Now that we are a month into conference play, we are starting to learn more and more about these teams in the Mountain West. For example, Boise State is showing that they are a contender for the time. San Diego State’s offensive struggles in the non-conference play have been exemplified. Wyoming is showing they are a legitimate contender. And, a four-bid Mountain West is becoming more of a reality. There is still a month to play in the season, and these rankings could change a lot over the next few weeks. With all of that, here are the first power rankings of February:
1) Boise State
The Broncos remain in first place with a 14-game winning streak after a close win against Wyoming and a tough road win at Fresno State. Boise State keeps answering the call in all of the tough games they have played this season. Road wins at Utah State, San Diego State, Fresno State, and a win against Wyoming have proven Boise State as a real NCAA Tournament caliber team. They have Wyoming again in Laramie on Feb. 3, and still have to face Colorado State twice. It will be hard to envision the Broncos winning the rest of the games, but they are in a great spot to get the one seed in the conference tournament.
Wyoming took round one of The Border War last night in a thrilling overtime victory. Wyoming could not close the deal in a close loss at Boise State, but they finally got that signature win on the season that will help its resume. The win now has the Cowboys in the field in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket this morning, as the last team in. On Thursday, Wyoming gets its chance to avenge its loss to Boise State, this time in Laramie, and beating the Broncos will be another signature win for the Cowboys that will carry a lot of weight and further up in the bracketology projections.
3) Colorado State
While Colorado State has lost its last two games, they have only dropped one spot in the rankings. Bryce Hamilton had a career night in a 14-point loss Friday night, while that will qualify as a bad loss, there was not too much the Rams could do when one of the best players in the conference had a career night. And they lost a close game on the road to a potential NCAA Tournament team, it’s not a bad loss, but beating Wyoming on the road would have made up for the UNLV loss. Next up is a home game against San Diego State with Colorado State having the opportunity to get revenge for the 30-point loss on Jan. 8.
4) San Diego State
The Aztecs got a much-needed pick-me-up after a blowout win at home against New Mexico. The previous four games had been a complete roller coaster for San Diego State, that featured two blowout wins, one against Colorado State, a blowout loss at Utah State, and a 37-point performance at home in a loss against Boise State. With just over a month left in the season, San Diego State will have to find consistency now, or else they could slip out of the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has them in the “last four in” grouping, and they could move back up with a win on the road against Colorado State later this week.
5) Fresno State
Last Friday night Fresno State had a prime opportunity to upset Boise State and end its winning streak but could not close the deal in overtime. There was a point not too long ago where Fresno State was, kind of jokingly, brought up as the fifth Mountain West team to get a possible bid to the NCAA Tournament, but that ship has sailed, when it comes to an at-large spot. The Bulldogs are more than capable of winning three games in three days and winning the conference tournament.
6) Utah State
Utah State is without question the most interesting and confusing team in the Mountain West. They opened conference play with a road loss at Air Force, but have blown out San Diego State and Nevada in its last two games, while having close games against Boise State, Wyoming, and Colorado State. The Aggies will be a dangerous team come Mountain West tournament time, given some of these players are used to making runs in the tournament. If Justin Bean gets hot in the tournament, and the Aggies can knock down 3-pointers, the Mountain West might have a bid-thief on their hands.
The Runnin’ Rebels have moved up after their upset win against Colorado State on the road. Bryce Hamilton scored a career-high 42 points to help UNLV get its first signature win with Kevin Kruger. UNLV showed that they can beat a quality Mountain West team, after coming close against San Diego State and Fresno State. The biggest concern for the Runnin’ Rebels is scoring, they cannot rely on only Hamilton to score 40 or more points. They need Donovan Williams to return to 100% after his injuries. And guys like Mike Nuga, Jordan McCabe, and Justin Webster to help him out.
The Wolf Pack have dropped after losing their last two games. They squandered a double-digit lead against Colorado State and lost by 11. And got blown out against Utah State by 29 points. As we’ve seen, there is not much separation between the top teams and the middle-tier teams on the Mountain West. The Wolf Pack have only beaten one team that is ahead of them in the standings, Fresno State, and that’s why they have dropped to their lowest mark since early in the season. But, Nevada will get UNLV tonight with a chance to extend its winning streak against its in-state rival and move ahead of them in the rankings.
9) Air Force
The Falcons are still about .500 overall (10-9) and 3-5 in Mountain West play. Much of their success is due to the home-court advantage with the altitude and cadets that come out to every game. They almost beat Wyoming at home last week but lost on a buzzer-beater. The Falcons did get a road win at San Jose State and will have a few more chances to get some more wins when they get New Mexico and San Jose State at home.
10) New Mexico
The Lobos picked up their first conference win of the season last week against San Jose State. New Mexico had been so close to getting its first win, like against Utah State and Wyoming, but they had not been able to close the deal. Now, having that win under its belt, New Mexico might find some confidence to possibly pull off a few more wins. They have home games against Air Force and Wyoming that could be wins if they close the deal.
11) San Jose State
The Spartans are still winless in conference play. They have lost seven straight games and after losing against New Mexico, there is a possibility they could go winless in conference play. They play New Mexico at home and Air Force, but it is in Colorado Springs. San Jose State will be a tough rebuild for Tim Miles but if the Spartans can find a few more wins, they could have some momentum for next year.