Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who celebrate! In lieu of Christmas falling on a Monday, we have a Tuesday edition of the Mountain West basketball power rankings this week!
You thought we were skipping a week, didn’t you? No sir (or ma’am)! It was a fairly quiet week for the conference—with the exception of one team making some noise in Hawai’i. We have just one more week left of non-conference play! Let’s hop into these power rankings!
1. Colorado State
The Rams moved into the top-15 of the AP Top 25 poll with a nine-point win over Loyola Marymount. It will have one more non-conference game against Adams State, a Division-II program from Alamosa, Colo. As a result of Louisiana Tech’s two straight losses to Saint Louis and Seattle, CSU’s season-opening win dropped from a Quad 2 to a Quad 3 win, leaving the Rams with just four Quad 1-2 wins heading into the final week of non-con play.
Nevada had the most active week by far of any MW program. It won the Diamond Head Classic in Hawai’i with wins over Temple (Quad 3), TCU (Q1) and Georgia Tech (Q3) by a combined 45 points. It came on the backs of their two best players, Kenan Blackshear and Jarod Lucas, the tournament MVP. This marks the first time in the Steve Alford era that the Wolf Pack has won at least 12 of their first 13 games. Nevada is one of three teams in the nation—alongside No. 3 Houston and Villanova—who are unbeaten in Quad 1 games with at least two Q1 games played, too.
3. San Diego State
The Aztecs picked up a 14-point win over Stanford Thursday to mark their third Quad 3 victory of the season. They will have one more chance to secure their first Quad 1 victory of the season Friday with a date with Gonzaga, who has also yet to secure a Q1 victory this season with losses to Purdue, Washington and UConn.
4. New Mexico
Having New Mexico outside the top 3 feels like a disservice to how well its season has gone. But that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. They secured a 13-point win over UC Irvine, who certainly does not want to see another MW team again for quite some time. UNM will have just one non-conference game left against Eastern New Mexico, a Division-II program, before a showdown with top-ranked Colorado State to tip-off MW play.
5. Utah State
Despite picking up a 15-point win over East Tennessee State on Friday, the Aggies sunk to No. 40 in the NET Rankings (at the time of this publishing). They are unbeaten in Quad 1-2 games, going 3-0, with a 7-1 record in Quad 3-4 games. They have won 11 straight and do not have another game before they face Air Force to open MW play on Jan. 2.
6. Boise State
Boise’s five-game win streak was snapped by Washington State Thursday—its last great chance to improve its resume in non-conference play. The Broncos, who were red hot from deep over their five-game win streak, sunk just five of their 20 3-point attempts. O’mar Stanley has continued to look phenomenal, finishing with 23 points and six boards on 9-of-15 shooting, but its shooters Max Rice and Chibuzo Agbo combined to shoot 6-of-21 ... eek!
UNLV entered last week as the lone MW team under .500, but picked up an 18-point win over Hofstra to close its non-conference stretch against D-I opponents. The Rebels have played the fewest games in the conference, but are one of four teams with a Quad 1 win (Creighton); conversely, it’s also one of four teams with multiple Quad 4 losses (eek!). I’ve continued to be impressed with how things are developing defensively, but it’s going to be an uphill battle come conference play if they want to crack the top-6.
8. San Jose State
After losing four of its previous five games, SJSU earned a narrow 81-78 win over Santa Clara Wednesday to close non-conference play. Free throw shooting has been an issue for the Spartans this season, but they were able to knock down 11 of their second-half free throws—four over the final minute—to fend off Santa Clara, a top-110 team in the NET. That was its second-biggest win of non-conference play and perhaps it can keep the ball rolling heading into next week against Wyoming.
Since the Myrtle Beach Invitational, Wyoming is 3-4—splitting a two-game back-to-back against South Dakota State and UTEP this week. Turnovers have been an issue—which I’ve alluded to before—but a bad 3-point shooting outing cropped up against UTEP, going 5-of-22 from distance, which was its second-worst long-range output this season (it went 3-21 against Saint Louis in its Myrtle Beach opener). They have one more crack for a high-quality win before MW play against No. 14 BYU this week.
10. Fresno State
Fresno State lost twice last week—a three-point loss to Portland followed by a 20-point loss on the road to San Francisco. They are one of two Mountain West teams (Air Force) with no Quad 1, 2 or 3 wins—it was one more crack before MW play against the University of San Diego on Friday.
11. Air Force
Speaking of Air Force: It has lost three straight games by a combined 12 points after winning five straight. Not an ideal way to end non-conference play, especially with Utah State, Nevada, Colorado State and New Mexico making up four of its first five MW games.