The last week in Mountain West men’s basketball offered plenty of exciting action, including a thriller in Vegas between Colorado State-UNLV, premier Southern California showdowns between SDSU-Nevada and SDSU-New Mexico, an electrifying late Friday night run in Reno and a low-scoring rock fight in Fresno!
The Mountain West still holds the fifth spot among conferences in the NET and have offered plenty of parity just weeks into conference play! Let’s dive into this week’s rankings as we have a new No. 1!
11. Wyoming (5-12, 0-5)
The Pokes have now lost six straight and move to the last spot in this week’s power rankings. They lost to Utah State by 20 in Logan before getting trucked by Boise by 17 at home on Saturday night. They’ve now allowed 80-plus points in three straight games for the first time since 2020-21 and are scrambling to get stops. They’ve had the second-worst offense and worst defense in Mountain West competition and will face one of the MW’s best offense in Colorado State on Saturday. They need to figure it out, and figure it out fast.
10. Fresno State (6-11, 2-4)
The good news? Saturday marked Fresno State’s third game holding an opponent to 55 or fewer points this season. The bad news? They scored only 48, clanking 13 of their 15 3s despite shooting nearly 50 percent (18-38) inside-the-arc. Their offense has been the worst against conference competition by far, shooting just 29.5 percent from distance with a 93.8 adjusted offensive rating (per KenPom) — which would be a bottom-20 mark nationally over a full season. Their next game? Against UNLV, who has a feisty defense, on Saturday.
9. Air Force (11-7, 2-3)
Air Force put together its first two-game win streak since it won four straight from Dec. 6-20, earning two wins over Colorado State and Fresno State (in a rock fight). Against the Bulldogs, Air Force made only eight of their 29 2-point attempts, but still scratched together 15 points from Ethan Taylor and 13 from Marcell McCreary in the 13-point win. They’re still a long ways out from making noise in the conference, but winning two on the road is a good way to build momentum with Wyoming coming to Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
8. UNLV (12-5, 1-4)
UNLV sat firmly within the bubble heading into the week and didn’t help their case with an 18-point loss to Boise State and a one-point overtime loss to Colorado State. They’ve now lost four of their five conference games. And while the win over New Mexico was impressive — they have to figure out how to close games. They’re now 0-3 in games decided by five points — with losses to San Francisco, San Jose State and the aforementioned CSU. They have a chance to re-enter the bubble conversation with Utah State in Logan on Tuesday.
7. Colorado State (10-9, 2-4)
Isaiah Stevens. Wow. What much else can you say? A game-tying 3-pointer from near-halfcourt to send the game into overtime capped by a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime.
Colorado State's Isaiah Stevens went INSANE down the stretch against UNLV pic.twitter.com/pZqNfdqbUq— PSC Highlights (@psc_highlights) January 15, 2023
He and Marcus Shaver have proven to be the conference’s two most clutch players in recent weeks. Collectively, CSU’s still on the outside-looking-in, but Stevens is averaging 19.3 points and 6.7 assists on 58.7 percent true-shooting since MW play began. As long as their defense is passable, if he keep his play, it wouldn’t be surprising if Colorado State upset a few more teams before the regular season ends.
6. Utah State (14-4, 3-2)
Utah State got clobbered by Nevada after a late run mere days after throttling Wyoming by 20. The Aggies still have one of the top offenses in the Mountain West and remain as one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams, but shot 0-for-4 from distance — 2-for-12 in total — in the final nine minutes against the Wolf Pack. Their loss on Friday is their second Quad 1 loss of the season and still have just three Quad 2 wins on the season. It won’t face another Quad 1 opponent with San Diego State on Jan. 25, but will first have to go through UNLV and SJSU this week — games they need to secure.
5. San Jose State (12-6, 3-2)
San Jose State’s only game last week resulted in an 74-64 victory over Fresno State. The Spartans were uber-efficient from the hardwood, knocking down 19 of their 28 2-pointers and went 12-of-29 from distance; Alvaro Cardenas had the best game of his career, finishing with career highs in points (20), 3-pointers (6) and assists (9). San Jose State’s taken care of teams they should beat, but now face another tough week with New Mexico and Utah State waiting for them away from San Jose.
4. Nevada (15-4, 5-1)
Last week, I had the Pack as the top team in the conference ahead of San Diego State by a razor thin margin. The proof was in the pudding — San Diego State dominated Nevada for 35 minutes before a late slip-up caused Nevada that brought a once-22-point lead to single digits. It lost by nine, but rode its late momentum into Friday — when the Pack earned a 85-70 run courtesy of a late 19-0 run. Nevada’s trio of Kenan Blackshear (career-high 28 points), Will Baker (24 PTS, tying a career-high) and Jarod Lucas (21) outscored the Aggies by themselves (73-70), which helps. They’re now entering the third of their monstrous six-game stretch with a rematch against Boise State, who they beat by two in Reno to open up MW play in late December.
3. Boise State (14-4, 4-1)
Speaking of Boise State, they’ve thrashed each of their last three foes — Utah State, UNLV and Wyoming — by a combined 58 points. In lieu of Shaver’s injury, they’re getting outstanding contributions from Tyson Degenhart, Max Rice, Chibuzo Agbo and Naje Smith, who sunk four triples (on eight tries) en-route to 18 points (two off career high) in Boise’s 17-point win over Wyoming on Saturday. Its win over UNLV give the Broncos six Quad 2 victories on the season, but has yet to pick up a Quad 1 win. They have two chances this week — with Nevada and New Mexico.
2. San Diego State (13-4, 4-1)
After San Diego State’s dominant win against Nevada, it slipped up at home against New Mexico. The Lobos snapped SDSU’s 16-game home win streak and its eight-game MW regular season win streak with a 76-67 victory; the Aztecs shot just 25 percent (6-24) from deep and 1-of-7 from the charity stripe. They might get pushed out of the AP Top 25, but are still arguably the Mountain West’s best chance for an at-large bid. Though they stick at No. 2 in this week’s rankings because of their loss.
1. New Mexico (16-2, 3-2)
New Mexico re-earns the top spot in this week’s rankings after two convincing wins over Oral Roberts and San Diego State. Its win over San Diego State secured their second Quad 1 victory of the season and fourth Quad 1-2 win. It was a great response from Richard Pitino and Co. after its unfortunate two-game losing streak to Fresno State and UNLV, and the Lobos will look to build on it with two home bouts against San Jose State (Quad 3) and Boise State (Quad 1) this week followed by Nevada (Quad 1) on the road next Monday.