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Poke Basketball Preview & Prediction: Mountain West Tournament Edition

NCAA Basketball: San Diego State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The Wyoming Cowboys will open the 2022 Mountain West Conference tournament Quarterfinals on Thursday versus the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV.

The Cowboys finished their regular season with a 24-7 record, good for the #4 seed in the Mountain West Tournament. The last time the Pokes were a four seed heading into the conference tournament was back in 2015 when they ended up winning it for the first time ever by beating the San Diego State Aztecs in the championship game. While the Pokes have been a bit grounded of late going 3-3 in their last 6 games, it seems that they’re still right where they’d like to be, given their tournament history.

https://twitter.com/MountainWest/status/1501364072599539715?s=20&t=GE1CvdV_yeF4vWOIrnZGhg

Here are my three keys to a Wyoming MW Tournament victory:

1. Strong Senior Leadership:

It’s no secret that this Wyoming basketball team is pretty young with Hunter Maldonado, Hunter Thompson, and Drake Jeffries being the only Seniors that are on the roster. With that being said, they are guys with a whole lot of influence that have a considerable amount of impact when on the floor, especially Maldonado and Jeffries. If these guys can get everyone on the same page and be the leadership trio this team needs, there’s no reason they can’t win this thing outright. They have, after all, shown the ability to beat every team in the conference.

2. Next Man Up:

While the Cowboys have looked like a well-oiled machine in a good portion of the twenty four games they’ve won this season, in the games they’ve lost either Hunter Maldonado, Graham Ike, or both, have usually had off-nights. If the Cowboys want to ensure themselves a chance at winning this year’s conference tournament, a tournament that’s gearing up to be one of the most competitive in all of college basketball, there will have to be some major impacts from key role players such as Drake Jeffries, Jeremiah Oden, Xavier DuSell, and Brendan Wenzel.

3. Control The Glass:

In five of the Pokes’ seven losses this season, their opponent has outrebounded them on both ends. The Cowboys must establish a presence down low and do it early. If Graham Ike can be that physical force we’ve seen all season long and get some help from some other forwards on the blocks, the Pokes will give themselves their best shot, no pun intended, to win.

Bracket Prediction:

From the Quarterfinals out, here’s how I think this bracket will unfold:

Quarterfinal winners: Boise State, Wyoming, Colorado State, San Diego State

Semifinal winners: Wyoming, Colorado State

Championship winner: Colorado State