We’re almost three weeks into conference play of the 2022-23 Mountain West men’s basketball team and, as previously belabored, it has been as competitive and unpredictable as we all know it to be. Though it’s sitting in dangerous good territory bracketology-wise — four teams rank in the top-35 in the NET and six in the top-70, in addition to five in the top-65 in KenPom. Even though it’s still too early to determine whether what we’re currently witnessing is fool’s gold or not, let’s evaluate each team thus far!
Boise State 13-4 (3-1)
Joe Lunardi’s Bracket: 11-seed
Bracket Matrix Tracker (out of 64): In 19 current projections
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 10.32
Skinny: Boise State is an 11 or 12 seed in most recent bracketology projections, including an 11-seed going up against TCU in Joe Lunardi’s latest projection. Boise’s earned recent victories over Utah State and UNLV — both in convincing fashion — despite arguably their top player, guard Marcus Shaver, not being 100 percent healthy with an ankle injury. Those two victories alone were their only two Quad 1 victories of the season, only strengthening an already-stacked resume, giving them seven Quad 1-2 victories — two more than any other team in the Mountain West. Their next Quad 2 game will be a rematch against Nevada on Jan. 17 followed by a visit to The Pit against New Mexico (Quad 1) on Jan. 20.
New Mexico 15-2 (2-2)
Bracket Matrix: 54
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 9.65
Skinny: The Lobos dominated non-conference play at 13-0, though it only faced three combined Quad 1 or 2 opponents along the way: Saint Mary’s (won by four), Iona (won by eight) and Oral Roberts, who they beat on Monday by seven. Their loss to UNLV on Saturday gave them their first Quad 2 loss of the season — as they have yet to face any other Quad 1 or 2 opponent in Mountain West play so far. Though their schedule gets much tougher, beginning with a trip to Viejas to take on San Diego State followed by Boise State, Nevada and Utah State in four of their next six games. These are must-win games, and we’re going to learn a lot about whether New Mexico’s start is for real or not over these next few weeks.
Nevada 14-4 (4-1)
Lunardi: First four out
Bracket Matrix: 20
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 10.9
Skinny: After previously being dubbed an 11-seed and an automatic qualifier, the Pack fell out of Joe Lunardi’s latest 68-team bracket projections in lieu of their nine-point loss to San Diego State Tuesday. That was only the start of a gauntletsix-game stretch for Nevada, where they could theoretically pad their resume against Utah State, Boise State (who they already beat at home by two), New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State. Pretty tough, right? With as much parity that’s spread across the conference already this season — who knows how Nevada will fare. Regardless, we’re going to learn a lot about the Pack’s postseason chances over these next six games — which all but one are Quad 1 opponents.
San Diego State 13-3 (4-0)
Bracket Matrix: 64
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 5.81
Skinny: If the season ended today, San Diego State would have the best chance at making the NCAA Tournament out of the Mountain West. Currently, they’re hovering around a 5-7 seed in most bracketology polls. They’re undefeated in MW play; after narrowly beating up an injured Wyoming program on the road, they thumped Nevada by nine — even though the score was closer than the actual game — inside Viejas. They have a good resume with three combined Quad 1-2 victories over Ohio State, UNLV and Nevada. It also helps when two of their three losses were to Arkansas (by four) and Saint Mary’s (by seven) — Quad 1 opponents in neutral sites. They don’t face another Quad 1 opponent until Jan. 25 when they host Utah State, but will have a chance to their Quad 2 resume when against New Mexico (at home) and Colorado State (on road) within the next week.
UNLV 12-4 (1-3)
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 11.5
Skinny: UNLV is practically on the outside-looking-in; it’s still early, but they still have the worst conference record among those involved on this list. Though they’re second in Quad 1-2 victories with five, which is why they’re still technically in this conversation. All three of their Mountain West losses have been to San Jose State (Quad 2), San Diego State (Quad 1) and Boise State (Quad 1), and their schedule gets a little softer over the next couple of weeks, which isn’t ideal if they’re looking to turn things around. All they can do right now is 1.) Hope the teams they beat continue to perform and 2.) beat the upcoming foes on their schedule, which is no guarantee nowadays.
Utah State 14-3 (3-1)
Lunardi: First four out
Bracket Matrix: 29
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 10.6
Skinny: Utah State’s teeter tottering between “last four in” and “first four our” territory as a projected 11-12 seed. It doesn’t help matters that their two non-conference losses came to Quad 4 opponents — Weber State and Southern — by three points apiece. The Aggies got back on track with a win against Wyoming at home on Tuesday after they suffered their worst loss of the season (by point differential) to Boise State on Saturday, losing by 23. Though 10 of their final 14 games will be against Quad 1 or 2 squads, starting with Nevada on Friday in a Quad 1 matchup for both teams.