Officially the Boise State men's basketball team doesn't begin play on the court until next Thursday when the Bronco's host West Coast baptist in an exhibition game at Extra Mile Arena.

Unofficially, Boise State is in Salt lake City this weekend to play Utah of the Pac 12 in a private, close to the media, no statistics provided game like scrimmage designed to help both teams get ready for the 2019-20 season.

Boise State head coach Leon Rice is pretty excited about the offensive potential of his team but admits the team needs to toughen up on defense.

Rice said "You have to care about defense. Getting the ball back after the other team scores is not defense." The players say they've gotten the message.

Rice is cautiously optimistic for several reasons. First of all the non conference schedule is brutal with Oregon, a Pac 12 favorite currently ranked 14th, BYU, UC Irvine, a Big Sky favorite and all NCAA tournament teams. Plus BSU heads to Hawaii for a tough holiday tournament. For the record, another BSU opponent, Utah State is ranked 17th by AP.

Second, Boise State still doesn't know if Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot will be cleared  to play this season by the NCAA. The Bronco coaching staff has watched as other players in similar situations have been cleared but not Akot.

Third, the Broncos have to play through the fall semester without Oregon transfer Abu Kigab. (Pronounced A-boo Key-jab)

Akot and Kigab bring some serious skills to the court.

That being said the Broncos have veterans like Justinian Jessup and Derrick Alston back. According the Rice, Alston has grown physically and emotionally in his one year with Boise State. Alston saying "Since coming here I've learned what it means to work hard, on the court, in the weight room and in school and with the community."

The Broncos were picked to finished 5th in the preseason Mountain West Basketball poll. However the Broncos are poised to surprise some folks, maybe even themselves if this team gels as expected.