We had another good weekend of Mountain West hoops, beginning with a thriller in The Pit with multiple upsets on Saturday to shake up the standings! But without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s power rankings!
1. New Mexico (18-2, 5-2)
Last week: 1
For the second consecutive week, the Lobos are atop of our Mountain West Connection Power Rankings. Thanks to a beautiful slip-and-score from Morris Udeze, the Lobos squeaked out an 81-79 nailbiter against Boise State on Friday. The Lobos have now won four straight with an 114.1 adjusted offensive rating over that stretch. But the Wolf Pack await them in Northern Nevada — which could be one of their toughest tests to date.
2. San Diego State (15-4, 6-1)
Last week: 2
The Aztecs still aren’t getting the scoring outburst from Matt Bradley that they probably expected heading into the season, but they’re still finding a way to take care of business with different contributions from Darrion Trammell, Keshad Johnson and Lamont Butler — albeit on inefficient shooting. They got off to slow starts in both of their games last week against Colorado State and Air Force. Though both resulted in victories, keeping them at No. 2 in this week’s power rankings.
3. Boise State (15-5, 5-2)
Last week: 3
The Broncos were two near buzzer-beaters — a game-tying 3-pointer from Tyson Degenhart at the end of regulation, plus a layup from Morris Udeze in overtime — away from yielding its sixth-straight victory. Three of the Broncos’ six losses on the season have come by two points, including their last two to Nevada and now New Mexico. Max Rice is playing, by far, the best basketball of his collegiate career, scoring from all areas of the floor, while Tyson Degenhart continues to be a punisher on the interior. Boise State is still playing very good basketball under Leon Rice, regardless of Friday’s result, but their schedule softens up with Fresno State, Colorado State and Air Force over their next three games — business they need to take care of.
4. Nevada (15-5, 5-2)
Last week: 4
The Wolf Pack’s lone contest this week resulted in a 15-point loss on the road against Boise State, their second Quad 1 loss in their last three games. They’re now 4-5 in Quad 1-2 games this season and will have another big test against New Mexico Monday at home, where they’re 9-0 this season. And a big reason for that has been their 3-point shooting; similarly to numerous other programs, Nevada’s shooting at home has been far better than it has been away from home. At home, it’s shooting 48.3 percent from the floor — 57.1 percent on 2s, 36.8 percent on 3s — sporting a 61.9 true-shooting percentage; away from Lawlor, it’s shooting 41.2 percent — 46.8 percent on 2s, 32.6 percent on 3s — with a 53.5 true-shooting percentage.
5. Utah State (16-4, 5-2)
Last week: 6
Breathe, Utah State fans. It escaped two Quad 3 nailbiters over UNLV and San Jose State this last week. Utah State navigated a 10-point second-half deficit by rekindling what’s led them this far: Their 3-ball. It knocked down eight of its 13 second-half triples after a 2-for-10 start in the opening 20 minutes, including two consecutive 3s from Taylor Funk and Steven Ashworth with less than three minutes remaining. Utah State’s still the top 3-point shooting team in the nation — connecting on 42.7 percent of its triples — but the volume at which they take-and-make them has dipped since the start of conference play. That’s a byproduct of consistently facing sturdier defenses, too.
6. San Jose State (12-8, 3-4)
Last week: 5
San Jose State has lost four of its last five — all of the losses coming against a Quad 1 or 2 opponent, with the one win coming an a 10-point defeat over Fresno State on Jan. 10. The Spartans look like they have their point guard of the presumed future with Alvaro Cardenas, who’s averaging 11.4 points, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals over his last six games. Omari Moore’s efficiency from distance has been an issue of late, but he’s still averaging 17.7 points on decent overall efficiency over his last 10. The Spartans are 2-6 in Quad 1-2 games this season and there’s scheduled to be six left for the remainder of the season, which will be paramount if they want to move up the standings.
7. Air Force (12-8, 3-4)
Last week: 8
Air Force’s three-game win streak was snapped on Saturday with a 10-point loss to San Diego State. Both of their Quad 1 losses have come to SDSU. Now, six of their next seven will be against Quad 1 or 2 opponents, including five against Quad 1 foes. It goes without saying that it’s an incredibly daunting stretch, but perhaps the Falcons can squeak one or two of those out by the death of 1,000 cuts (literally; the Princeton offense will do that to teams).
8. Fresno State (7-11, 3-4)
Last week: 10
The Bulldogs picked up a 76-63 win over the ever-so-struggling UNLV on Saturday, the 76 points marking their second-highest scoring game of the season. Fresno got a career-high 28 points from Isaiah Hill, the third 20-point game of his four-year career, going 7-of-12 from the floor while scoring an additional 10 points from the charity stripe. Hill’s 28 came in lieu from a down performance from Jemarl Baker, who was averaging 14.6 points over his previous nine games, and leading-scorer Isaih Moore, who did not play. Next up: At Boise State, which will be anything but an easy task.
9. Colorado State (10-11, 2-6)
Last week: 7
After a narrow six-point overtime loss to San Diego State, Colorado State slipped-up in a rock fight on the road against Wyoming, losing 58-57 — a final score you don’t usually expect from teams with two of the worst defenses in the conferences. But neither team shot the ball well; Wyoming sported a 46.6 true-shooting percentage, went 6-of-26 from distance and 6-of-11 from the free-throw line; CSU shot 52.1 percent true-shooting, hit just five 3s (on 18 attempts) and went 8-of-12 from the free-throw line. Colorado State has gotten inspiring performances from its supporting cast outside of Isaiah Stevens, but still has had a problem closing late in games.
10. UNLV (12-7, 1-6)
Last week: 10
After UNLV was once considered in the bubble after winning their first 10 and 11 of their first 12, the Runnin’ Rebels have been in a free fall standings-wise. They’ve lost six of their last seven, including four straight to Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State and now Fresno State. Three of those six defeats have come by five or fewer points, which makes this torrid stretch look slightly more fruitful, but Kevin Kruger’s squad is going to improve defensively (103.8 DRTG over last seven) if they want to get back into the hunt.
11. Wyoming (6-13, 1-6)
Last week: 11
With their one-point victory over Colorado State on Saturday, the Pokes snapped an eight-game losing streak and are now in the win column in MW Play. For a team that lost their previous three by a combined 45 points, a Quad 3 victory — again, in a rock fight — at home is a step in the right direction. Let’s see if they can get another victory in their next two games against UNLV or Fresno State — who have both struggled in MW Play.