Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Deggie digs in deeper in MW play

Workouts for Boise State’s Tyson Degenhart last summer were mostly about taking his three-point shooting to the next level. Degenhart shot a very respectable 38 percent from deep last season on his way to Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors. But a lot has been asked of him on the defensive end this season, as he often plays the post, and it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t affect him at the other end. We’ll see an example of that tonight when the Broncos take on UNLV in the Thomas & Mack Center. Degenhart may be matched against the Rebels’ 6-11 post, David Muoka. With Mladen Armus gone, playing versus much bigger guys is the hand Degenhart’s been handed.

So going into the Utah State game, Degenhart was at just 26 percent from beyond the arc. When he launched his first three against the Aggies four minutes into the game—and it shot through—well, that was exactly what the sophomore needed. Degenhart made his only other three-pointer as part of his first career double-double: 19 points, 10 rebounds as Boise State registered its largest margin of victory every over Utah State in the 82-59 victory. If this means Tyson Degenhart has found his offensive stride, look out. He likes those conference games.


Attendance for the Boise State-Utah State game: 12,007, the largest announced crowd in ExtraMile Arena in 12 years. We know that the math is different now: tickets distributed instead of turnstile count. I can think of a few games over that span where the crowd was probably larger. But I sure don’t want to throw cold water on that atmosphere Saturday, it was pretty cool. I felt like a “get off my lawn” guy when I tweeted out after the game that it’ll be hard to ever touch the BSU Pavilion environment of the late 1980s. There are big strides being made in the men’s basketball fan base right now. Here’s the deal on the late 80s and early 90s: there was noise on every defensive possession. If that can become the modern-day norm—just like it has been for 20 years in football on every defensive snap—then we’re talkin’.


After a solid run in non-conference play, UNLV started the Mountain West season 0-2. But it’s “what have you done for me lately” time for the Rebels, who host Boise State tonight. UNLV went to New Mexico last Saturday night and handed the 21st-ranked Lobos an 84-77 loss in the sold-out Pit. The latest defensive assignment on the perimeter for Max Rice and Marcus Shaver Jr. et al. will be UNLV’s EJ Harkless, a transfer from Oklahoma who’s the reigning Mountain West Player of the Week. Harkless scored 25 points in Albuquerque, 21 in the second half, much to the chagrin of Lobos fans. He seems to be filling the hole left by Bryce Hamilton.


Jon Wilner, probably the most respected college football scribe in the West, has made a dive into 2023. “The Hotline’s 16th annual early top-25 rankings are unlike any in recent years in their leftward lean. The Pac-12 leads all conferences with six representatives, followed by the Big 12 and SEC with five each and the Big Ten with four.” Oh, and there’s one from the Mountain West. It’s Boise State at No. 25. “It took a few weeks too many for the Broncos to figure things out offensively in 2022,” writes Wilner. “That shouldn’t be an issue next season.” Then reality sets in. The Broncos first opponent, Washington, is No. 5. Says Wilner: “The best team in the Pac-12 at the end of 2022 looks like the best for the start of 2023 with the return of quarterback Michael Penix, a slew of playmakers and several premier edge rushers.”


There’s no more Deven Wright at defensive end for Boise State. He’s long gone into the transfer portal. Now there’s Kivon Wright, who has transferred to the Broncos from Boston College. This Wright, who’s a Texan with the nickname “Cheese,” had his final two choices boiled down to Fresno State and Boise State. He will have four years of eligibility remaining, and he knows he has a chance to play on the Blue right away, as he steps into a real position of need. Wright was recruited out of high school by the Broncos in Manvel, TX, and redshirted last year for the Eagles. He probably needs to put on a few pounds between now and Seattle. He’s listed at 6-4, 220 pounds.


