ESPN's Joe Lunardi released his first 2015 NCAA Tournament bracketology of the new year this morning and he included four Mountain West teams. Only the San Diego State Aztecs made Lunardi's preseason bracketology of the year on Nov. 12.
This has by most standards been a disappointing year for the MW, with its bad non-conference losses and its "top teams" looking not-so-dominant. But the conference is tied with the American Athletic Conference and the West Coast Conference with three teams in the projected tournament, good for fourth among all conferences. The MW also has one of the teams listed as part of the "next four out."
Lunardi writes, though, that he believes the MW will only get two bids. He writes, "our rules require one of the current 2-0 teams as the (automatic qualifier), none of which figure to be there 10 weeks from now."
Last season, only two MW teams reached the NCAA Tournament: SDSU and New Mexico.
San Diego State (11-4, 1-1 Mountain West) is a 7-seed in the South region of Lunardi's bracket. The Aztecs would open tournament play against the 10-seed Providence Friars and would then play either No. 15 New Mexico State or No. 2 Gonzaga. SDSU was initially a 4-seed in the West region in Lunardi's preseason bracket, but losses at Washington, Cincinnati, and a bad loss at Fresno State has dragged the Aztecs' RPI rank down to 50.
The Colorado State Rams (14-1, 1-1 Mountain West) come in as a 7-seed in the West region of the bracket. The Rams are slated for a first game agains the 10-seed BYU Cougars and would either play No. 2 Arizona or No. 15 Texas Southern next. CSU had an impressive 13-0 non-conference season, but it recently joined the ranks of "teams with a loss" when it fell to the Lobos at The Pit last week.
The Wyoming Cowboys (13-2, 2-0 Mountain West) make their first bracketology appearance of the year as a 13-seed in the South region, slated for an opening-round matchup against the 4-seed Wichita State Shockers. The Cowboys would then face either No. 5 Seton Hall or No. 12 Saint Mary's. SDSU and Wyoming could potentially meet in the Sweet 16. Wyoming had a solid non-conference season, holding Colorado to 33 points and barely losing a tough one at California.
The UNLV Runnin' Rebels (9-5, 0-1 Mountain West) were one of Lunardi's "next four out" teams, along with Minnesota, TCU and Miami. Let's face it: the Rebels looked flat-out terrible to start the year, losing 89-60 to Stanford and 77-55 to Arizona State. However, things seem to be coming together for Dave Rice's talent-laden squad and UNLV has a wonderful resume boost with its 71-67 home win against then-No. 3 Arizona.