The calendar has completely flipped to February on the Mountain West basketball schedule, meaning the stretch run has arrived. Due to a conflict with a major convention in Las Vegas, the conference tournament will start a week earlier than usual. Now is the time to do damage in Mountain West play with only 5-6 regular season games remaining. Will San Diego State run the table? Will Utah State survive enough to remain in the at-large discussion? Let’s take a look.
1. San Diego State
The hype is real. The first NCAA Bracket projection reveal showed the Aztecs as the #1 seed in the East Region. The Aztecs did not betray this respect and swept their competition this weekend, including winning at Air Force after leading narrowly at halftime. Will this team lose at all in the regular season? @ Boise State and @ Nevada might be the only remaining land mines.
2. Utah State
After an easy midweek victory, the Aggies managed to stave off an upset bid from Boise State on Saturday. Sam Merrill sat most of the second half after picking up his 4th foul very early, but that didn’t hold the Aggies back. The Aggies were also included in the earlier mentioned bracket reveal. They’ll need to win out for that to remain, and a big game looms in Ft. Collins this week.
3. Colorado State
The Rams had the weekend off, and beat Fresno State 80-70 at the Save Mart Center with little trouble this past week. At 17-8, the Rams might have had a quiet week, but they didn’t lose and now sit alone in second place in the conference standings. Cannot sink them any lower than 3rd in these rankings. Big showdown with Utah State this week.
4. Boise State
I feel bad for this. The Broncos were missing starter Abu Kigab, and star forward Derrick Alston turned in a dreadful week, scoring only 9 points over the course of the week’s two games. Despite these factors, the Broncos were within one possession in the final minute of the game against Utah State. The Broncos slip one spot, but only one spot. They play Air Force at home on Tuesday, and then host San Diego State on Sunday. Can the Broncos keep it close against the Aztecs?
Okay, technically the Wolf Pack are third in the conference in the NCAA NET Rankings, ahead of Boise State and Colorado State. They dispatched two bad teams this past week. Still, those 10 losses overall are hard to ignore. Nevada is a dark horse to make noise in Vegas come the conference tournament, and might be San Diego State’s primary threat to end their perfect season. For now, 5th feels about right until some higher quality wins are obtained.
6. New Mexico
There is a real divide between to the top half of the conference and the bottom half. The cut off is right around this spot. The Lobos ended a disastrous three-game losing streak by absolutely smoking Wyoming at The Pit, the only game the Lobos played this week. They move up one spot, but only because UNLV didn’t have a particularly impressive week.
The Vegas Rebels also ended their ugly losing streak, beating Fresno State at the Thomas & Mack 68-67. The Rebels were beaten by double-digits midweek by Utah State. There were moments the Rebels were testing the Aggies, but ultimately folded late. The performance against Fresno left much to be desired. The remaining schedule is brutal, and Tuesday’s clash with the Wolf Pack is a must-win.
8. Fresno State
It’s not often a team holds their position in these rankings after an 0-2 week, but the Bulldogs threatened Colorado State at times and were unfortunate to not win in Vegas. They’re still ahead of teams ranked 9-11 in the actual conference standings. They’ll remain here for now. Chance to make a dent in these rankings on Saturday when Utah State comes to town.
9. Air Force
I honestly don’t know, man. Air Force, San Jose State, and Wyoming are all losing like crazy and picking between them is nearly impossible. The Falcons have lost 6 games in-a-row, but I’ll give them the advantage over the Cowboys and Spartans for pushing undefeated San Diego State for 65% of the game. I’m grasping for straws here.
The Pokes nearly upset Boise State midweek in a game that got bumped from television because of weather issues. Wyoming was also blown away by New Mexico. They’re not dead last in these rankings because they managed to beat the Spartans last week.
11. San Jose State
Aw hell, it was nice while it lasted. The Spartans are back in their comfy spot in the cellar. Spartans were smashed by Nevada, their only contest of the week. They’ll have a chance to bounce right back up these rankings this week with Fresno State at home and Air Force in Colorado Springs.
Agree or disagree with the rankings? Will San Diego State lose ever again? Will Utah State earn an at-large bid? Comment below.