First Look At The Mountain West Basketball Season

[Bumped to the front page]

Look, i realize that it is football season, but i just wanted to get a heads up on my CBB previews.

The MWC has proven to be a basketball powerhouse during the past decade, and could be regarded as one of the elite conferences, and intends to make 2012-13 it's biggest season yet. The 2011-12 season was an eventful year for the MWC as New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, and Colorado State all received invitations for the NCAA tournament. The additions of Nevada and Fresno State should add bulk to the MWC as TCU leaves for the Big 12. UNLV looks to be the conference favorites, though they will have to battle San Diego State in their last season in the MWC.

Biggest Headlines Heading Into The 2012 MWC Season:

1. The Reemergence of SDSU and UNLV as perennial powers: I remember the 2010-11-basketball season fondly. The MWC had 2 teams always looming in the top 10, whether it was the San Diego State Aztecs led by Kawhi Leonard, or BYU and the Jimmer craze, the MWC did not disappoint that year. I imagine that the 2012-13 season should resemble the 2010-11 season as UNLV and SDSU will almost definitely be pre season top 25 teams and ready to make long tournament runs in 2013.

2. MWC Expansion: The Mountain West says good-bye to long tenured member TCU and will be a loss to MWC football; though they will not be missed as a basketball program. The MWC replaces TCU with two new teams from the WAC in Fresno State and Nevada. Nevada made noise while during their tenure in the WAC, and Fresno State is still better than TCU in basketball, so overall the depth of the MWC increased rather than decreased with the departure of the TCU horned frogs.

3. Coaching Changes in the state of Colorado: The Colorado State Rams finally made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003 and was rewarded in the form of Tim Mile's departure to the Nebraska Corn Huskers. Less could be said about the Air Force Falcons because they lost their head coach due to their futility as a basketball program. The CSU Rams have the upside as they receive head coach Larry Eustachy, who has already found success in the NCAA tournament, and Air Force upgraded their assistant head coach Dave Pilipovich to permanent Head Coach in March.

Predicted Order to Finish:

1. UNLV: The UNLV Runnin' Rebels have not been nationally relevant since the 1990's, though this could be the year that UNLV finally vaults itself into the national spot light and makes a run to the final four. Dave Rice had an outstanding first year at the helm of the Rebels as his team took out #1 UNC and spotted a 6 seed in the 2012 NCAA tournament. The Rebels look to reload entering the 2012 season as 3 of the top 5 scorers returns for the rebels, including top scorer Mike Moser (14.0 PPG-10.5 RPG) and have the 7th ranked freshman Anthony Bennett & Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch to accompany the Rebels for what is sure to be special year in Las Vegas.

2. San Diego State: The Aztecs exceeded expectations last year as they received a 6 seed in the 2012 NCAA tournament, and did not fall into the depths of the MWC as many predicted for the Aztecs in 2012. Now their has been a reversal of fate for Steve Fisher as his Aztecs team returns top scorer Jamaal Franklin (17.4 PPG-7.9 RPG) along with the next top 3 scorers and St. Johns transfer Dwayne Polee (4.4 PPG-2.5 RPG). SDSU will most likely enter the season in the top 25 and faces UCLA and Syracuse and should get at least a 5 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

3. New Mexico: New Mexico is going to take a huge step down from last season, and that is due to the departure of their top scorer Drew Gordon (13.7 PPG-11.1 RPG). Kendall Williams (12.1 PPG-3.3 RPG) and Tony Snell (10.5 PPG-2.7 RPG) both return and will have step up their game if they want replace the rebounding power that Drew Gordon contributed. New Mexico will initially struggle to find their scoring presence, though should be able to make to the big dance come March.

4. Colorado State: The Rams had a great season in 2012, going 20-12 and upsetting #12 SDSU, #21 New Mexico, and #17 UNLV. That aside the CSU does welcome their new head coach in Larry Eustachy. Larry's last HC job was at Southern Miss where he led them to their first NCAA tournament bid in more than 20 years. CSU's top 4 scorers return to Fort Collins including SG Wes Eikmier (15.5 PPG-1.8 RPG) and PG Dorian Green (13.1 PPG-3.5 RPG). Minnesota Transfer Colton Iverson (5.4 PPG) should fit into Center quite nicely.

5. Nevada: Nevada finds themselves in unfamiliar territory, not only in a new conference, but not being the conference favorites heading into the season. Hard times fell on the Nevada Wolf Pack when their NCAA tournament hopes evaporated before them when Louisiana Tech upset them in the 2nd round of the WAC tournament. The Wolf Pack still faces challenges heading into the season, as they must upgrade their intensity in their game without Olek Czyz (13.8 PPG-6.5 RPG) and Dario Hunt (10.3 PPG-9.7 RPG). Deonte Burton (14.8 PPG-2.6 RPG) accompanies Malik Story (14.1 PPG-2.8 RPG) in Nevada's first season in the Mountain West Conference.

6. Fresno State: Contrary to what many opinionated about the Fresno State Bulldogs, I believe that they will make noise in their first year in the MWC and maybe even become a bubble team as the season progresses. Four of the top 5 scorers return to Fresno including SG Kevin Olekaibe (17.8 PPG-3.2 RPG). The Bulldogs also picked up top 100 recruit Robert Upshaw who should contribute off the bench and should receive quality playing time through the season. The 2011-12 season was not kind to Fresno State, but the Bulldogs will persevere in their first season in the MWC and should muster at least a .500 mark.

7. Air Force Academy: Dave Pilipovich enheirits the countless problems surrounding the Air Force Falcons and should expect growing pains through out the year. On the bright side, Air Force returns their top 4 scorers including Michael Lyons (15.6 PPG-4 RPG) and Mike Fitzgerald (10.4 PPG-3.8 RPG). While under the diligence of Dave the Falcons did manage to upset then #15 San Diego State, and then lose the next 5 games. While you can expect improvement from last year's team, their isn't else much to be exited about, expect maybe football, or baseball, or any other sport for that matter.

8. Boise State: While it clear that Boise State is a football school, it is often entertaining to see their basketball team squirm about the court and attempt to make shots. The Broncos do return their top 6 scorers, but when top scorer Anthony Drmic (12.0 PPG-5 RPG) only makes 4 buckets a game, whats the point of getting exited? Maybe some of the football players should join the team, that way the opponent will be some what afraid of boise state. The bottom line is that Boise State entered the MWC as a basement dweller and will exit with that title as they transition to the Big West in 2013.

9. Wyoming: The Cowboys did have some fun last season, recording a 21-12 mark and making it to the Quarterfinals of the CBI tournament, basically one of their best seasons for Wyoming. The Cowboys will have to take a step back this season and find their scoring presence as only 2 starters (Leonard Washington 12.9 PPG-6.9 RPG, and Luke Martinez 11.8 PPG-4 RPG) return for the cowboys.

NCAA Seeding Projection:

UNLV: 3 seed

SDSU: 5 seed

New Mexico: 11 seed

Colorado State: 13 seed.

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