We are now halfway through the 2022-23 Mountain West men’s basketball season. The Mountain West maintained one — albeit, different — team ranking in the AP Top-25 with three others logging votes. The conference is still as wide open as ever, but we’re slowly — but surely — recognizing who’s separating themselves from the pack (no, not Wolf Pack) as we enter the second-half of MW Play.
O.K., enough jibber jabber — let’s dive into this week’s power rankings!
1. San Diego State (17-4, 8-1)
Last week: 2
Skinny: We have a new No. 1 team this week! The Aztecs claimed the top-spot by winning their third- and fourth-straight game, respectively, this week. They beat Utah State by 10 — “you’re welcome,” says Adam Seiko, maybe — and San Jose State by 21. SDSU is the only Mountain West team with one loss, but will have three consecutive Quad 1 games — beginning with Nevada on Tuesday followed by Boise State on Friday.
2. Boise State (17-5, 7-2)
Last week: 3
Skinny: Boise State has one of the nation’s top defenses and they proved why on Saturday. It held Colorado State — one of the most electric offenses — to 59 points and 41.1 percent shooting, despite only forcing seven turnovers. Nothing came easy for Isaiah Stevens and CSU. Oh, and Boise State completely dominated a flimsy Ram defense by shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor. Four of the Broncos starters scored at least 14 points, including a game-high 22 points on a near-perfect 10-of-11 shooting. That’s pretty good, right?
3. New Mexico (19-3, 6-3)
Last week: 1
Skinny: New Mexico bounced back with an eight-point win over Air Force after its heartbreaking double-OT loss to Nevada. Though it didn’t come easy — Falcon forward Nikc Jackson fouled out midway through the second-half, flipping the game on its head — and UNM took full advantage of it. It has now won four straight at home and moved to 13-1 on the season in The Pit. It has just one game this week — on the road against Utah State, a Quad 1 affair — before the Wolf Pack come to town on Feb. 7.
4. Utah State (17-5, 6-3)
Last week: 5
Skinny: Utah State suffered their third loss of MW play at the hands of Adam Seiko, who posted a career high 25 points with seven 3s in Wednesday’s 10-point loss at San Diego State. But the Aggies bounced back against Fresno on the back of Daniel Akin, who’s been a saving grace to their frontcourt off the bench this season. He logged a season-high 23 points on 8-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds, completely outmanning Fresno State’s Eduardo Andre, who battled foul trouble and finished with just one point and one rebound in 13 minutes. They only made six of their 18 triples, but their defense looked dominant and fundamentally sound. It helps when it comes against the Mountain West’s worst offense, but it will face two tough tasks this week against New Mexico and Colorado State.
5. Nevada (16-6, 6-3)
Last week: 4
Skinny: Nevada beat Utah State earlier in the season and knocked off New Mexico — their first win over an AP Top-25 opponent since 2003 — in double-overtime. If you’ve read my power rankings in recent weeks, I do weigh recent head-to-head victories over one another, so I guess it’s fair if you have Nevada in the top-3, by that logic. But Nevada is the exception to the rule, in this case. It had a remarkably up-and-down week, capped by a stinker against intrastate rival UNLV, going nearly the final four minutes without scoring. UNLV leaped from No. 80 to No. 75 in the NET (at the time of this publishing) — thanks to Michigan’s loss on Sunday — as the Pack now drop to 5-6 in Quad 1-2 games. It still is without a resume boosting statement win on the road, but will have a couple more bites at the apple in the coming weeks against New Mexico and Utah State.
6. San Jose State (13-9, 4-5)
Last week: 66
Skinny: Omari Moore and the Spartans dominated Air Force by 30 points before falling by 21 on the road at the Aztecs. Though San Jose State has won just two of their last seven games — against the aforementioned Falcons and Fresno State — after beginning the season 11-4. The problem resides on the offensive end, tallying fewer than 58 points in three of those games and scored 64 in another (against Boise, one of the best defenses in the country). They’ll have Wyoming and Fresno State over their next two to correct it — even though they’ve gotten splendid play from Alvaro Cardenas and Omari Moore this season.
7. UNLV (14-7, 3-6)
Last week: 10
Skinny: The Runnin’ Rebels! What a week they had, scratching together victories over Wyoming and Nevada to give them their first two-game win streak of Mountain West play. Their defense looked like it was in early-season form against the Wolf Pack, looking very physical at the point-of-attack with connectivity on its switches. It held their respective rival to zero points in the final 3:42 to earn their fourth Quad 2 victory this season. UNLV still has ways to go before making any sort of bubble noise, but they picked two victories they needed to secure to remain possibly in the hunt.
8. Air Force (12-10, 3-6)
Last week: 9
Skinny: Air Force, in the thick of their toughest eight-game stretch of the season and one of the toughest in the MW, has now lost three straight to San Diego State, San Jose State and New Mexico on Friday before upcoming bouts against Boise State, Nevada, Colorado State, New Mexico and Utah State. Yikes! They were competitive against New Mexico before it slipped away, in large part due to their foul trouble to their frontcourt — including the aforementioned Jackson fouling out. They’re now 1-6 in Quad 1-2 games, and as I previously mentioned — it does not get any easier.
9. Colorado State (10-12, 2-7)
Last week: 7
Skinny: Colorado State’s lone contest was....well, not a good one. The Rams lost 80-59 on the road to a superior Boise State squad — who possess one of the best defenses in the country. The Broncos piled on 44 first-half points and shot 59.2 percent for the game — 72.0 percent on 2s and 45.8 percent on 3s. Isaiah Stevens was the only Ram to reach double figures with 19 points, but the Rams ultimately couldn’t get stops; when you can’t get stops against one of the best defenses in the country, you’re probably not going to win the game. Bold take, but it’s true! They have now lost six of eight against Quad 1-2 opponents and seven of nine in MW play.
10. Fresno State (7-13, 3-6)
Last week: 9
Skinny: Utah State bull-rushed the Bulldogs, who got little-to-nothing from their foursome of Isaih Moore, Jemarl Baker, Andre and Isaiah Hill. They weren’t able to generate hardly any offense and shot just 34.5 percent from the floor with nearly a-third of their made field goal attempts (19) coming from distance (7). Their pressurized defense did a good job, but conjuring together 88.9 points per 100 possessions won’t match good offenses, such as the one that Utah State has. Losers of five of their last six, the Bulldogs square off against Wyoming and UNLV this week.
11. Wyoming (6-14, 1-7)
Last week: 11
Skinny: The Pokes, who’ve just won one of their first eight MW affairs, come in as the last-place team yet again. They’re 0-9 in Quad 1-2 games — which make up eight of their final 10 games — beginning with SJSU on Saturday (after Fresno State on Tuesday). This is a lost season for a squad that desperately needs Graham Ike.