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State of the Mountain West basketball address

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A look at Wyoming, the Mountain West, and the NCAA, along with the Border War

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

Basketball is weird this season.

I don’t really think we need to look very much to find evidence of that. Let’s take a look at Wyoming’s last couple of games.

February 8. The Cowboys are playing Fresno State in Laramie. The game lasted way longer than it should have, going into four (!) overtimes. It was the second four-OT game of the season, and the second in as many days.

It really shouldn’t have lasted that long either. Hayden Dalton fouled Deshaun Taylor on a three-point attempt with two seconds left. The Cowboys were up three. Taylor made all of them.

That, in essence, is the story of the game. Dumb mistakes and lots of free throws.

Jason McManamen went off, nailing his first seven three-point shots. He finished the night with 30 points, and Dalton had the first 20-20 game for the Cowboys since HL Coleman in 1997 (h/t Anthony Masterson).

Then there’s the Utah State game a couple nights ago. After taking Fresno State to four overtimes, the Pokes couldn’t pull away from the Aggies.

Utah State dominated Wyoming off the glass, grabbing 41 boards to 26. The Cowboys couldn’t stop fouling, giving USU 27 chances from the charity stripe.

Dumb mistakes and lots of free throws.

Which brings me to my next point. It’s usually around this time that the president gives the State of the Union address.

(from a distance) actually, that’s in January

Okay, so I’m a little late. However, the sun is starting to set on the basketball world, so we’re going to have our own three-part State of the Basketball address.

Part One: Wyoming

Wyoming is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. They’ve done pretty alright against teams rated as well or better than them. They’ve only lost by an average of nine points to three top 50 teams.

Conversely, they’ve [redacted] the bed against really bad teams. They’ve lost to Pacific, UNLV, and Utah State. Those three teams are , to put it nicely, below average.

I just want to know if this team is good or bad, you know? I’m tired of not knowing whether or not this godforsaken team is going to win a game.

Take the Border War for example. On paper, these two teams look pretty close. Similar records, and not that far off in RPI. Should be a good game, right?

Answer: I have no idea. This game could be close, or it could be a blowout. It depends on how well Wyoming can shoot the three and whether or not their defense shows up at the end of the half.

Speaking of, I want to know how badly the Cowboys are being outscored in the last five minutes of each half. Expect something on that towards the end of the season.

I should be thankful for their schizophrenic performance, honestly. It’s better than the bad performance a lot of people predicted.

Part Two: The Mountain West

Let’s take a quick look at the preseason article.

Yeesh.

I’m not going to talk about how people were wrong about San Diego State or Wyoming or Utah State or anyone else.

What I am going to do is use this to describe the chaos of the Mountain West.

The Mountain West, like the rest of college basketball, has been wild and unpredictable.

One of the worst teams (Utah State) has beaten the best team in the conference (Nevada). Nevada has also lost to Fresno State. Twice. Boise State has barely beaten Utah State twice. Air Force has beaten San Diego. Cats and dogs are living together. Mass hysteria.

Part Three: The NCAA

I don’t think there’s been a season like this before. So many good teams have been upset.

Take the week of January 22nd. 14 (14!) ranked teams lost, including seven members of the top ten. Not only that, but 11 of the 14 teams lost to unranked teams. Only one of them lost to a team ranked higher than them (Virginia lost to Villanova).

I really don’t have much else to say on just how nuts this season is. I can’t really put it into words.


As I’d mentioned before, Wyoming plays CSU in Laramie. That could be really good for the Cowboys! They, like everyone else in the conference, play really well at home. UW currently has a 12-2 record at home, while “boasting” a 4-8 record in road/neutral site games.

CSU hasn’t fared well away from home either. They’re 5-5 outside of Moby Arena. Not great, Bob.

CSU’s calling card this season has been their defense. They own the second best defense in the Mountain West, and hold opponents to 67.3 ppg, also second best in the conference.

Wyoming is the polar opposite. The Cowboys have the second best offense in the conference, and score 77.7 ppg, again, the second best in the conference.

That offense, however, is highly dependent on how well Wyoming can shoot threes. Take the Fresno game, for example. That game wouldn’t have gone the way it did if they’d shot the way they did against, say, Utah State.

The X-factor of this game is the quality of Wyoming’s defense. While CSU has one of the best defenses in the conference, Wyoming has the worst.

They’ve allowed the second most points per game in the conference (75.1), but make up for it with that high tempo offense of theirs.

While UW does have home-court advantage on their side, I’m not really going to anticipate anything special tonight. The numbers give Wyoming a 55% chance to win, but that could easily swing the other way.

See you next time.

Go Pokes