Imperial Valley Press

Boise State seeks 1st March Madness tournament win


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Max Rice remembers the excitement he saw watching Northweste­rn win its first NCAA Tournament game six years ago.

Now, Rice wants to do the same for his Boise State team that is looking for its first tournament win when the 10th-seeded Broncos take on the seventh-seeded Wildcats in a West Region game in Sacramento on Thursday.

“I think the last couple years we’ve done a lot of checking off boxes that this program has never done before,” Rice said. “That’s one of the last boxes I think would be huge for this program, to check off an NCAA Tournament win. I know Northweste­rn did that a couple years ago, I think. I remember watching that. That’s something that has been our goal all year.”

In a West Region filled with powerhouse­s like defending champion Kansas, UCLA, Connecticu­t and Gonzaga, the Wildcats and and Broncos are clearly lacking.

Northweste­rn ( 21-11) has made it to this stage for just the second time, beating Vanderbilt in the first round in 2017 before losing to Gonzaga.

Boise State (24-9) has been to this stage a lot more, making its ninth trip. But the Broncos have lost their opening-round game the previous eight times, including 64-53 to Memphis last year.

“It would mean so much for our fans,” coach Leon Rice said. “I want it so bad for our players to keep them going. I want to keep this group together as long as I can keep this group together.”

After making the tournament for the first time back in 2017 in what coach Chris Collins said was viewed by many fans like a Final Four at other schools, success has been harder to come by.

The Wildcats followed that up with five straight losing seasons before breaking through again this year with a second-place finish in the Big Ten that Collins hopes lays the groundwork for more seasons like this.

“I think coming a second time, it’s gratifying because if you go once, it’s great, but it can almost be like kind of the one-hit-wonder type of deal,” Collins said. “To be able to now stamp it and be back a second time, hopefully that will help us as we continue to build for the future.”

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