[Editors note: jrpritt is a new writer and will be contributing to all things basketball.]
Since San Diego State and Boise State decided to re-grace us with their presence, and with the addition of our good friends from Utah State and San Jose State, it's never too early to take a look ahead at how the basketball season might shape out.
The latest round of conference realignment leaves the Mountain West with 11 teams for basketball. The league announced they will have an 18-game unbalanced conference schedule where the top teams will play more often, a move to appease the rights holders CBS and ESPN.
Let's think about what this league used to be. Not a decade ago, the league was excited to just get its automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. San Diego State only won its first tournament game in 2011, and those two Utah teams (BYU and Utah) we no longer think about made a bunch of post season appearances. That was tops for us. Flash forward to 2013, the Mountain West was making the argument for five or six of the nine teams to be in the NCAA tournament. That's progress.
But I digress.
So, if you're anything like me, you probably cannot contain your enthusiasm until November. Here are a couple of confirmed preseason tournaments you can look forward to:
November 21-24: Down in Charleston, S.C., the New Mexico Lobos will headline the Charleston Classic. Facing the likes of Clemson, UMass and Temple this will not be the easiest of tasks, but even with losing Tony Snell to the NBA Draft and head coach Steve Alford to the UCLA Bruins, team morale is still very high behind new head coach Craig Neal; who am I to be a pessimist?
Nothing says Thanksgiving dinner like turkey, stuffing and Aztec basketball. San Diego State will make an appearance in the 76/DirecTV/Anaheim/I-can't-keep-track Classic. Possible opponents include an Arizona State team that lost guard Evan Sendek after just one season and then there is Buzz Williams' always dangerous Marquette Golden Eagles.
The Aztecs could also meet former potential (stay with me) Big West Conference rivals (would they have been rivals?) Cal State Fullerton. Sometimes, it saddens me to think of the promise that could have been there.
Nevada Wolfpack fans can enjoy some good non-conference action in the Las Vegas Invitational, also over Thanksgiving. Pay attention, because here's where I'll be looking to get some early advice on the brackets in March: potential matchups include Missouri, Northwestern and UCLA. Hard to not get excited about the return of Deonte Burton, however; after deciding against the NBA draft look for the team to get behind him in his senior year.
In December, UNLV will make a run for it in the Las Vegas Classic (note the difference in tournaments). The Rebels will attempt to make it four Mountain West teams to win the conference tournament in the past five years (BYU - 2009, New Mexico - 2010 and Colorado State - 2012).
I think we all remember what happened two years ago when the Rebels played a Holiday-time tournament in the Orleans Arena (see: Down goes then-No. 1 North Carolina).
We've still got some time until the full schedule is revealed, so make sure you keep it right here for the latest.