s basketball as they did a year ago, but did you expect the Coyotes to be in the midst of a 36-game winning streak again? The Yotes go into the calendar year at 10-2 (5-1 in the Cascade Conference) after grinding out a tough 64-57 road win at Eastern Oregon last Saturday. C of I will be home Friday and Saturday against Walla Walla and Lewis-Clark State, respectively.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…we care about your water!

January 3, 1920: Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, needing quick cash to continue producing his Broadway plays, sells Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 and a $300,000 loan. The BoSox had won five of the sixteen World Series held before the deal—they wouldn’t win another for 86 years. The Yankees turned The Babe into a position player, and he changed baseball forever in his first season—socking an unthinkable 54 home runs (more than the total of most major league teams at the time).

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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