The calendar has now turned to February, which means the Mountain West is bracing for the stretch-run portion of conference season. Here are the key headlines this week in MWC basketball:
Tim Williams out indefinitely, Tom Wilson’s BSU career over
Right when New Mexico appears to be finding a groove, its most efficient offensive player is dealt a likely season-ending injury.
Lobo senior forward Tim Williams, one of just two New Mexico players that average over seven points per game this season, has been battling with nagging foot pain for almost the entirety of the season, adding to an already injury-filled season for the Lobos. Dane Kuiper, the third leading scorer on the squad, is also currently sidelined with a concussion. New Mexico just can’t seem to catch a break this year.
Lost in yesterday’s National Signing Day headlines was some tough recruiting news for Leon Rice and the Boise State Broncos. Tom Wilson, a highly decorated Australian recruit who spent his freshman year at SMU, announced on January 20 that he would be heading the Boise State for his final three seasons of collegiate basketball. However, to much surprise, Wilson decided to sign with a pro agent yesterday, and will forego his remaining three years of NCAA eligibility. Strange. Best of luck to the Aussie.
Commissioner Thompson drops the hammer
If you haven’t seen it by now, check out Albuquerque Journal’s Geoff Grammer article from Sunday on Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. Though the on-court conference performance this season has been nothing short of abysmal, the conference’s sportsmanship might even be worse.
Thompson created a memo in mid-January related to the multitude of shocking and embarrassing instances of ridiculous behavior, which includes Boise State forward Nick Duncan flipping off the Utah State crowd, the ridiculous Colorado State-New Mexico game which resulted in three technical fouls and an off-court post game altercation, as well racial and homophobic slurs by fans across the conference.
In college sports, sportsmanship should always be the first priority. When dealing with 18-22 year olds in a competitive environment things will happen, but the MWC has only appeared in national headlines for the wrong reasons the past few months. That needs to change.
What’s the highest possible seed for the Mountain West autobid?
You’re not going to like this answer. But with Utah State’s inexplicable drubbing of conference leader Nevada on Wednesday, the Wolf Pack now have four losses against teams ranked 115th or worse in KenPom.
The Mountain West representative has remained on the 12 line in bracket projections for most of the season, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. It appears that this year’s 68-team field will likely slot one mid-major (right now it’s Middle Tennessee) on the 11 line, with the remaining three 11 seeds handed to middling P6 teams. With Nevada as the only MWC team with even a remote shot at an at-large, but no chances for top 50 RPI wins the rest of the season, a 12 seed is likely the best-case scenario for this conference.
I’ll assess potential NCAA Tournament first round matchups when we approach the Mountain West Tournament, but for now it’s either Nevada or Boise State hovering on the 12 line for the MWC.
What are your thoughts on the latest Mountain West basketball news? Leave a comment below or tweet at @boettger_eli or @MWCConnection on Twitter.