Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Definition of a trap game

There’s something about playing at Air Force that drives Boise State crazy. It’s the Falcons’ deliberate, back-cutting style of play. It’s the atmosphere in one of the Mountain West’s smallest gyms. It’s the way Air Force can get the Broncos out of rhythm in the middle of the conference season. Boise State has won four straight over Air Force, but they were all in ExtraMile Arena (including the two-game series last year). The last two times the Broncos have been in Colorado Springs, they’ve lost. Is this a trap game, or what? Let’s remember this, though: in 2017, Boise State set a school-record by raining 20 three-pointers on the Falcons and won in Clune Arena 98-70, at the time the most points the Broncos had scored in a Mountain West game. Every once in a while they can go unconscious down there.


The loss to Colorado State Sunday was not a “Boise State-Leon-Rice-February-March” thing. It was a hard-fought overtime defeat against an elite Mountain West team (with an officials’ asterisk at the end of regulation). The Broncos’ two losses in conference have been to Wyoming, No.22 in both polls (at least for now), and CSU, which is third in line to get in on both Top 25 lists. A loss to Air Force tonight could revive that ugly late-season narrative, though, and it would blow a hole in Boise State’s NCAA Tournament resume. The Falcons are No. 237 in both the KenPom and NCAA NET ratings. That’s how important this one is.


Boise State did a great job overcoming one Achilles heel last Friday night, going 23-for-29 from the free throw line in its win over UNLV. A game-changer. The Broncos overcame another one in the overtime loss to Colorado State on Sunday. They had gone 18-for-73 over the previous three games from three-point range—then they were 13-for-24 against the Rams. So what’s the issue going into the Air Force game? It’s the absence of point guard Emmanuel Akot (a 6-8 point guard, mind you). Akot was out again versus CSU, missing his third straight game with a sore knee. The Broncos have been trying to get by without his 11 points per game, and his team-leading three assists per game, and his 41 percent three-point shooting. Akot would create some mismatches if he can play against the Falcons.


It was reminiscent of Boise State’s game at Colorado State in 2016, when James Webb III hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. The ball left Webb’s hand long before the backboard light went on. Only the officials (long story short) went to the monitor and pulled out a stopwatch, and decided the clock hadn’t started on time. And the Rams went on to win in double-overtime. The Mountain West later said sorry, it was the wrong call, but the result of the game stood. The no-call after Abu Kigab’s steal Sunday with two seconds left in ExtraMile Arena reminded me of that. Kigab would have had a chance to win the game at the free throw line. The conference released a statement talking about an “inadvertent whistle.” There should have been a loud “adventant” whistle when Isaiah Stevens hit Kigab. Oh well.


Wyoming had just entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2015 on Monday, and the No. 22 ranking was its highest since the Fennis Dembo-Eric Leckner days in 1988. The stay will be short after the Cowboys were upset by New Mexico 75-66 at The Pit Tuesday night. The Pokes’ Graham Ike got his points, 26 of them, but the Lobos’ Jaelen House got a lot more, with 34. UNM shot 54 percent from the field and 47 percent from three-point range. The net effect: Boise State is back into a tie for first place with Wyoming in the Mountain West.


Despite all the allegations of poor player treatment and suggestions that he was running off coaches, it seems that it has come down to Auburn boosters believing that Bryan Harsin can’t recruit at the SEC level. All this after just one full recruiting class. And after the eight days of shenanigans that ended Friday (we think), Auburn has ensured that it will be just about the hardest place to recruit to in the SEC, leaving Harsin in a no-win situation. Andy Staples of the The Athletic sums it up: “If this mess galvanizes the team and Harsin and his coaches coach well, Auburn could possibly reach the level where Ole Miss or Kentucky are right now. And with some solid diamond-in-the-rough recruiting, maybe the Tigers could stay in that range most years.” But he rightfully suggests that is not acceptable to Auburn’s fan base.


What’s up with the increasing parity in Mountain West football these days? Recruiting is at the root of it. Consider this from The Athletic. Max Olson does this every year—takes recruiting classes from three years previous and re-ranks them based on performance through the last season. So now he looks at the classes from 2018. And two Mountain West teams zoom into the top 25 in the re-rank. San Diego State’s group, originally ranked 79th in 2018, was at No. 11 on Olson’s list, thanks to defensive end Cameron Thomas, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, phenom punter Matt Araiza, and cornerback Luq Barcoo, who led the nation with nine interceptions in 2019. And how about Utah State? It was Matt Wells’ class in 2018, and it was ranked 109th. In terms of performance through 2021? No. 24.


Tonight, Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight will be become the all-time leader in Olympics games played for the U.S. women’s hockey team. The Americans take on Canada to go for their second consecutive gold medal—and to try to stop the Canadians from taking their fifth gold in the last six Winter Games. This will be Knight’s record 21st game in the Olympics, three days after she scored her 11th career goal to help the U.S. beat Finland 4-1 in the semifinals. She is the third-leading scorer in U.S. history. Will tonight’s game be the last for the 32-year-old? One way or another, you know she’ll still be involved. “I understand what hockey as a sport has given me,” Knight told USA Today. “If I can share my passion for the sport and they have a similar experience, a positive experience, wouldn’t that mean the world?”


Troy Merritt has played eight tournaments since the PGA Tour season began back in September, and he’s made the cut in eight of them. The former Boise State star will be back at it Thursday as he tees off at the Genesis Invitational outside Los Angeles. Merritt was rolling at the Phoenix Open last week—until Sunday. He took five bogeys in the final round, including one on the famed par-three 16th with the wild and crazy crowd, and shot a one-over 72 to tie for 38th. Merritt made $35,670 and jumped four spots to No. 41 in FedExCup standings as he heads to Riviera Country Club. He’s already earned $776,360 this season.


The Idaho Steelheads have three road games stretched over a six-day period, beginning with a test tonight against the Wichita Thunder. The Steelheads then face Kansas City on Friday and stay the weekend in K.C., playing the Mavericks again on President’s Day. Captain A.J. White has been carrying the Steelies offense this season. White leads the team in goals, assists, and overall scoring, as well as power-play goals. Idaho is still chasing Utah in the ECHL Mountain Division—the second-place Steelheads currently trail the first-place Grizzlies by four points.


The regular season wraps up this weekend for College of Idaho with games at Warner Pacific on Friday and Multnomah on Saturday. With a sweep, the Coyotes (24-4) will win the Cascade Conference regular season championship. The Yotes are already assured of a home game to open the conference tournament next Wednesday night. Northwest Nazarene is also on the road—at Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Western Oregon on Saturday. NNU has played only 15 games this season due to COVID interruptions (the Nighthawks are 8-7).

This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!

February 16, 1984: Bill Johnson, who started ski racing as a Mitey Mite at Bogus Basin, becomes the first American to win the Olympic downhill. In fact, he was the first U.S. athlete to win gold in any alpine skiing event. Johnson had brashly predicted that he would win after having the fastest training runs on the course at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Johnson, however, lived a troubled life. After a horrible crash during a comeback attempt in 2001, a brain-damaged Johnson was in need of constant care. He passed away in January, 2016, at the age of 55.

(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.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *