A Surprise Team Is Currently First in MWC Men's Hoops

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State is in first right? Wrong. Then it must be New Mexico. Wrong again. The team picked to finish 9th in the conference is currently in 1st place.

The Nevada Wolf Pack are currently in sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Basketball conference. That is not a typo. No need to use a search engine to double check that statement. Nevada holding a 4-0 record is, by the standings, the best team in the Mountain West.

Why does this come as such a big shock? For one, Nevada's roster from this year to last year is essentially the same in the back court, and in the front court is filled with numerous junior college transfers. So on paper the team should have stayed relatively the same in the conference standings from last year, a team that went 3-13 in conference and finished dead last.

Secondly, Nevada was picked to finish ninth in the preseason by the media. While preseason polls mean absolutely nothing, this sentiment was backed up by Nevada's play in the non-conference part of their schedule, where they went 5-8 against a relatively weak schedule.

So the Wolf Pack fans and players are relishing in their newly found success. The team has momentum built primarily from star Deonte Burton's stellar play (21.8ppg, 3.8rpg, and 3.8apg) and junior college transfer AJ West's breakout play (9.8ppg, 7.8rpg, and 2.3bpg).

The big question is can the Wolf Pack sustain this level of play through the 18 game league schedule. There are reasons for optimism. Nevada does have one of the best starting lineups in the MWC. Four of Nevada's five starters average double figure scoring, with the other player averaging 9.8ppg. The defense has improved drastically during conference play as opposed to non-conference play, where it was awful. This team also has a player that just seems to refuse to lose in four-year starting point guard Burton. Right now he is without a doubt the best player in the league and night in night out will be the best player on the floor.

For all the optimism there are reasons to worry. Nevada's bench is pretty poor. It's so poor in fact that Burton is leading the nation in minutes played out of necessity. Ali Fall, the backup big man, often struggles against the bigger players that the conference provides and he is often in foul trouble. So if the starters struggle the team will struggle, not a recipe for success over 18 games. Furthermore Nevada's hot start has been aided by playing some of the conferences worst teams. The opponents Nevada has wins over have a combined 3-10 record in conference. Nevada has also avoided New Mexico, San Diego State, and Colorado State, arguably the conferences best and most talented teams.

So judgment on Nevada should be held off a little longer. But no team in the conference wants to see Nevada coming up on their schedule.

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