The SMU Mustangs, who made the National Invitational Tournament championship game in 2014, will have home-state advantage on Thursday night when they face the Boise State Broncos in Frisco, Texas.
This is a first-round game in what is a shortened, 16-team NIT field this year.
SMU (11-5) is powered by 5-11 junior guard Kendric Davis, who led the American Athletic Conference in scoring (18.8) and assists (7.4).
Davis, a Houston native, arrived at SMU last season after transferring from Texas Christian, and he said he worked this past offseason on getting stronger.
“I think I wore down by the end of last season,” said Davis, who was a unanimous first-team All-AAC player this year. “Now I can shoot from distance — from the SMU logo — to keep defenders honest.
“I’ll take what the defense gives me. If they leave me open, I will shoot. If I see a teammate open, I’ll pass.”
However, there hasn’t been too much of any of that for the Mustangs lately. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Mustangs have only played one game since Feb. 8, and that was on March 12 in a 74-71 loss to Cincinnati in the AAC tournaments quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Boise State (18-8) is powered by 6-9, 190-pound senior guard Derrick Alston, who leads the team in scoring (17.4), three-point shooting (39.2 percent) and free-throw shooting (86.5 percent).
Alston is one of only five players in the country this season to shoot at least 85 percent from the foul line, 44 percent from the floor and 39 percent on three-pointers.
He made first-team All-Mountain West Conference, finishing second in the league in scoring.
Alston has come a long way since serving as a Houston Rockets ball boy and then, later, joining Boise State as a 6-8, 148-pound walk-on.
“I had to earn everything,” Alston said. “It’s just being able to work in the dark, redshirting my first year, so that when the lights come on and you get your opportunity, you are able to seize it fully.”
This is SMU’s fourth time playing in the NIT, following trips in 1986, 2000 and the aforementioned run to the title game, losing to Minnesota in 2014.
Boise State will be making its seventh NIT appearance. The Broncos are 4-6 in NIT play, with their deepest run coming in 2004’s 40-team tournament, when they defeated Nevada-Las Vegas and Milwaukee before losing to Marquette.
SMU leads the series against Boise State, 6-5. However, the teams split their two most recent matchups, in 2016 and 2017. Their previous nine matchups happened when they were rivals in the Western Athletic Conference between 2001 and 2005.
–Field Level Media