Who’s ready for a four-bid Mountain West conference? If you aren’t, you need to start preparing yourself for the possibility.
I know what you are probably going to say, “what happened to the four-bid Mountain West last year?” I know, the whole season last year with COVID and make-up games really threw a wrench in the Mountain West’s plans for getting four teams in the tournament.
But I can assure you that this year is different. Even though there is still a month left to play, the Mountain West teams are setting themselves well for getting four teams into the tournament.
Currently, all the major bracketology projections have four Mountain West teams. Joe Lunardi of ESPN, Jerry Palm from CBS Sports, Kevin Sweeney from Sports Illustrated, and Lukas Harkins from HeatCheckCBB, all have four Mountain West teams in their fields.
You can make a case for each team to make the NCAA Tournament, but they are not perfect. With a month to play before the conference tournament and the automatic bid is handed out, each team has opportunities to get themselves in better spots for a possible at-large spot.
Here is a breakdown of the Mountain West teams and where they stand when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament.
The Rams are not as safe of a spot as they were a couple of weeks ago. They lost on the road at Wyoming in overtime but were embarrassed against UNLV last Friday, which is a bad loss. Colorado State was as high as a six or seven seed in some projections, but now they have dropped to the nine, 10 line in this week’s projections. I don’t see them falling when you see the other teams on the bubble.
Joe Lunardi has both Creighton and Mississippi State on the bubble, teams that Colorado State beat. So as long as the Rams do not have any more bad losses, they should be in as an at-large. And avenging their loss earlier this year to San Diego State tonight could help the Rams move back up.
The Broncos’ 14-game winning streak was snapped last night in Wyoming, that’s the bad news. But the good news is that Boise State is still in first place in the Mountain West by half a game over Wyoming. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the winning streak the Broncos were on, that helped catapult them into a solid spot for the NCAA Tournament, and helped avenge its bad losses earlier in the season.
Boise State is around the eight, nine seed range, so they are in a bit of a safe spot compared to some of the other teams on this list. But, the Broncos still have those two bad losses from earlier in the season, a Quad 3 and Quad 4 loss, so they cannot afford a loss to an Air Force or New Mexico or else they will start slipping. I see Boise State making it in the field as long as they avoid the bad losses.
The Cowboys are building themselves a solid resume. Wyoming had the best week of any Mountain West team after beating both Colorado State and Boise State at home. Wyoming now sits a half-game behind Boise State for first place in the Mountain West. Within the span of a couple of weeks, the Cowboys have played themselves into a potential at-large spot.
Currently, Wyoming is one of the last teams in the tournament as projected by both Lunardi and HeatCheckCBB. Aside from the two wins this past week, the Cowboy’s resume is a bit bare. They only play San Diego State once, and that’s at home, and they get a rematch with Colorado State in Fort Collins. Wyoming has shown this past week that they are a contender for both an at-large spot and to win the Mountain West, something we did not expect for the team picked to finish tied for eighth in the preseason poll.
San Diego State
The Aztecs have been slipping in recent weeks after their losses to Wyoming and Boise State. While those are not bad losses, those would have been opportunities for quality wins, which San Diego State is lacking at the moment. Lunardi has them in his “Last Four In” group, and HeatCheckCBB has them as one of the “last four byes,” both as 11-seeds.
San Diego State has a big game tonight against Colorado State. If the Aztecs can get the season sweep over the Rams, it will add another quality win on their resume, a road win in this instance, and it should move them up out of the 11-seed range. The Aztecs still have games against Boise State and Wyoming, on the road, Utah State at home, and Fresno State twice. All teams are in the top-60 of the NET and will give San Diego State the opportunity to play itself out of the 11-seed range.
The top four teams are in the best spot to get in the tournament as at-larges, but we cannot forget the other two Mountain West teams that are sitting inside the top-60 of the NET, Utah State and Fresno State.
You just can’t count out the Aggies, can you? The team that has made the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years (they would have made it in the year the tournament was canceled due to COVID), is making another late-season push to steal a bid. What’s hurting Utah State is its bad losses at home to UC Davis and in the conference opener to Air Force.
The Aggies picked up wins against San Diego State and have games coming up against Wyoming on the road next week, and later this month, road matchups against San Diego State and Boise State. Utah State’s numbers are good but they need to add some wins to its resume, and will have plenty of chances to do so in the coming weeks.
Fresno State’s only chance to make the NCAA Tournament is to win the conference tournament. While its numbers are fairly high, they do not have a lot to show on its resume. The Bulldogs have three road games near the end of the season against Colorado State, San Diego State, and Wyoming that could add to their resume, and maybe put them on the bubble. But Fresno State cannot afford another bad loss as it had against Nevada.