November is in the books and the Mountain West Conference is looking pretty good.
Yeah, we all know March is the month that's most important in college basketball.
But November can often be a good indicator. As indicators go, November was pretty good for the MWC consider:
- Three teams on both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls - the UNLV Runnin' Rebels (No. 24/20), the San Diego St. Aztecs (No. 23/21) and the New Mexico Lobos (No. 25/23).
- A conference rating of 5th overall in RPI with only the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and Big East ahead of the MWC.
- Four teams in the RPI Top 40 (New Mexico at 9th, the Colorado St. Rams at 29th, the Air Force Falcons at 32nd and UNLV at 36th).
- Three teams undefeated (7-0 New Mexico, the 7-0 Wyoming Cowboys and 4-0 Colorado St.) and four teams with just one loss (the 5-1 Boise St. Broncos, 4-0 Air Force, 4-1 UNLV, 3-1 SDSU )
- All nine teams at or above .500 (the 3-3 Fresno St. Bulldogs and 4-2 Nevada Wolf Pack.).
- And overall record of 40-9 (88/8% winning percentage).
The downside of all those stats is that the MWC has a Strength of Schedule ranked 17th in RPI and only two schools, UNLV and New Mexico, with SOS over 114 - rated 36th and 32nd respectively.
But the MWC has posted a few marquee wins in the eleventh month.
- Boise St. nearly upset the No. 13/14 Michigan St. Spartans at home then scored a major upset of the No. 11 Creighton Bluejays in Omaha this past week - the first time the Blue Jays had lost at home in November since 1989 - before the Broncos' leading scorer, sophomore Derrick Marks was born.
- New Mexico defeated the then No. 21 Connecticut Huskies in the Paradise jam tournament finals behind the play of junior Kendall Williams.
- Colorado St., led by transfer post Colton Iverson, travelled to the Washington Huskies and handed the Huskies a decisive 75-55 defeat. At 3-3, UDub is not ranked but holds an RPI of 20 early on.
The MWC's other top dogs have not remained unbeated, but hold off on the panic button.
- UNLV and Mike Moser (who is averaging a double-double - 12.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg - so far) have one loss - to the Oregon Ducks at home. The 83-79 decision was offset by the 5-1 Duck's high RPI (39).
- Similarly, SDSU's loss to the 4-0 Syracuse Orange in the Battle on the Midway to start the season was mitigated by undefeated Syrcause's high ranking (No. 9) and high RPI rating (12th). Like Moser for UNLV, Jamaal Frankin is averaging a double-double (18.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg)
- Air Force and leading scorer Michael Lyons (who's averaging 20.7 ppg early on) has only played one team with an RPI above 150 - the 6-0 Colorado Buffaloes. The Falcons lost to the Buffs 89-74 in Boulder. Including them in the "top dogs" category is premature, but AFA is looking solid.
- Similarly 7-0 Wyoming and senior Leonard Washington have done well early but hasn't played anyone of substance. Their best win was over the 1-4 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (RPI of 144... yeesh!). The Cowboys opponents so far have a combined record of 5-24. Two, the Northern Colorado Bears and Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, are winless.
Of course, we now enter December - and the stakes start rising with marquee games. And we're not even taking about match-ups like New Mexico at Cincinnati (Dec. 27) or UNLV at North Carolina (Dec. 29).
The big tests start Dec. 1
- Wyoming host 6-0 Colorado at the Arena-Auditorium. The Buffalos (No. 5 RPI) have signature wins over the 4-2 Baylor Bears and the 4-1 Murray St. Racers.
- Colorado St. travels to meet up with Colorado in Boulder on Wednesday, Dec. 5 while Fresno St. and Allen Huddleson host CU on Dec. 12.
- Air Force hosts the 7-0 Wichita St. Shockers on Sunday. The Falcons also travel No. 7 Florida later in the month.
- New Mexico visits the Indiana St. Sycamores in Terre Haute. The 3-1 Sycamores (RPI of 109) have no signature wins but the last two ranked teams to travel to Terre Haute in non-conference, (Butler and Indiana) lost to the Sycamores.
- UNLV travels to Berkeley to take on the 6-0 California Golden Bears on Sunday, Dec. 9. UC-Berkeley has wins over top 60 RPI schools the Pacific Tigers, Pepperdine Waves and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
- Nevada and Deonte Burton travel to Washington on Dec. 8. The Wolf Pack has not been impressive so far - but have time to get things figured out before conference play in January. If they do, they'll be a factor.
If the Mountain West can come out of December with a similar performance as it had in November, then March may hold a lot more promise than it did last season. Either way, MWC hoops fans will have some action to follow before the Holiday season is over.