By now, most college basketball teams have released their full schedules ahead of the 2021-2022 season. And, as usual, there are plenty of marquee events that will catch the eye of many college basketball fans.
For the Mountain West Conference members, it’s no different. There are a plethora of great non-conference games that put the conference on a national level with quality programs.
Here is a list of 10 of the most interesting non-conference games (in order of date played) for Mountain West teams that everyone should watch this season.
San Diego State at BYU (Friday, Nov. 12)
The first week of the college basketball season features a pair of NCAA Tournament teams from last year. It is always a treat when a Mountain West team faces off against BYU. Last year, the Aztecs lost their first game of the season last year to BYU at home. The loss dropped San Diego State out of the top-25 rankings, after picking up a pair of wins against PAC-12 teams, UCLA and Arizona State. Both these teams will be contenders for at-large bids in this year’s NCAA Tournament and the winner of this game could have an upper hand when it comes to seeding for the tournament.
Utah State vs Richmond (Veterans Classic on Friday, Nov. 12)
Utah State will begin the Ryan Odom with an early-season test against Richmond in the Veterans Classic. The Aggies lost Craig Smith to Utah, along with Rollie Worster and Marco Anthony who transferred to Utah. Center Neemias Queta declared for the NBA Draft, but the Aggies still have Brock Miller and Justin Bean. They face a Richmond team that was destined for the NCAA Tournament last year, but due to a lot of COVID issues, they did not play all of their games and just missed out on the tournament. The Spiders return nearly their entire team and will be one of the favorites in the Atlantic 10. We’ll learn a lot about Utah State and where they are with their new head coach when they face Richmond.
UNLV vs California (Saturday, Nov. 13)
Under the direction of former Runnin’ Rebel and new head coach Kevin Kruger, UNLV faces off against PAC-12 opponent California. The Runnin’ Rebels have 10 newcomers on their roster, and they will get a good test early in the season, against a Power 5 opponent at home, to see where they are and what this team will look like with all their new players. The last time UNLV played California, the Runnin’ Rebels lost 79-75 in overtime at Berkley. The Golden Bears went 9-20 last year, but will still be a good test for UNLV this season.
San Diego State vs Arizona State (Thursday, Nov. 18)
The Aztecs continue their tough non-conference schedule with a game another rematch against a team they beat last year when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils this year. The two teams met as nationally ranked teams, with San Diego State coming out on top 80-68. The Sun Devils had a disappointing season last year and will be looking to rebound, and get back to the NCAA Tournament. Getting a win against San Diego State will do that for the Sun Devils, and for the Aztecs, getting a win against a power conference opponent will boost its NCAA Tournament resume.
Boise State vs St. Bonaventure (Charleston Classic Thursday, Nov. 18)
The ending of last year was disappointing for Boise State. In a span of a couple of weeks, the Broncos went from a solid at-large team, around an eight or nine seed, to off the bubble and out of the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos will have a big void to fill with Derrick Alston Jr. graduating, but they have brought in a three-star shooting guard R.J. Keene who will look to be a key piece on the Broncos for a long time. This is the first game of the Charleston Classic, and other teams in that tournament include Clemson, Temple, West Virginia, and Marquette. The Bonnies won the Atlantic 10 conference tournament last year and could be in contention to win it again. We will learn a lot about Boise State and if they can compete in the Mountain West this season.
New Mexico vs UAB (Las Vegas Invitational Thursday, Nov. 25)
The Lobos are under new head coach Richard Pitino and they are looking to get back on the national scene. New Mexico goes west to be a part of the Las Vegas Invitational and its opening game is against UAB. The Blazers won 22 games last year with former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. Similar to the Boise State-St. Bonaventure game, the Lobos will get a chance to see where they are against a mid-major program that has been better recently than New Mexico. The Blazers should be in contention for the Conference USA championship and it will be a good challenge for the Lobos who have 11 new players this season.
UNLV vs UCLA (Saturday, Nov. 27)
2021 Final Four participant UCLA plays its lone Mountain West team when they travel to Las Vegas to face the Runnin’ Rebels. UNLV and UCLA were supposed to play last year, but due to COVID and the shortened season, the entire non-conference schedule got mixed up. It’s interesting to see both these teams play a regular-season non-conference game after the two teams went a long time without playing each other. During the Jerry Tarkaina era, UNLV and UCLA never played each other because both teams often recruited the same players. The Bruins will be heavily favored, but for the fan bases of both teams, it should be a fun match-up against a couple of programs with a unique history.
San Diego State at Michigan (Saturday, Dec. 4)
San Diego State gets its toughest test in the non-conference when they travel to Ann Arbor to face a national championship-contending team in Michigan. There is a special connection between both teams as Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher was an assistant coach at Michigan under Steve Fisher. Dutcher coached the “Fab Five,” in which current Michigan head coach Juwan Howard was a player. Michigan had steered away from the “Fab Five” after there were NCAA sanctions placed on the team. But with Howard as the head coach the school is starting to embrace its past and bringing in Dutcher and the Aztecs is a way of doing it. This will be a good game and a good measuring point for San Diego State to see where they are, going against a national championship contender team.
Colorado State vs St. Mary’s (Saturday, Dec. 4)
Colorado State plays a quality non-conference opponent with St. Mary’s from the WCC. The Rams only lost one player from last year’s team that barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, the Gaels have no departures from last year. Colorado State should be a contender in the Mountain West this season after the solid season they had last year and bringing back Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy. A win against the Gaels could be the beginning of a good season for the Rams, on their way to making the NCAA Tournament.
Colorado State vs Mississippi State Saturday, Dec. 11 (Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Classic)
The Rams get a great opportunity to add to their NCAA Tournament resume in the Hall of Fame Classic against Mississippi State from the SEC. The Bulldogs and Rams both made the final four of the NIT, with Mississippi State losing to Memphis in the championship game and Colorado State losing to Memphis in the semifinals and losing in the third-place game. Getting a win against a power conference team on a neutral site will help boost the Rams’ resume and give them a lot of momentum going into Mountain West play.