Another Monday, another time to rank some teams! Let’s dive into our Dec. 18 men’s basketball Mountain West power rankings as we approach the final legs of non-conference play throughout the conference!
1. Colorado State
Colorado State maintains its spot atop our rankings. Their lone win came against Division-II’s CSU Pueblo by 32 points and their penultimate non-conference game will be against Loyola Marymount on Friday—a Quad 3 game. They are the only unbeaten team in the MW in Quad 1 or 2 games (5-0) and will likely close non-conference play with the most Q1/2 wins.
2. New Mexico
Nearly two weeks after beating New Mexico State by 44 at home, the Lobos survived a late scare against the Aggies in their second meeting of the season Friday courtesy of Donovan Dent’s game-winning coast-to-coast crafty layup with 20.9 seconds left.
Donovan Dent that is NASTY. pic.twitter.com/G1pKiU4kw7— Ryan Hammer (@ryanhammer09) December 16, 2023
The Lobos have won a conference-best nine straight games and will look to secure their third Quad 2 victory Wednesday against UC Irvine, who suffered a close to San Diego State on Dec. 9 and a 10-point loss to Utah State on Dec. 2.
Nevada etched their first Quad 2 victory of the season on the Islands Sunday against Hawai’i, a fringe top-100 team (per KenPom). I’m still waiting for Nevada’s 3-point struggles to progress to the mean, but it’s still doing an excellent job getting to the free-throw line and looking connected defensively consistently. The Wolf Pack will be spending nearly the next two weeks in Hawai’i—how about that for a “vacation,” huh?—as it will tip off the 2023 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic this week against Temple.
4. San Diego State
San Diego State did not play a game this week and will play two against Saint Katherine (NAIA) and Stanford before a huge road test against Gonzaga to close non-conference play on Dec. 29.
5. Utah State
Despite connecting on just two of its 21 3-point attempts and shooting just 30.2 percent from the floor with 13 turnovers, the Aggies outlasted San Francisco in a rock fight Saturday afternoon. It was an off night for Great Osobar and Darius Brown, but got picked up by Ian Martinez, who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and five steals on 5-of-13 shooting.
6. Boise State
The Broncos have won five straight, including a 41-point victory over Northwestern State Tuesday and a 23-point win over Cal State Fullerton Sunday. Max Rice looked the closest version to his 2022-23 self Sunday, tallying 24 points on 5-of-8 from downtown. They’ve still had their offensive lumps, sure, but the Broncos are beginning to jell and figure things out offensively, which will be important when conference play arrives in January. Their non-conference schedule has been a true gauntlet, but these last three “get right” games appear to be much needed.
UNLV is 2-2 over its last four games, but its two losses have come by three to Loyola Marymount (Dec. 9) and by two in double overtime to Saint Mary’s on Saturday with wins over Akron (Dec. 28) and Creighton (Dec. 13). It’s finding its stride, especially on the defensive end, at the right time and is getting exceptional guard play from Dedan Thomas, a candidate for the MW Freshman of the Year.
8. Fresno State
The Bulldogs won a gritty three-point home over Cal State Bakersfield Friday. It hasn’t always been sunshine and roses, but Fresno State has won three straight games after a three-game losing streak. It will look to continue its stride against Portland State, who’s 3-3 over its last six after starting 5-0, on Monday.
9. San Jose State
San Jose State has lost four of its last five games, the latest being its second loss to Montana in roughly two weeks. Since Nov. 28, the Spartans are getting outscored by a Mountain-West worst 13.4 points per 100 possessions; opponents are shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range with a 54.4 effective field goal percentage over that stretch, according to Barttorvik. What’s worse is they’ve scored only 102.3 adjusted points per 100 possessions against three defenses that rank outside the top-275 over that stretch.
Wyoming is dead last in the recent KenPom update, slotted at No. 213 with all three of its losses coming to Quad 3 or 4 teams. Even though it got off to a blazing hot start, the Pokes suffered a 13-point loss to Weber State Saturday—its first loss in Laramie, Wyo., this season. It caps off non-conference play against South Dakota State (Quad 3) Wednesday followed by No. 17 BYU (Quad 1) on Saturday.
11. Air Force
Air Force, who’s played one of the nation’s easiest non-con schedules, suffered a three-point loss to UT Arlington this weekend in its only game this week. All but three of Air Force’s 11 games have come against Quad 4 opponents, and it will face another this week in Northern Colorado before MW play begins. AFA might be 2-2 since his return, but Rytis Petraitis is averaging 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals on 57.0 percent true shooting through four games—a very encouraging sign.