As we get deeper and deeper into the season, we — the media, fans, followers — begin to see what’s real or what’s fool’s gold. There’s been plenty of parity, but the conference has slowly, but surely rounded into form as we’re nearing the end of the Mountain West men’s basketball season.
New Mexico, albeit in-part due to injuries, UNLV and San Jose State weren’t actual (regular season) contenders. Nevada’s hot start proved to be justified. Wyoming does desperately miss Graham Ike. Colorado State failed to meet their regular season expectations, even with Isaiah Stevens back.
I can go on. With just weeks left until the conference tournament, there’s been rightful shake-up below them of late, San Diego State — No. 22 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll — has remained atop of the Mountain West standings for the last several weeks. They’re not top-heavy, but this is one of the deepest squads Brian Dutcher’s ever had with a top-50 offense with a top-20 defense.
But have they already locked up their third regular season Mountain West title in four years? According to TeamRankings.com, the odds are definitely in their favor, but the race is still far from over.
San Diego State, one game up in the conference loss column to Boise State — who won a pivotal contest against New Mexico on Wednesday — and two to Nevada, has a 77.9 percent chance of winning another regular season championship, with Boise State (19.6 percent) and Nevada (2.5 percent) trailing them.
San Diego State’s won nine of their last 10 and have three more contests on the docket: New Mexico (road), Boise State (road) and Wyoming (home; senior night). Its most realistic outcome is likely going 2-1, but winning out might be just as realistic. Let’s look at their counterparts’ remaining schedules:
- Boise — San Jose State (road), San Diego State (home; senior night), Utah State (road)
- Nevada — Fresno State (road), Wyoming (road), UNLV (home; senior night)
Nevada, winners of four of their last five, clearly have the easiest schedule, but will need to rely on at least one loss by Boise State and two more by San Diego State to have a share at a Mountain West title.
Let’s narrow it down to just Boise State and SDSU.
Boise State remains the one roadblock in San Diego State’s path; the Aztecs won the first meeting 72-52 on Feb. 3, so a split would possibly tie them for No. 1 in the Mountain West, assuming both teams win their other games. Let’s look at the MW two-team tiebreakers for the 2022-23 season, per the Mountain West:
“If two teams tie for a position, and one holds a win-loss advantage during regular season play, that team receives the higher seed. If the two teams split their games during the regular season, each tied team’s record shall be compared against the team occupying the highest position in the standings, continuing down through the standings until one team gains the advantage, thereby gaining the higher seed. If two teams remain tied after all other tie-breakers have been exhausted, the last tie-breaker to determine an advantage shall be team NET rankings, as determined by the most updated official NCAA NET.”
It might not matter in the end, but let’s examine their H2H against familiar opponents.
- Nevada: Both split.
- Utah State: SDSU is 2-0, Boise is 1-0 (final matchup in final game of reg. season)
- New Mexico: Boise is 1-1, SDSU is 0-1 (final meeting on Saturday)
- SJSU: Boise and SDSU are both 1-0 (will face Boise again on Saturday)
- Fresno State: Boise and SDSU are both 1-0
- UNLV: Boise and SDSU are both 2-0
Obviously Boise State has to beat San Diego State, but if they do, there’s an opportunity to earn the tiebreaker, if push came to shove. It’s obviously not locked up yet, even the Aztecs are rightfully the heavy favorite.
If the Aztecs beat Boise State in their penultimate regular season affair, it’s not going to matter anyways. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel for both teams, and perhaps not as clear as one would suggest heading into the final stretch.
Let the games be played!