We are roughly one month into the 2023-24 men’s basketball season, thus the non-conference slate is roughly one month away from concluding! Let’s hop into our first December power rankings!
1. Colorado State
The Rams, who cracked the top 20 in the AP Poll last week, picked up an emotional home victory over Colorado followed by a five-point win over Washington, who’s now suffered three tough losses to three Mountain West programs. The Rams remain one of two teams in the MW without a loss and will have a challenging home affair at home Saturday against Saint Mary’s.
2. New Mexico
New Mexico’s nine-point win over Louisiana Tech felt bigger than the score indicated. It took one half for Jaelen House, who missed five of the team’s first six games due to injury, to shake off the rust. But he followed suit with a remarkable 28-point, four-assist outing on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range in New Mexico’s dominant 44-point thrashing over intrastate rival New Mexico State.
The Wolf Pack’s defense—spearheaded by Kenan Blackshear, Tre Coleman and Daniel Foster—put together another dominant performance Saturday evening against Loyola Marymount, limiting LMU to a 41.5 effective field goal percentage. Nevada’s 3-point shooting still isn’t up to par, but it’s getting to the charity stripe and controlling the glass. It continues to dominate its non-conference schedule, which is all you can ask for from this squad.
4. San Diego State
The Aztecs were on the brink of disaster Friday, trailing by 14 with seven minutes left against UCSD, a Quad 4 opponent. The Aztecs fought back and, courtesy of a Jaedon LeDee tip-in at the buzzer, escaped with a 63-62 victory. Its last three Division-I wins have come by a combined 13 points with two overtime victories.
5. Utah State
Utah State picked up two victories this week, including a big one against UC Irvine this week, fueled by its defense in the second half. It held the Anteaters to 35.7 percent shooting across the final 20 minutes and just 1-of-6 from deep. It marks their best victory of the season thus far and will have two games this week against San Diego and Northwest Nazarene. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the potential of this Aggies squad as we enter December.
6. Boise State
Man ... did the Broncos need that three-point win over Saint Mary’s Friday after losing three of four to Clemson, Virginia Tech and Butler. It was one of Boise’s cleaner offensive performances, but the defense looked as cohesive as it has in any game this season against a Gaels squad that’s also struggled out of the gate; Saint Mary’s has lost five of their last six, but this Boise win still shouldn’t be looked at any differently.
We have a shakeup at the bottom of the conference, as the Runnin’ Rebels climb from No. 10 to 7 after its two-point win over Akron ... despite nearly blowing an 18-point lead. UNLV, a top-80 offense, doesn’t have anyone averaging more than 14 points, but has at least six players—Kalib Boone, Luis Rodriguez, Jalen Hil, Dedan Thomas, Jackie Johnson and Justin Webster—averaging at least eight points per game.
8. Air Force
The Falcons picked up their biggest win of non-conference play Sunday with a 22-point win over Portland, who beat Wyoming earlier in the week. In Rytis Petraitis’ second game back from injury, he posted 20 points on five rebounds on 8-of-12 shooting. AFA was excellent defensively and controlled the game inside the arc, where it finished 22-for-32 in classic Falcon fashion!
9. San Jose State
The Spartans suffered two rough road losses this week to Cal Poly—in overtime—and Montana. Its loss to Cal Poly was its first bad loss of the season, as Cal Poly is ranked outside of the top 330, according to KenPom’s metrics. The Spartans have been a good 3-point shooting team and have defended the perimeter well so far, though it will need to consistently put together victories as non-conference play closes.
Wyoming’s lone loss this week came to Portland. It has not played a home game in nearly a month, so perhaps three straight at home—beginning with South Dakota Mines on Tuesday—could be a good reset for the Pokes, who have lost three of their last five games.
11. Fresno State
The Bulldogs are the only MW team under .500 and come in last for the second consecutive week. They suffered a tough four-point loss to Santa Barbara before getting crushed by nationally-ranked BYU, who outscored Fresno by 21 from beyond the arc and forced 14 more turnovers. The Bulldogs place in the bottom 10 across Division I in turnover percentage. That needs to be cleaned up. Yikes!