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Mountain West Hoops: Ranking the Top 10 Player Matchups of the Season

The MW is stockpiled with talent this season. Let's take a look at the most intriguing player matchups of the 2015 campaign.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

10) San Diego State guard Jeremy Hemsley vs. Colorado State guard Gian Clavell (1/13, CBS Sports)

SDSU is loaded with frontcourt talent this season but the biggest question mark will be at the point guard position. Enter Jeremy Hemsley, a 6-4 freshman rated 85 overall by ESPN and ranked 65th in the ESPN 100. There will be a considerable amount of pressure on Hemsley to perform at a high level given the expectations for the Aztecs and the lack of backcourt depth.

Opposite of Hemsley is Gian Clavell. Although Clavell has dealt with off-court issues this summer, coach Larry Eustachy will count on the senior guard to bring leadership to a Rams squad that was snubbed of a tournament berth last March. Clavell logged 9.2 points per game in 2014, and with the loss of CSU's top three scorers, his production is expected to rise.

9) Boise State guard Anthony Drmic vs. New Mexico guard Cullen Neal (2/17, CBS Sports)

Number nine on the list features our comeback player matchup with Anthony Drmic and Cullen Neal. These two combined to play only 10 games in 2014 due to season-ending ankle injuries.

Boise State's 6-6 guard from Australia, Anthony Drmic, could go down as the best player to don the Bronco blue and orange. As of the start of the season, Drmic needs 521 points to be the all-time scoring leader in Boise State history. The feat won't be an easy one though, as Drmic is still recovering from an ankle injury that prematurely ended his season back in December. When healthy, the Aussie is accustomed to scoring and filling up stat sheets. Coach Leon Rice remains cautious with Anthony's injury but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Cullen Neal faces a similar challenge. Neal was off to a hot start in 2014 before injuring his ankle in the third game of the Lobos' season. 2015 will be Neal's second full season in New Mexico. Cullen, the son of coach Craig Neal, will get help from transfers Tim Williams and Elijah Brown on a team that is expected to finish in the middle pack of the conference.

If both Drmic and Neal are healthy by the time this game comes around, expect both coaches to turn these scoring guards loose.

8) UNLV guard Patrick McCaw vs. Wichita State guard Ron Baker (12/9)

UNLV's stiffest non-conference competition of 2015 is tournament-tested Wichita State.

Patrick McCaw is the points leader of the five returning Runnin' Rebels from 2014. UNLV has the top recruiting class in the Mountain West, so coach Dave Rice will lean on the sophomore guard for experience. McCaw is a lengthy guard at 6-7 but has the versatility to play the 2-guard spot as well as running the point.

Wichita State guard Ron Baker has helped turn the Missouri Valley mid-majors into major tournament threats. Baker has knocked down 178 three-pointers in three seasons with the Shockers, and has scored 10 or more points in 59 games. Teaming up with superstar point guard Fred VanVleet, Wichita State hopes to dance deep into the tournament.

UNLV has young talent and Wichita State has March Madness experience. This game is worthy of a circle on your calendar.

7) Wyoming guard Josh Adams vs. California guard Jordan Matthews (12/5, CBS Sports)

Josh Adams is entering his senior year with the Cowboys as the lone returning starter from a 25-win team. Adams was huge in the MWC tournament last season, pouring in 56 points in three games to help Wyoming clinch its first NCAA spot since the 2001 season. Adams will have to perform at the same level this season as the Cowboys embrace a rebuild.

Wyoming will have a difficult matchup in this early-December battle. The Golden Bears own one of the most talented starting fives in the country. Although the Cal frontcourt is in the spotlight, Jordan Matthews and Tyrone Wallace lead an experienced backcourt who combined for 30.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season. Matthews, a 6-3 junior from San Francisco, logged a team-high 44.3% from deep and will score double-digit points on a nightly basis. Adams is more likely to match up with Matthews simply due to height, but don't be surprised if Tyrone Wallace gets some looks against the Wyoming star.

6) New Mexico forward Tim Williams vs. Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (12/5)

Our second December 5th duo features two newcomers to their respective conferences.

Tim Williams, who sat out last season after transferring from Samford, is a 22-year old junior who averaged 15.9 points in his first two seasons. Williams is not afraid to put dents in the boxscore. As a sophomore Williams converted 60.3% of his shots, went 75% at the line, grabbed 7.3 rebounds and added 2.7 steals+blocks per game. If Williams can carry over these stats to New Mexico, we might have a dark horse competitor for MWC player of the year.

The Big Ten side of the fight is led by Purdue freshman forward Caleb Swanigan. The 18-year old from Indianapolis was named Mr. Basketball of Indiana and the 9th ranked prospect from the class of 2015. Swanigan originally committed to Michigan State before changing his mind and heading to Purdue where he could play alongside talented center A.J. Hammons.

Both New Mexico and Purdue are counting on these newcomers to fill big roles in the post. It will be interesting to see whether Williams or Swanigan can outplay the other.

5) Utah State guard/forward Jalen Moore vs. Duke guard/forward Brandon Ingram (11/29, ESPNU)

This face-off could have been higher on the list, but the overall team mismatch in this game could make it less intriguing. Utah State will attempt an uphill battle against Duke, the defending national champions.

Utah State swingman Jalen Moore is entering his junior year with the Aggies after averaging 15.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season. Moore's squad has been receiving some notice around the MW this offseason as Moore and the pieces around him continue to develop. Moore is a versatile guard/forward at 6-8 and 215 pounds. He can drive to the hoop and finish around the rim as well as strike from downtown.

