The Mountain West Conference is going to be a slog in men's basketball in 2013. That much is pretty clear.
And the members of the MWC media are sure of it.
Jack Nowlin of the Casper Star-Tribune certainly agrees with that assessment based on his article from Monday titled "Mountain West braces for competitive season."
Nowlin starts with some of the numbers and moves to quoting some MWC coaches:
The nine teams from the MW finished non-conference play with a combined record of 99-26 and the league is currently ranked No. 2 in the RPI; only the Big Ten ranks higher....
"This will be a very competitive league," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "It will be interesting to see what happens."
Now there's an understatement.
Now, with the non-conference season out of the way, MW coaches are buckling for what should be a wild ride in league play, which begins Wednesday...
"Any time you can schedule up and win, things happen like going from the fifth-best league to the second-best league," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "And that’s huge for our league to be ahead of several power conferences."
Like the reporters from part 1, Nowlin does a very in-depth analysis of each team in the MWC - breaking up the league into Contenders (In order, the San Diego St. Aztecs, UNLV Runnin' Rebels and New Mexico Lobos), the Challengers (the Wyoming Cowboys, Colorado St. Rams and Boise St. Broncos) and the Pretenders (everyone else).
Another good read.
Over at the Las Vegas Sun, reporter Taylor Beren eschewed the usual mid-season/pre-conference season write up and instead offers up an analysis counting down the MWC's best non-conference wins.
Hometown UNLV gets two wins on the list (wins at the California Golden Bears and at home against the Iowa St. Cyclones) but the most wins go to New Mexico, as Bern lauds wins over the Davidson Wildcats, the Connecticutt Huskies and win at the Cincinnati Bearcats.
The best win: Boise State's upset of the Creighton Bluejays in Omaha, naturally. Bern wrote:
This was nearly a huge week for the Broncos, who had lost by four to Michigan State just before this game. Still, there’s no question it was the best victory of a stellar non-conference season for a league that has a great chance to send at least four teams to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Finally the Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey does a detailed, yet bare-bones breakdown of the Mountain West as the nine teams head into conference play. SDSU, UNLV, UNM and CSU are his top four.
Dempsey is not a big believer in the Wyoming Cowboys though. He's got them all the way down at sixth:
What to expect: Competitiveness. Wyoming has a nice collection of players, including Larry Nance Jr. But what remains to be seen is just how good Wyoming really is.
The road to the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas starts tonight.