AP Images / Craig Fritz
To the surprise of no one, except maybe Aztec and Rebels fans, New Mexico clinched their 2nd straight MWC title.
After a hard fought 17 weeks of college basketball, the New Mexico Lobos clinched their second straight regular season Mountain West title. While the MWC is not technically over, any contention of dethroning New Mexico has after Colorado State lost at Boise State. The Lobos have played the way they started: with dominance. Only 2 losses are in the Lobos win-loss column of 12-2. After a conference-clinching week, it is only fitting that New Mexico will rise to their highest rankings in the polls in week 18.
1. New Mexico: The Lobos clinched their 2nd straight MWC regular season title with a senior night win over Wyoming. While it is sad to see G Jamal Fenton (3.8 PPG-1.3 RPG) and F-G Chad Adams (4.7 PPG-3.3 RPG) play their last game in The Pit, it has to be comforting to Lobo fans now that guards Kendall Williams (13.9 PPG-4.8 APG) and Tony Snell (11.4 PPG-2.7 APG) will be back next season. With two easy road games, 3 potential conference tournament games and a 25-4 record, New Mexico could have a 30 win record before the tournament for the first time this century.
2. UNLV: Considering the disastrous start to February, being second place in the MWC isn't all that disappointing: it could've been much worse. Forward Anthony Bennett's (16.4 PPG-8.3 RPG) Injuries has hampered his individual success, averaging just 7.6 PPG in his last five games. Bennett's injury has not hurt the team's success as the Runnin' Rebels have won four straight and are on the heels of winning six straight when they host Boise State and Fresno State in week 18 to wrap up their regular season.
3. Boise State: Recently, Boise State has been the MWC's best-kept secret as the Broncos have won four straight and have found themselves back in NCAA Tournament contention. The win over Colorado State will certainly boost the Bronco's resume as they currently sit ranked 44th in the RPI. Boise State can further their chances by sweeping, or at least splitting, their week 18 slate against San Diego State and at UNLV.
4. San Diego State: Recent success would suggest that this season, so far, has been a disappointment, but in the long run it has been a considerable success as the Aztecs are in line for their 4th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and only their 9th bid in the 42 years as a division 1 program. The MWC tournament provides the Aztecs with a chance to aim for a 7+ seed in the upcoming tournament and improve their RPI that currently sits at 33rd best in the nation.
5. Colorado State: Things have really gone downhill for the Rams since their short glimpse of contention for the MWC title. CSU has lost three out of their last four games, but look to stop that skid with a week 18 sweep of Wyoming and Nevada. Despite the recent downward trend, CSU has the MWC's third best PRI ranking at 17 and can still get a 6+ seed in the NCAA Tournament.
6. Air Force: Remember when Air Force was in the upper half of the MWC standings? Me neither. A strong January ended with a horrible February when the Falcons went 3-4 and were wiped from MWC contention. Tough games against New Mexico and at SDSU spells doom for the Falcons and will likely knock Air Force out of any postseason hope; CBI, NIT, etc.
7. Wyoming: Wyoming, perhaps, had one of the saddest stories in the MWC. A year that started 13-0 now currently sits at a dismal 18-11 and 4-11 in MWC play. The Cowboys have lost four in a row and are in line to lose five when they host Colorado State in week 18.
8. Fresno State: I made no error here. Fresno State really isn't the worst team in the MWC anymore. That honor belongs to the Nevada Wolf Pack. The Bulldogs got only their fourth win of the MWC season over Air Force and now sit with a 4-11 MWC, one better than Nevada's 3-11 record. The Bulldogs are ranked 148th in the RPI, 13 better than Nevada's 161 ranking.
9. Nevada: Does Nevada whishes they still played in the WAC? Cause their first year in the MWC was horrendous. Nevada has been a two-man team all season and we see the consequences of being such. The best the Wolf Pack can hope for is a regular season record of 12-18 as they play New Mexico and CSU in week 18.