- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is not something we are used to asking about Boise State basketball. In fact, the concept is basically foreign. Sure, the team won a handful of conference titles in the old Big Sky in the late 1980s. But the Broncos have exactly five NCAA tournament appearances in their history, with four trips to the NIT, and have spent zero weeks rank in the Associated Press top 25 since that vaunted enterprise was first breathed into existence.
Boise State had one notable recent season, a 25-9 2007-08 campaign that yielded a WAC regular season and conference tournament title. Still, let's be honest: When you think of Boise, you don't think of basketball. You think of blue turf.
It's early yet, of course. But after last night's 83-70 win against No. 11 Creighton, the highest-ranked opponent to fall to Boise State ever, it's looking like it's going to be very difficult to ignore Leon Rice's team anytime soon.
For one, it's going to be impossible to overlook guard Derrick Marks, particularly if he's going put in insane performances like this: 35 points, 13-of-19 from the field, 8-of-10 from the free throw line, four rebounds, four steals. At one point in the second half, Marks scored 18 straight points, which you can review in typical matter-of-fact game-log style here. Thus far this season, Marks, a sophomore from Chicago, is averaging 19.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
He torched Creighton on Wednesday night and, it must be said, a lot of that has to do with the Bluejays' still-porous defense. Boise State is playing some really efficient half-court offense these days, but it isn't scoring nearly 1.3 points per possession against just anybody (more like 1.1). This is not a new thing with Creighton; it is what held them back from being an elite club last season, and despite the brilliance of Doug McDermott, it could do so again this season.
Still, Boise deserves credit for doing something Wisconsin couldn't manage: It outscored Creighton, and it did so convincingly, on Creighton's home floor to boot.
Eight days beforehand, the Broncos went to East Lansing, Mich., pushed the highly ranked Spartans for a full 40 minutes, and then lost a 74-70 nail-biter in the closing moments. For most (myself included), this outcome was mostly attributable to Michigan State's sluggishness. Boise State? Good at basketball? Come on.
That was silly. Boise State appears to be very real, a gate-crashing, upset-happy outfit more than capable of making the Mountain West a five-team race. We've all been forewarned.