The Mountain West Conference is riding high going into conference play, with a No. 2 RPI ranking (it was No. 2 yesterday) and the USA Today Sagarin rankings. And the love coming from national media is palpable as they all roll out their pre-conference play ratings and rankings.
In today's edition of The Dagger sports blog, Jeff Eisenberg over at Yahoo! Sports is sticking with his top four in his conference reset today - the San Diego St. Aztecs, UNLV Runnin' Rebels, New Mexico Lobos and Colorado St. Rams:
San Diego State and UNLV began the season as co-favorites, and there's no reason to alter that now with the Aztecs boasting a 12-2 record and the Rebels off to a 13-2 start. The reason I'd lean San Diego State over UNLV right now is because the Rebels have some issues that concern me even if their ceiling is the highest among Mountain West teams.
Eisenberg, like a lot of media folks, is skeptical of the Wyoming Cowboys. He has the Boise St. Broncos as biggest surprise and Nevada Wolf Pack as biggest disappointment. Hard to argue there.
His second of three "Fearless predictions" is right on the mark:
It's hard for a league with only nine teams to get five in the NCAA tournament because they beat each-other up in league play, but the Mountain West has a great chance with six teams in the RPI top 50.
Over at CBSSports.com in yesterday's Eye on College Basketball blog, Jeff Goodman doesn't waste any time gushing on the MWC:
The Mountain West is an elite league this season, deserving of a spot above a couple of the so-called Power Six conferences. UNLV is a Final Four contender in terms of pure talent. San Diego State and New Mexico have spent much of the season in the Top 25, but the difference with the Mountain West is that the middle-tier teams have made progress...
I love this league this season -- and, frankly, that's why I wanted to write the Mountain West Reset:
Love the enthusiasm, Jeff!
Goodman goes with the same top four as Eisenberg and proclaims the Air Force Falcons, Fresno St. Bulldogs and Nevada as out of the running for March Madness and has all kinds of kind things to say about UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett.
Finally, there's this complementary column from far outside the MWC footprint - from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Amelia Rayno.
In this column from Jan. 5, Rayno's premise is that the MWC hasn't lost any power even with the loss of the BYU Cougars to the West Coast Conference.
The way things were shaping up, it appeared that the small league was becoming less of a high mid-major collection of talent, and instead just another mid-major.
Instead, 18 months later, the conference looks stronger than ever...
Like other prognosticators, Rayno sees up to six MWC teams going to the Big Dance
The challenge will be to keep that momentum going as January gives way to March. The Mountain West has had impressive starts before -- last season three different teams touched the top 25 -- but as a whole, the tournament efforts have been lackluster and the general consensus was that teams have peaked too early.