Looks like the national media is noticing the ascendance of Mountain West basketball in general and the No. 23/21 San Diego St. Aztecs in particular.
Yahoo Sports! Blog "The Dagger" today heralds SDSU’s 78-69 win over the UCLA Bruins (No. 24 in the Coaches poll) in the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim last night confirmation of the Aztecs’ status as the best team in California.
Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg writes:
The Aztecs have earned the right to call themselves the best college basketball team in California after 26 consecutive wins over in-state foes including a pair of victories apiece over (the California Golden Bears, USC Trojans and Long Beach St. 49ers).
That it was no surprise San Diego State added UCLA to its list of in-state victims is a testament to the trajectory of both programs these days.
26 consecutive games is not a flash in the pan. It’s solid evidence of dominance. UCLA has not been the flagship basketball school of the Pac-12 for sometime now. But the whisperings have been there for years – the Pac-12 is no longer the best league in the West.
CBSSports.com’s senior blogger Matt Norlander also plugged the Aztecs’ win but placed the now 8-0 Wyoming Cowboys’ win over No. 19 (and previously unbeaten) Colorado Bufaloes 76-69 in Laramie.
...Wyoming's just a really solid 8-0 team that's getting victories by not killing itself or getting lucky. It doesn't stand out in any statistical category except two-point field goal defense, which it was top-five nationally in prior to this game.
Mountain West is definitely improved this season. Wyoming could be the bellwether team to prove that. Four bids down the road? Right now, absolutely, considering this next team ...
How did the Pac-12, one of the Big 6 conferences, go from six bids to 2 bids in just five years’ time? Well, you can bet that having its marquee teams like UCLA fall on hard times is one factor.
You need look no further than bids to the NCAA Tournament to see the shift:
- 2012: MWC – 4 bids, West Coast Conference – 3 bids, Pac-12 – 2 bids
- 2011: Pac-10 – 4 bids, MWC – 3 bids, WCC – 1 bid
- 2010: MWC – 4 bids, Pac-10 – 2 bids, WCC – 2 bids
- 2009: Pac 10 – 6 bids, MWC – 2 bids, WCC – 1 bid
- 2008: Pac -10 – 6 bids, MWC – 2 bids, WCC – 1 bid
There's no doubt - the MWC has moved to eclipse the Pac-12.
The Colorado loss at Wyoming coupled with UCLA’s loss to SDSU could leave the Pac-12 with just one ranked team come Monday – the No. 9 Arizona Wildcats.
Meanwhile the MWC has three teams in the Top 20 and at least two – the Colorado St. Rams and Wyoming knocking on the door.
It's early still and the Pac-12 has some chances to pull itself even in head-to-head play with the MWC – starting this Wednesday when USC visits The Pit and the unbeaten, nationally ranked New Mexico Lobos and Colorado St. goes to Boulder to play the Buffs. Cal also gets its shot next Saturday when the Bears host UNLV.
But if the trend continues, look for the MWC to continue its eclipse of the only Big 6 league out West and solidify its spot as the top college basketball league this side of the Rockies.