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The spotlight will be shining brightly on San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV when they face some high-profile non-conference games this year.
It is not too often that the Mountain West gets to play in some high profile non-conference games, but in this upcoming season the league was recognized in such non-league games. Both San Diego State, New Mexico UNLV were recognized by SB Nation and Sports Illustrated who rated their top 50 non-conference games.
Here are the games that are being recognized, and the blurb on why the game is on their list:
• Davidson at New Mexico (ESPN Hoops Marathon, Nov. 13)
SI: Yes, please. Like you're going to be watching anything else in this time slot? Jake Cohen and the Wildcats are a major upset possibility here, but the Lobos have the horses to contest for the crown in a deep Mountain West. Plus it starts at midnight Mountain Time. Yay, Denver living!
• San Diego State vs. Syracuse (Battle of Midway, Nov. 9)
SI: The Orange rarely leave New York for a nonconference game, so traveling cross-country to play a loaded SDSU team on an aircraft carrier definitely earns them brownie points. At least the Orange will feel at home with the ocean as a shooting background.
SBN: There's been talk recently that this game may be canceled due to insufficient financial backing (edit: game is on). Assuming that doesn't happen, the Aztecs and Orange ought to provide the main event for college basketball's opening day.
• San Diego State vs. UCLA (Wooden Classic, Dec. 1)
SI: The Wooden Classic isn't always classic, but this is a tremendous matchup and one that UCLA may not be favored to win. A lot depends on the development of young bigs on both sides, but the Aztecs have the guard play to take advantage of the very young Bruins perimeter.
• UNLV at North Carolina (Dec. 29)
SI:This is a rematch of one of last season's biggest statement games, when the Rebels exploded all over the Heels in the second half at Orleans Arena. Unfortunately for UNC fans, they don't return nearly the same team and the Rebels head to Chapel Hill with one that should be even better.
SBN: The Runnin' Rebels have been good for an impressive early season victory (last season it was over the then top-ranked Tar Heels) the last few years, but have then generally underachieved during the second half of the season. Dave Rice has a Final Four contender on paper, and a late December showdown in Chapel Hill is the perfect opportunity to convince the rest of the country that his squad is legit.
• Northern Iowa at UNLV (Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge, Dec. 19)
SI: Love this style contrast between the run-and-run-some-more MWC co-favorite and the gritty, halfcourt-oriented challengers to Creighton in the Valley. The Rebels will have been away from home for awhile before this one. Being anxious to impress the locals could equal trouble. The Rebs were crushed at Wichita State in this event last season.
So there are the games that some of the national experts like in regards to the Mountain West. The Northern Iowa game is a bit odd, but it makes sense since both teams are polar opposites in playing style. The UNLV vs. UNC game is definitely one to watch and tops my list of non-conference games.