It’s another week of the MWCConnection roundtable. The NFL draft is looming but we discuss men’s basketball for another week. The basketball season just ended and rosters are a bit of an unknown with the recruiting cycle finishing up and being in the middle of the transfer portal window. With all of that being said, it is still interesting to consider which men’s basketball team is the early favorite for next season?
Mike: San Diego State are the defending Mountain West champions and played in the national championship game. I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt heading into next year and should be considered the favorites until proven otherwise. They have shown the ability to reload and although they lose three starters, some key bench players and three former highly-rated recruits figure to step into key roles next season. Although my choice is the Aztecs, it is worth pointing out Boise State could give them a run for their money. They should have the most complete starting five for the second year in a row and if their big-time recruits can make an impact early, their bench has the chance to be formidable as well.
Zach: San Diego State has earned the right to be the favorite, but they are losing some key contributors. They have some talented players that redshirted and a few incoming freshmen that may see immediate playing time. I think Boise State comes in a close second. The Broncos have already upgraded their roster and may be bringing in more talent than any team in the conference. The race for the conference championship should be exciting next season.
Jeremy: Yes, I know the Aztecs are losing some key contributors, but I think they’ll all be mitigated by transfer portal additions in the coming weeks. Reigning conference champs, and national championship game participants, the Aztecs deserve the right to be called overwhelming conference favorites. Nevada and New Mexico are looming, and Boise State especially is putting together a solid incoming recruiting class of freshmen/transfers. MWC hoops should be really good again, but the conference big dog? It’s the Aztecs by a mile until they leave for the Pac-12.
Matt: The easy answer is going to be SDSU unless proven otherwise. I think that New Mexico is in a good position to be a threat, but even with the production that the Aztecs are losing after their run to the national championship game, they are still the favorite. Dutcher has built an extremely consistent program down there on the Mesa, and as long as they’re in the MWC, there’s a good chance that they’re presumptive favorites each year.
Jeff: The cream has risen to the top of the MWC in the Aztecs. They have tremendous awareness with potential recruits to help fill the three or four open roster spots. It seems secure that coach Dutcher will not leave, and this bodes well for continued legacy on the Mesa. Boise State has great balance and a taste of what is needed to advance to the tournament again. They could easily win the conference tournament next year and should be considered a tourney lock. New Mexico has talent and excitement and will make noise. They must develop consistency and find ways to win in conference. Nevada is a potential dark horse as well as they build upon what was a Jekyll and Hyde type of season. San Jose State, Utah State and Wyoming are all losing key players. The rest will be challenged once again. It really is a three team race with the Aztecs out front by a length.
Aiden: I would be kidding myself if I said anyone other than San Diego State would be the favorite heading into this fall. The Aztecs are losing some high-profile pieces in Nathan Mensah, Matt Bradley, Keshad Johnson, and possibly Lamont Butler. However, the transfer portal has been a reliable avenue for Brian Dutcher in recent years. Outside of southern California, Nevada and Utah State looked to be formidable opponents before April took its toll. The Aggies are in disarray with countless players in the portal and the Wolfpack lost Mountain West Freshman of the Year Darrion Williams and Will Baker. The two programs that have evaded a mass exodus are New Mexico and Boise State. Richard Pitino took advantage of his father’s hiring at St. John’s by snagging Iona transfer Nelly Junior Joseph and retaining both Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. The Pit was revived this past year and with their electric backcourt returning, they should be a NCAA tournament team. Boise State has restocked the lineup with a slew of transfers that will likely slide into the starting five. The success of trio Max Rice, Chibuzo Agbo and Tyson Degenhart is imperative for the Broncos to not only challenge for the Mountain West title, but eliminate the goose egg in the March Madness win column. If Leon Rice can find a reliable interior player, then things will get mighty interesting come January.