I mentioned on Sunday Sports Extra the other night that Boise State’s JL Skinner has a probable NFL Combine invitation coming. It’s no longer probable, as Skinner has accepted an invite to the confab in Indianapolis next month. Skinner didn’t have the highlight reel hits this past season that he had in 2021. But he had some game-changing interceptions, especially the two at Wyoming in November. Some projections have Skinner going late in the first round in the NFL Draft this spring. Other player news: after one year at Boise State, quarterback Sam Vidlak has landed with Montana. Vidlak originally committed to the Grizzlies 2½ years ago before getting an offer from Oregon State and opting for Corvallis. Hank Bachmeier is still on the market.


Boise State’s second semester began Monday, and that means eight players who signed letters of intent on December 21 have begun school as early enrollees. Coach Andy Avalos said on early signing day that quarterback CJ Tiller, linebacker Wyatt Milkovic, center Jason Steele, safety Titus Toler, wide receiver Chase Penry, defensive lineman Max Stege, tight end Cayden Dawson and defensive back A’marion McCoy are all in. Tiller has been champing at the bit ever since he committed, and Toler and Penry are the transfer portal guys from Wisconsin and Colorado, respectively. There’s a ninth enrollee: wide receiver Prince Strachan, who grayshirted last season. Nothing but upside for Strachan, who’s 6-5 and raw, but eminently athletic. The group of nine seems large, but there were 12 early enrollees a year ago.


Was last Sunday afternoon’s game against the L.A. Chargers the last time Brett Rypien suits up for the Denver Broncos? The former Boise State star is finishing his fourth season with the team and is an unrestricted free agent. And despite spending the entire season as Denver’s No. 2 quarterback, he has appeared in only four games (1-1 as a starter). Rypien has completed 60 percent of his throws for 483 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Will it be any better anywhere else? Rypien has proven himself to be a good teammate, his dust-up with offensive lineman Dalton Risner against the L.A. Rams 2½ weeks ago notwithstanding. (That video was far more viral than the fourth-quarter pick-six he threw in that game). Most importantly, those two had made peace shortly afterward.


The state of Idaho’s basketball stock rose this week as one school became No. 1 in the nation and another is knocking on the door. College of Idaho was hard to ignore after winning two games by a combined 115 points last weekend. Not a typo. It’s not the coaches poll, but the NAIA Hoops Report poll put the Coyotes on top as they ride a 14-game winning streak. Longtime JC power College of Southern Idaho is 19-0 and is closing the gap on Chipola College of Florida in the NJCAA Poll. The Golden Eagles are No. 2.


It’s in the record book now: the Idaho Steelheads’ 12-game winning streak that ended last Friday night at Wichita. During that stretch, Idaho outscored its opponents 58-15 and scored four or more goals in 11 of those victories. They held their opponents to two or fewer goals in 10 of the 12 games, including two shutouts. The Steelheads brushed it off Saturday by taking down the Thunder 3-2 in overtime to up their record to 27-4-1. That’s “one in a row.” They’ll try to make it a streak this weekend. It’s Utah Grizzlies time again, as the Griz visit Idaho Central Arena on Friday and Saturday nights. Ryan Dmowski is putting together an amazing season for the Steelheads—he has scored 38 points 32 games into the season.


Troy Merritt starts the calendar year the way he usually does—playing at the Sony Open in Hawaii. That’s where the former Boise State star made his PGA Tour debut 13 years ago, finishing 20th at Waialae Country Club. The PGA Tour season has technically been going since last September, but this is when fans start to pay attention. The fall portion of the campaign saw Merritt make four cuts in six starts. The highlight was a tie for third at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in November.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ADVANCED VISION THERAPY CENTER…improved eyesight starts here!

January 11, 1983, 40 years ago today: The New York Yankees’ fickle owner George Steinbrenner hires Billy Martin as manager for the third time, saying, “I think this will be for a long time.” He would again fire Martin from baseball’s most perilous job on December 16 of that year. However, Steinbrenner’s revolving door continued to turn, and Martin would be back twice more as Yankees manager before the decade was over. Martin also skippered the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s during his managerial career.

(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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