BroncoSports.com will feature Thomas Bropleh, Jeff Elorriaga and Ryan Watkins this week
Derrick Marks scored the game-winning basket with 3.4 seconds left.
Jeff Elorriaga scored 26 points in his season debut and Anthony Drmic added 16
Ryan Watkins scored 15 points and Igor Hadziomerovic added 13
Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks were selected to the Preseason All-MW Team
A dead-eye marksman by nature, Jeff Elorriaga proved over the course of his career that he meant much more to the Broncos than just a player with an exceptional outside shot. Elorriaga fought through injuries at different stages of every season to make sure his presence and leadership was available for his team to draw from. Boise State is 54-29 in games he starts, 20-13 in games he came off the bench, and 3-12 in games when he did not play.
Judging by the number of rebounds Ryan Watkins gobbled up this past season, most Bronco fans probably would not be surprised to see Watkins walking around campus with a hard hat and lunch pail. Watkins turned in one of the most prolific rebounding seasons in Boise State history by averaging 10.6 rebounds per game. Couple that with a steady 11.9 points per game, and you have the first Bronco to average a double-double since 1971-1972.
For three years you knew the name, but maybe couldn't put a finger on his game. After moving in and out of the starting lineup during his first three seasons, Thomas Bropleh found his calling as a senior. A refined three-point stroke and an irreplaceable dose of senior leadership turned Bropleh into one of the best sparkplugs in the West.
The video series begins with an overview of the 2014 seniors by the three Bronco coaches who were with them all four years. Head coach Leon Rice, associate head coach Jeff Linder and assistant coach John Rillie share their thoughts in the video below.
Boise State men's basketball defeated UNLV Saturday, 91-90, in a thrilling overtime game. The Broncos used huge games from Ryan Watkins and Anthony Drmic to force the extra period, where Derrick Marks scored all 13 Boise State points. It was just enough to beat the Rebels whose buzzer beater was waved off.
Boise State vs. UNLV (USATSI)
Boise State vs. New Mexico
Boise State men's basketball
Boise State at UNLV photos by USA TODAY Sports
Men's basketball, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014
Leon Rice is entering his fourth season as the head coach of the Boise State University men's basketball team after being named the seventh head coach in school history, March 26, 2010.
Boise State made the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, his third season guiding the program and the first at-large selection in school history.
The Broncos are 56-41 (.577) under Rice, the best record for a head coach through his first three seasons in school history. Included were 20-win campaigns in 2010-11 and 2012-13, the only head coach to win at least 20 games in two of his first three years guiding the program since Boise State joined Division I in 1970-71.
Rice, the fastest head coach in school history to reach 50 wins, led Boise State to 21 regular-season victories last season, tied for the fourth-most in school history. Included were a school-record 12 nonconference wins. The Broncos also posted two wins over ranked opponents on the road in 2012-13, more than Boise State had combined to win in school history prior to last season (one).
Boise State finished tied for fourth in the Mountain West - the top-rated conference in the country per the RPI. The Broncos had been predicted to finish eighth in the MW Preseason Media Poll, the third time in as many seasons under Rice that the team outperformed its predicted finish.
Boise State went 14-1 on its home floor in 2012-13, the only loss coming in overtime to league-champion New Mexico. It marked the best home record since the 1997-98 team went 13-0, the third-best regular-season winning percentage in school history (.933) and tied for the second-most wins at Taco Bell Arena all-time.
Once again, attendance soared at Taco Bell Arena under Rice. The Broncos' home attendance average (6,394) is the highest since 2000-01, and increased by more than 2,000 from 2011-12. Boise State boasted four crowds of more than 10,000, the most since having eight such crowds in 1988-89 - a span of 24 years.
Additionally, Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks were named All-MW Second Team, the first time since 2008 that the Broncos had multiple players garner all-league recognition.
In 2011-12, his second season with the Broncos, Rice guided the team's ascension to the MW, which finished the season as the nation's fifth-ranked conference in the NCAA RPI - ahead of the Pac-12 and ACC.
Though young - the Broncos accumulated 51 starts by freshmen in 2011-12, a mark that shattered the previous school record of 38 set in both 1989-90 and 1993-94 - the Broncos still defeated five teams that participated in the postseason in 2011-12.
Two of the freshmen - Drmic and Marks - garnered All-MW honorable mention honors after finishing the season ranked first and second, respectively, in scoring average amongst league freshmen.
