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2023-24 Mountain West Basketball: What are each team’s best wins in non-conference play?

Non-conference play will be coming to wrap within the next couple of weeks.

Utah State v San Diego State Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

We are mere weeks away from the end of non-conference play. By most accounts, the Mountain West qualifies as a top-7 conference in the country and is a multi-bid league. But, each year, earning quality non-conference wins is important for the individual- and conference-wide stock. Last week, we went over the five-best non-conference victories in 2023-24. Today, we go over each team’s three-best victories.

Let’s hop into it!

Air Force (7-4):

  • Dec. 3: v. Portland (80-58)
  • Nov. 17: v. William & Mary (80-71, OT)
  • Nov. 19: v. Nebraska Omaha (58-56)

According to KenPom’s strength of schedule metric, Air Force has played the nation’s 8th-easiest schedule with all seven of their wins coming against Quad 4 opponents—none ranking inside the top-250. So it was a little bit difficult to piece together their top-3 victories; they have one Quad 2 loss (Delaware, 65-57) with a pair of Quad 3 losses by a combined 10 points. So they’re hanging around in games, but practically the only thing that will elevate their MW Standing is quality victories come conference play.

Boise State:

  • Nov. 12: v. San Francisco (63-58)
  • Dec. 1: v. Saint Mary’s (63-60)
  • Dec. 5: v. North Texas (69-64)

Boise State’s schedule has been brutal, but it’s begun to figure it out offensively after a rocky start. It has five straight wins, including the two aforementioned victories over Saint Mary’s and North Texas, whose 12-10 combined record might also be a little deceiving because of their non-conference slates. This will set them up well come March if it can be a top-3/4 team in the MW.

Colorado State:

  • Nov. 23: v. Creighton (69-49)
  • Nov. 29: v. Colorado (88-83)
  • Dec. 2: v. Washington (86-81)

Colorado State earned the nod for the conference’s best win over Creighton. But it followed up with two subsequent home wins against intrastate Colorado and Washington, who’s given multiple MW teams fits this season (despite going 0-3). CSU has been the MW’s best team so far riding into conference play with a MW POY frontrunner in Isaiah Stevens, one of the nation’s best point guards.

Fresno State:

  • Dec. 5: v. Idaho State (79-67)
  • Nov. 21: v. New Mexico State (81-76; neutral site)
  • Dec. 15: v. Cal State Bakersfield (61-58)

All five of Fresno’s D-I victories have been Quad 4 wins with all five of its losses coming against Quad 1-3 foes. They just had one win inside the top-290 and had two chances to notch Quad 3 victories against Portland State and UC Santa Barbara, losing by a combined seven points.

Nevada:

  • Nov. 12: v. Washington (83-76)
  • Dec. 17: v. Hawai’i (72-66)
  • Dec. 13: v. Weber State (72-55)

Nevada might be 9-1, but it has not had a difficult non-conference slate so far with only three of its 10 games coming against Quad 1-2 opponents. It’s margin-of-victory in those nine wins have been by 17.2 points with seven victories eclipsing double figures. Its win against Washington has better with every passing moment, which is a positive, but it will need to take care of business against the MW’s best in-conference if it wants to make a second-straight NCAA Tournament.

New Mexico:

  • Dec. 20: v. UC Irvine (78-65)
  • Nov. 29: v. Louisiana Tech (74-65)
  • Dec. 9: v. Santa Clara (93-76, neutral site)

New Mexico has dealt with injuries to its All-MW backcourt of Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn, and yet it still has not fazed them. The Lobos have won 10 straight and are a MW-best 11-1 with a pair of Quad 2 victories, including a 13-point win over UC Irvine Wednesday. Their best wins may be on the same tier as Colorado State’s/UNLV’s Creighton victories, but the Lobos have been as dominant as any team in the conference regardless of who it’s faced.

San Diego State:

  • Nov. 17: v. Saint Mary’s (79-54, neutral site)
  • Nov. 19: v. Washington (100-97, OT)
  • Dec. 9: v. UC Irvine (63-62)

San Diego State had the toughest non-conference slate, per KenPom. It’s been tough sledding for the Aztecs, but you look up and they have a 9-2 record with three Quad 2 victories. Despite several nail-biting wins, I haven’t lost much faith in San Diego State’s standing heading into MW play. They have arguably the best player in the MW in Jaedon LeDee, a top-flight defense (which has not been as dominant as it has in recent years, especially on the glass) and the conference’s best coach.

San Jose State:

  • Nov. 7: v. UC Irvine (72-64)
  • Dec. 20: v. Santa Clara (81-78)
  • Nov. 27: v. North Dakota State (78-65)

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the Spartans, who just had one of their best victories Wednesday against Santa Clara. They’ve played the third-easiest non-con schedule and are barely above .500, but three of their six losses by two possessions or less to Abilene Christian, Cal Poly and North Dakota State on Dec. 4 (second meeting of the season).

Utah State:

  • Dec. 16: v. San Francisco (54-53)
  • Dec. 2: v. UC Irvine (79-69)
  • Dec. 13: @ Santa Clara (84-82)

Utah State is tied with New Mexico at 11-1 and has also won 10 consecutive games. They earned their first Quad 1 win Saturday against USF and have etched multiple top-100 wins on the backbone of its defense and Great Osobar, who’s averaging 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds through 11 games.

UNLV:

  • Dec. 13: v. Creighton (79-64)
  • Nov. 28: v. Akron (72-60)
  • Nov. 17: v. Pepperdine (72-68)

UNLV is still the only MW team who’s below .500. Three of its four victories crack the list, which includes its 15-point win over Creighton. The Rebels could’ve added a couple more victories against Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary’s, but I believe they’re starting to figure things out defensively—spearheaded by Kalib Boone and Jackie Johnson.

Wyoming:

  • Dec. 20: v. South Dakota State (78-65, neutral)
  • Nov. 15: v. Furman (78-71, neutral)
  • Dec. 9: v. Stephen F. Austin (78-70)

The Pokes own three Quad 3 wins with just one Quad 1-2 game—a 23-point road loss to Texas on Nov. 26. They have a chance to improve its resume with one Quad 1 game and one Quad 3 game left before the start of conference play, but for the most part, it’s played a light schedule where it was able to pad some needed victories. You can only beat the teams on your schedule, right?!?!