Freshman phenom Brandon Ingram also has size at 6-8 and flashes the outside shooting stroke like Moore. Don't be surprised if Ingram doesn't spend more than a year in college. Ingram was the top recruit from his position and ranked number three nationally behind only Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere. Ingram isn't familiar with losing, either. He led his high school team to four straight state championships.

This is your classic one-on-one matchup between two versatile small forwards with range and interior skills. Both Moore and Ingram have such similar roles and playstyles that this contest would be too much to pass up.

4) UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman vs. San Diego State forward/center Skylar Spencer (3/5, CBS Sports)

Welcome to the block party.

San Diego State's Skylar Spencer stands at 6-10, 240. In three seasons at SDSU, Spencer has already broken the school record for blocked shots at 231. The senior is the leader of San Diego State's ferocious defense which was ranked second nationally in opponent's points per game. According to Sports Reference, Spencer was ranked the top defender of 2014 with a defensive rating of 84.5. He was also sixth in the country with a block percentage of 12.4 and started in each of San Diego State's 36 games a year ago.

Runnin' Rebels fans are counting down the days until they can watch the 7-foot Stephen Zimmerman take college hoops by storm. One of the highest rated and most talented recruits in UNLV history, Zimmerman opted to stay in Las Vegas and play for his hometown Rebels. The five-star, 92 overall rated center chose UNLV over the likes of Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas and others to help turn around a stumbling UNLV program. Zimmerman is a freak of nature. Not only does he stand at seven feet tall, he is also able to run the floor and knock down mid-range jumpers. Zimmerman also has the ability to frequently send back shot attempts in the post.

3) Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris vs. Arizona guard Allonzo Trier (12/9)

If you're a fan of back and forth scoring, tune in on December 9th to watch Marvelle Harris and Allonzo Trier fill up the boxscore.

Fresno State Bulldogs guard Marvelle Harris was named preseason MWC player of the year at the Mountain West media days earlier this month. Harris is a workhorse for the Bulldogs. He has recorded 1349 minutes in both 2013 and 2014, and last year's totals placed him third in the country in minutes played. There's a reason Harris is always on the floor, he led Fresno State in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game last season.

Freshman guard Allonzo Trier has quite the track record before even playing his first college game. Trier was the number one ranked player out of the state of Washington by ESPN. With the help of Arizona head coach Sean Miller, Trier led Team USA to a gold medal in the FIBA U-19 Championship. Trier is an ultra-dedicated student of the game and has a bright future of basketball ahead of him.

Will the senior Marvelle Harris perform under the pressure of Arizona's intimidating home court or will freshman Allonzo Trier ride UA's energy in this non-conference duel?

2) Boise State forward James Webb III vs. Arizona forward Ryan Anderson (11/19)

The MWC newcomer of the year James Webb III will take on the newly-added Wildcat Ryan Anderson.

Many were surprised by the emergence of Boise State forward James Webb III last season. Webb III is a freakish athlete who can jump out of the building. Although Webb has swagger on the floor, the 6-9 junior is as humble as they come, and remains focused on his game despite the bright lights of the NBA in sight. Webb is the leader of the Bronco frontcourt. He started 27 games last season and averaged 11.2 points and 8 rebounds a night.

November 19th's home game against Boise State will only be Anderson's third game in an Arizona uniform. The senior played his first three seasons in the ACC with Boston College. Although BC struggled the last three years, Ryan Anderson did not disappoint. Anderson has averaged double-digit points each season and has scored 20 or more points in 18 games.

Anderson will most likely match up with Webb at the power forward position. Anderson has a slightly bigger frame than Webb, but Webb's athleticism will make this matchup a must-watch.

1) San Diego State forward Winston Shepard vs. Kansas forward Perry Ellis (12/22, CBS Sports)

SDSU's final chance to pad its non-conference resume will be determined on December 22nd against the Jayhawks.

These two have met before. San Diego State escaped with a four-point win in a late non-conference game in the 2013-14 season. Senior forward Perry Ellis will hope to serve payback this time against a familiar foe.

College hoops fans are lucky enough to see a sequel of this matchup. These are two senior leaders projected to finish all-conference and lead their respective teams deep into March.

We will start with San Diego State's Winston Shepard. The senior who has played in 102 games with the Aztecs is the heart and soul of this team. Although Shepard is a top-notch defender, his scoring will be the "x-factor" for Steve Fisher's group. Shepard averaged a career-high of 11.1 points per game last season but this number will have to grow if San Diego State wants to make a tournament run. Defense is what makes Shepard such a great player. According to Sports Reference, Shepard was the fourth-ranked defender in the Mountain West last season. Perry Ellis will likely be the toughest matchup the SDSU frontcourt will face all year.

The script shifts when we take a look at senior forward Perry Ellis. Kansas has been lucky to have a player of Ellis' caliber for four seasons in this age of college basketball. Ellis, like Shepard, is the key to his team's success in 2015. Ellis is a much more complete player on the offensive end but needs defensive improvement. Ellis averaged 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on last year's KU team that lost in the second round to in-state rival Wichita State. The sky is the limit for this year's team, as coach Bill Self brings in even more frontcourt talent and returns guards Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr.

Shepard and Ellis is the top matchup of the season because of the high stakes and opposing playstyles of these two seniors. The Aztecs know how forceful Shepard is on the defensive side but need him to improve his offensive game. On the other side, Kansas could use more defensive intensity out of Perry Ellis while his scoring ability continues to blossom.

The victor of this one-on-one matchup will likely lead his team to a signature non-conference win, which could be huge come Selection Sunday.

Which matchup are you looking forward to the most?