This Day In Sports: The Broncos’ first at-large Big Dance bid

March 20, 2013, 10 years ago today: Boise State plays in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection for the first time in its history as part of the First Four in Dayton, facing fellow No. 13 seed LaSalle and falling 80-71. The Broncos ran into a buzzsaw of quickness, as the Explorers took what the defense gave them. When the Broncos clogged the inside, LaSalle would hit three-pointers. Again and again. Often Boise State found itself trading twos for threes, allowing the Explorers to gradually extend the lead in each half. The Broncos whittled a 14-point deficit to six with two minutes left but could get no closer.

What is true now had been established back then in coach Leon Rice’s third year at the helm. When Boise State scores 70 or more points, it usually wins. When the Broncos shoot 49 percent from the field, they’re usually triumphant. But LaSalle shot a lights-out 63 percent from the field and was 11-of-21 from beyond the arc. The Explorers would go on to defeat No. 4 seed Kansas State in the first round of the tournament and Ole Miss in the second to advance to the Sweet 16, where they would lose to Wichita State.

There were two celebrated Australians in the 2013 First Four, Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s and Anthony Drmic of Boise State. Dellavedova, now a Sacramento King and in his 10th NBA season, scored 22 points in the Gaels’ 67-54 win over Middle Tennessee. Drmic did his countryman one better. He tweaked his knee midway through the first half but played through it to put up a game-high 28 points, the most ever by a Bronco in the NCAA Tournament. The sophomore did it inside and out, nailing five three-pointers to keep the Broncos at least within shouting distance of LaSalle.

Drmic was Boise State’s leading scorer that season with 17.7 points per game and would go on to become second in Broncos career scoring with 1,942 points. He was two points short of all-time leader Tanoka Beard at the end of the 2015-16 season and could have broken the record, but Boise State elected to decline an invitation to a shady minor pay-for-play postseason tournament in Las Vegas. With Drmic’s blessing.

Boise State earned its second at-large berth in 2015 but was sent to Dayton again for the First Four. That time the Broncos were paired with…host Dayton. And the Flyers won 56-55. Last Thursday’s loss to Northwestern marked the first time Boise State had ever made the main NCAA Tournament draw as an at-large selection.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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