Each week you can make a case for a team in the Mountain West to win the conference tournament, and you see a performance that makes you hesitant about another top team, or the team that you thought might win the conference last week.
There is no question that the conference is as deep as it’s ever been, meaning any team could win on any given night, or any team could lose on any night. But the top teams have slightly separated themselves from the rest of the conference. There are five teams that could legitimately win the conference tournament and make the NCAA Tournament as at-larges, one of those teams was picked to finish in eighth place in the preseason. Here is this week’s rankings with a new team at the top:
Welcome the Wyoming Cowboys to first place in the power rankings. They are the fourth different team to be in the top spot after an impressive four-game winning streak that featured wins against Boise State and Colorado State. The dynamic duo of Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado are second and third among leading scorers in the Mountain West, 20,0 and 19.3 PPG, respectively. The Cowboys have turned a lot of heads and in the manner of a week, they have gone from one of the last teams in the bracketology projections to a nine seed, in Joe Lunardi’s bracket released today.
2) Boise State
The Broncos’ 14-game winning streak was snapped after a road loss against Wyoming. Boise State needs to be applauded for its winning streak, something that rarely happens, especially for Mountain West teams. They are still in first place in the Mountain West by half a game but have a tough schedule the rest of the way out. The Broncos have a home matchup with Colorado State next Monday that will be a huge game and a game that could solidify Boise State’s NCAA Tournament chances.
3) Colorado State
The Rams picked up a much-needed win at home against San Diego State. David Roddy came up big in the final seconds of the game, hitting a jump shot that gave them a 58-57 win at home. Colorado State had been slipping in the rankings with losses against UNLV and Wyoming, also, the Broncos and Cowboys had been playing great basketball, which needs to be acknowledged. But, space around the top of the Mountain West is being crowded and Colorado State will have to fend off more challengers for the Mountain West title.
4) Utah State
Besides Wyoming, Utah State is the next hottest team in the Mountain West. The Aggies have won five games in a row and are moving up the Mountain West standings, and up in the bracketology projections. The Aggies had suffered a string of four-straight losses by seven or more teams to the other top teams in the Mountain West. But now, Utah State is winning these close games and they are establishing themselves as one of the favorites to win the conference tournament.
5) San Diego State
The Aztecs are hanging on a thread for their NCAA Tournament hopes, and things almost got worse when Nevada almost upset them at home last week. That loss would have likely dropped them out of the field and given them a bad loss. But in comparison to the other Mountain West teams, the Aztecs have had too many close games and teams around the conference are exposing the flaws in the Aztecs that they need to fix if they want to automatically punch their ticket to the tournament by winning the conference tournament.
6) Fresno State
Once again the Bulldogs had an opportunity at home to get a signature win against a top team in the Mountain West, last week it was against Wyoming but they could not finish the deal as Wyoming escaped with a 61-59 victory. Fresno State, which brings in the second-best defense in the conference (57.6 PPG), has done a great job keeping opponents off the scoreboard, but they have its own offensive struggles that don’t allow them to pull off the win.
The Runnin’ Rebels had an impressive, brief, two-game winning streak where they beat Colorado State on the road and their rival, Nevada, for the first time since 2018. But, a shorthanded UNLV had a blowout loss at Utah State. UNLV was without second-leading scorer Donovan Williams, and starting forward Victor Iwuakor only played five minutes as it appeared he re-aggravated his shoulder. Bryce Hamilton has been leading the way for UNLV, but he will need the others to step up and consistently contribute as UNLV still suffers injuries.
The Wolf Pack almost pulled off the upset on the road against San Diego State, but the Aztecs came out with a 65-63 victory. That comes after double-digit road losses against UNLV and Fresno State, ending a difficult three-game road stretch for Nevada. The Wolf Pack have been without leading scorer Grant Sherfield the entire month of February and it is really hurting the Wolf Pack. Despite there being some depth on the Nevada bench, Sherfield makes too much of an impact and his absence is being felt.
9) New Mexico
The Lobos have secured two wins in their last three games. With an open spot on their schedule, they will have Northern New Mexico this week, before hosting Wyoming and Colorado State next week. Despite the struggles this season, at 2-8 in conference play, New Mexico accounts for the second-best scoring offense in the Mountain West, averaging 76.5 PPG. The bad news is New Mexico allows the most points of any Mountain West team at 77.5 PPG.
10) Air Force
The Falcons were blown out in their last two games. It appeared a home game against New Mexico would be another opportunity for a win, but the Lobos’ offense was too much for the Falcons. After a road game at UNLV, Air Force faces a gruesome four-game stretch at San Diego State, Boise State, at Wyoming, and Fresno State.
11) San Jose State
The Spartans are on a 10-game losing streak and still have not won a conference game yet. Their last four losses have been by at least 15 points or more. It will be hard to break their losing streak this week with games against Wyoming and San Diego State.