For 41 minutes Saturday night, Boise State senior forward Ryan Watkins was the best man on the floor. Watkins went toe to toe with UNLV big man Roscoe Smith, who is the fifth best rebounder in the nation, averaging 11.1 rebounds per game. Watkins ranks seventh in the nation with 10.9 rebounds per game. Statistically speaking, Watkins owned Smith. With 22 points and 15 rebounds, Watkins secured his ninth conference double double; Smith had 14 points and eight rebounds.
The reason Boise State became the victor Saturday night came on a play that sent the game into overtime. UNLV missed a point blank layup at with seconds remaining on the clock. Smith clasped the ball for a moment but was met by Watkins in mid-air. Watkins wrestled the ball away from the hoop to prevent Smith from a put back layup. Boise State would go on to win the game in overtime.
Instead of UNLV putting the final nail in Boise State’s proverbial coffin, the Broncos find themselves back on the bubble. The win puts Boise State in third place in the Mountain West Conference. Two losses to San Diego State by a combined five points certainly make a case for Boise State breaking the two team Mountain West bid threshold. One thing is for certain, Boise State has to win out to strengthen their bubble to break into the field of 68.
Boise State finds themselves in a virtually identical situation as last season. Their RPI currently sits at 51, whereas their RPI last season was at 5o. Boise State’s record is 18-9. Last season, Boise State made the tournament with a 19-11 record. The Broncos’ final four games are at Fresno State, at Wyoming, Nevada and at Air Force. All games are winnable for the Broncos, but in order for Boise State to make the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 20 years, they must win the rest of their regular season games.