In 2010-11 Rice put together the finest campaign for a Boise State first-year men's basketball head coach, one that culminated in an appearance in the conference tournament championship game and just the fourth postseason appearance in the last 17 years.
The Broncos went 22-13 (.629) in his debut season, making Rice the winningest first-year head coach in school history. The Broncos also reached the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational and surpassed 20 wins for just the ninth time since becoming a four-year institution (1968-69).
The 22 victories are tied for the fifth-most in school history, and signified the fifth-largest turnaround all-time at Boise State.
Rice was one of 54 first-year head coaches nationally, only 14 of which reached the 20-win plateau. Five of the coaches to accomplish the feat at their respective institutions were in their first years as Division I head coaches, but of those five, only Rice inherited a team with a losing record.
After falling one game short of the NCAA Tournament, Boise State was selected to play in the CBI, and advanced all the way to the semifinals. The two wins in the postseason tied the school record, and marked the first postseason victories for the Broncos in seven years.
Under Rice, the Broncos have established a dominant home-court advantage, winning as many as 15-consecutive games, the longest streak in more than a decade. The Broncos have also posted a home winning percentage of .787 under Rice - the highest by a head coach since Boise State joined Division I in 1970-71.
Boise State's attendance has soared during his tenure, increasing by the seventh-largest margin in the country in 2010-11, and exposure has increased to a level unparalleled in school history, with Boise State boasting a school-record 17 nationally-televised games in 2011-12.
Rice's recipe for success combines an up-tempo, fast-paced offense with tremendous defensive pressure - the Broncos boasted the conference's highest-scoring offensive attack at 74.1 points per game in 2010-11, and at the other end of the floor the Broncos ranked 15th-nationally in steals (8.6). Boise State was also fourth-nationally in turnover margin (5.2).
The Broncos led the MW in scoring average (73.5) in 2012-13, and were also one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, ranking 11th-nationally (.391) from beyond the arc. Boise State was also 25th-nationally in free throw percentage (.747).
Rice joined the Broncos after spending the previous 11 seasons at Gonzaga, where he had served as the associate head coach with the Bulldogs from 2007-10.
In his final season with the Bulldogs, Rice helped lead Gonzaga to its 10th-consecutive West Coast Conference regular season title with a conference record of 12-2 while finishing 27-7 overall. In winning its 10th-consecutive regular season title, Gonzaga moved into a tie with Connecticut (1951-60 Yankee Conference) and UNLV (1983-92 Big West) for the second-longest streak in NCAA history.
At Gonzaga, Rice worked under head coach Mark Few for 11 seasons and played a major role in the Bulldogs' NCAA Tournament appearances in each of his seasons in Spokane. Gonzaga earned Sweet 16 berths in 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2009; and reached the second round in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010.
Rice helped lead the Bulldogs to five top-10 appearances in the final Associated Press Poll, including a No. 3 ranking in 2004. Gonzaga also finished fifth in 2006, sixth in 2002 and 10th in both 2005 and 2009.
The Bulldogs went 291-73 in Rice's tenure on the Gonzaga staff, including a school-record 29-4 mark in both 2002 and 2006. Rice also helped guide Gonzaga to its best NCAA Tournament seeding in school history in 2004 (No. 2).
Rice joined the Bulldogs from Yakima Valley College, where he served two seasons as an assistant coach and one as co-head coach with the legendary Dean Nicholson. He then served as head coach for the 1998-99 campaign. YVC went from worst to first in the debut season of the Rice-Nicholson partnership, and in 1999 YVC went 31-2 en route to capturing its fourth-straight Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Eastern Region title. The 31 wins were a school record and came four seasons after Rice and Nicholson inherited a program which had gone 3-20 overall during the 1994-95 season. YVC went a perfect 12-0 in the NWAACC in 1999 and Rice earned his second-straight Eastern Region Coach of the Year honor.
The duo guided YVC to a 103-26 overall record and 40-8 league record in four seasons. Rice coached 18 student-athletes who went on to play basketball at four-year schools, including the Bulldogs' Quentin Hall who was a 1999 Gonzaga senior. YVC had six players from the 1999 squad who joined four-year programs.
Rice received his bachelor's in physical education from Washington State in 1986 and his master's in athletic administration, management and program development from Oregon in 1991. After one year of high school coaching, he began his collegiate career as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon in 1989, and then served two seasons as a full-time assistant coach for the Ducks. He was the head assistant coach at Northern Colorado in Greeley for three seasons prior to going to YVC.
Rice and his wife, Robin, have three sons: Brock, Max and Kade.