One of the most surprsing teams this season has been the Wyoming Cowboys. Last week they were 11-2, and had made their way onto some bracketology projections, with their top-30 ranking in the NET. But, Wyoming had not played a conference game at all this season. And prior to last week, they had not played since Dec. 25. This past week, for the first time this season, we got to see the Wyoming Cowboys in action and they made a statement in their two wins last week. Here are this week’s basketball power rankings:
1) San Diego State
The Aztecs remain atop the rankings this week despite having their last three games postponed due to COVID issues. They are still one of two teams in the conference that are undefeated in conference play. After that win against Colorado State, they showed that they are still a threat to win the conference. And as Jon Rothstein put it, the road for the Mountain West will still likely have to go through Viejas Arena.
2) Colorado State
The Rams regrouped after their first loss of the season with two wins against Utah State and San Jose State. In the recent AP Poll, they were in the “received votes” section of the poll. The loss against San Diego State should be a wake-up call for the Rams that no game will be easy in conference play. Colorado State should win its next four games, but they end the month with a road trip at Wyoming and then a rematch against San Diego State on Feb. 4 that will have an impact on the conference race.
Wyoming finally played its first conference game of the season at Utah State and survived with a narrow victory. The Cowboys had not played since Dec. 25 due to numerous COVID postponements and did not look too rusty against an Aggies program that has been a top of the conference the last three years. Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado had 23 and 21 points, respectively, and they held Utah State to 23% 3-point shooting. The Cowboys followed up that performance with a 77-67 win at Nevada to jump to 2-0 in conference play.
4) Boise State
The Broncos are rolling and extended their winning streak to nine games, after winning on the road against Nevada and New Mexico. They dropped this week simply because Wyoming had a better two-game stretch and proved themselves in its first conference games of the season. Boise State is one of three teams in the Mountain West to hold teams to under 60 points per game. The Broncos have found their calling card on defense and is proving to be one of the toughest in the Mountain West.
5) Fresno State
The Bulldogs won their first two conference games against San Jose State and UNLV, which were their first two games of the new year and in almost a two-week stretch. Orlando Robinson is leading Fresno State with 19.8 points per game, which is also tops in the conference. Their defense has been impressive, leading the Mountain West with 56.6 points allowed per game. They have a tough week ahead of when they host Utah State and are on the road at Nevada. If Fresno State can pull off two wins, they might
The Wolf Pack went 1-2 in their last three games after losing to both Boise State and Wyoming and getting a win against Air Force. Nevada had shown a lot of promise after the rough start to the season. But so far in Mountain West play, they have struggled against the second-tier teams they were lumped in with when conference play started. Their two losses say a lot more about both Boise State and Wyoming, that those two teams are legitimate contenders for the Mountain West, and a possible NCAA Tournament spot, while the Wolf Pack are not.
7) Utah State
The Aggies have dropped to 1-3 in conference play after losses to Colorado State and Wyoming. Utah State has struggled significantly after a solid start to the season and picking up a win against Oklahoma. The Aggies defense has not been as strong in recent years, as they allow almost 70 points per game. And in some of their losses, they’ve had cold-shooting stretches, like when Wyoming held them to 23% 3-point shooting.
The Runnin’ Rebels went 2-1 this past week, winning against New Mexico and San Jose State, and dropping a home game against Fresno State. UNLV is 10-7 on the season, going 10-0 against teams they are favored against, and 0-7 when they are the underdog. UNLV looked good in its two wins, but they were significant favorites. The Mountain West has a lot of teams in the top 100 of the NET and KenPom, and UNLV will eventually play all those teams. The Runnin’ Rebels will have to pick up a couple of wins against those teams to break their current trend or else they will not win a lot of Mountain West games.
9) Air Force
The Falcons have dropped their last two games after upsetting Utah State in their conference opener. They had respectable showings against both Colorado State and Nevada, with the scores being within single digits. Air Force returns this week with a tough stretch where they face both Boise State and Colorado State as part of a three-game stretch in five days.
10) New Mexico
New Mexico has hit a rough spot as they are 0-4 to start conference play and have the worst winning percentage of any Mountain West team. Despite being in last place in the conference with the most conference losses of any Mountain West team, they kept Boise State close last weekend. And they are also one of the top-scoring offenses in the Mountain West, averaging at least 77 points per game this season. There has been a lot going on with the Lobos program off the court and with injuries, but if everyone is healthy they should be able to show their full potential.
11) San Jose State
The Spartans dropped their last three games in their return after their long COVID pause. San Jose State was in a tough spot with the long pause that set them back a couple of weeks. They have a tough three-game stretch in six days where they face UNLV twice and make a trip to Wyoming in between its games with the Runnin’ Rebels.