Mountain West basketball fans were treated to an early conference season matchup with the top two teams in the preseason poll. It was probably the first time there was a benefit to COVID postponements, after San Diego State and Colorado State had their regularly scheduled games put on hold. Unfortunately, the game was not that close, as San Diego State had a dominating performance to give Colorado State its first loss of the season. The early season matchup led to a shakeup in the rankings, let’s take a look at this week’s rankings:
1) San Diego State
The Aztecs are alone atop the Mountain West standings with a 10-3 overall record, and a 2-0 conference record after their win on Saturday against the Rams. After having just a four-point lead at halftime, they held Colorado State to just 17 second-half points and 23% shooting. It was the breakout, dominating performance that we were looking to see from San Diego State. They scored 79 points and shot 54% in the second half, showing what their offense is capable of. And held Colorado State to only 49 points, showing that their defense is still the best in the Mountain West.
2) Colorado State
The Rams suffered their first loss after a 30-point loss in San Diego. Colorado State struggled to break through San Diego State’s defense as they had 17 turnovers after averaging less than 10 in its first 11 games. Aside from Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy who combined for 36 points, the Rams got no offensive contributions from anyone else, as only one other player managed to score more than two points. Despite the Rams’ struggles, there is no need to panic since this was their first road game since their long pause. If anything, the rest of the Mountain West was reminded that reigning Mountain West champions will still be a threat to win the conference
3) Boise State
The Broncos have not played since Dec. 28, but it has not been a total loss for them. At 10-4 and on a seven-game winning streak, Boise State has found themselves on the bubble in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology predictions that came out last week. Boise State did have games against Utah State and Colorado State postponed due to COVID issues. It would benefit Boise State if they could get both of those games, and ideally win because it would boost their resume come March.
4) Utah State
The Aggies picked up a big road win at The Pit after they overcame a double-digit deficit to get their first conference win of the season. Justin Bean led the way for Utah State with 23 points in 43 minutes played. It wasn’t just him as the Aggies had five other players in double-digit scoring. Utah State will need consistent scoring from its supporting cast, so Bean is not the lone scoring option for them.
Wyoming still has not played a conference game after COVID issues have postponed its last four games, including its game scheduled for tomorrow against San Diego State. Similar to Boise State, the pause will have an impact on any NCAA Tournament hopes the Cowboys have. And with four games postponed, and more possibly postponed throughout the season, it will be hard to make up all four games.
The Wolf Pack were also plagued with COVID issues and they missed their last two games. It was a tough break for Nevada as they seemed to turn the corner and build some positive momentum at the end of non-conference play. Nevada is scheduled to play tomorrow against Boise State and it should be a good matchup against a pair of teams looking to make some noise in conference play.
7) Fresno State
The Bulldogs were on a pause that saw them miss their last three games. There were COVID issues in the Wyoming program that postponed their last game. And they had COVID issues of their own that postponed their game against San Diego State. Fresno State returns tonight to face San Jose State, which should be a good matchup for them after not playing since Dec. 28.
8) Air Force
The Falcons suffered their first conference loss last week to Colorado State 67-59. Air Force did cover the spread as they faced a Colorado State team coming back from an extended COVID pause. I believe the game being so close had to do more with the Rams playing their first game in some time, as the Falcons could only muster 59 points, a problem they had near the end of non-conference play.
The Runnin’ Rebels had their game against Air Force postponed due to COVID issues in their program. Head coach Kevin Kruger said that COVID ran through the entire program and that UNLV did not even have enough coaches for last Saturday’s game, along with not having the minimum seven players. Kruger said that some of his available players might have to play a full 40 minutes in UNLV’s game tonight against New Mexico. We’ll see who is available for UNLV tonight when they return to action.
10) New Mexico
The Lobos suffered a 90-87 loss in overtime to Utah State after New Mexico led at halftime 42-27, and was seemingly in control for a good portion of the game. As much as the Lobo offense has been praised for being one of the best in the Mountain West, their last place defense (77.9 PPG allowed), really plagued them down the stretch as Utah State got hot, shooting over 70% in the second half to close the gap and force overtime.
11) San Jose State
San Jose State returned from its three-game COVID pause to host Bethesda University. The Spartans easily put away the small junior college school 118-43. We will finally see the Spartans play their first conference game tonight when they make the trip to Fresno to face the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. PT.