We are now nearly one month away from the end of 2022-23 Mountain West regular season! The conference is still fighting to bid three-to-five teams in numerous bracketology brackets — with Joe Lunardi sending four in his latest update (see below). With a pair of key victories from Nevada and Utah State this week, we might be looking at a number greater than three heading into the first weekend of February.
Nevertheless, let’s dive into this week’s bracketology!
Boise State (18-5, 8-2)
Joe Lunardi’s Bracket: 9-seed
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 9.2
Skinny: Boise State remains in serious consideration for being the best team in the Mountain West — despite being a 9-seed in Lunardi’s most recent projection — with just two conference losses. It’s won eight of their last nine and have secured seven Quad 1-2 victories on the season, tied with only Nevada for the most in the Mountain West. The Broncos have recently taken care of business against inferior foes, most recently earning a 59-52 road win over Air Force on Tuesday. And it will be in serious position to boost their resume with eight of their back-nine being Quad 1 or 2 games. Leon Rice-led teams have been as well-coached as anyone, but the proof will really be in the pudding with injuries to both Marcus Shaver and Naje Smith.
New Mexico (19-4, 6-4)
Bracket Matrix: 90
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 8.1
Skinny: New Mexico, who’ve possessed arguably the MW’s two-best players in Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr., dropped their fourth game of conference play on Wednesday in an 11-point loss against Utah State, who controlled the contest from start-to-finish. They’re fifth in NET, having lost two of their last three — both on the road — to Nevada and now Utah State. Its next contest will be against the Wolf Pack on Tuesday in The Pit, where they’ve gone 13-1 this season, including 4-1 in MW play. This will be a litmus test for both teams as we enter the second-half of MW play between two teams firmly in the NCAA Tourney Bubble.
Nevada (17-6, 7-3)
Lunardi: Last Four In
Bracket Matrix: 62
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 10.8
Skinny: No team in the Mountain West has bounced around the Bubble over the last several weeks like Nevada has. With its statement nine-point win over the Aztecs on Tuesday, the Wolf Pack are apart of Lunardi’s Last Four In. Any pending loss could flip the trajectory yet again. They’ve climbed to 7-6 in Quad 1-2 games, thanks to Tulane moving in the Top-100 in NET Rankings earlier this week — rewarding them an extra Q2 win. I dubbed Steve Alford my midseason coach of the year, but there’s still plenty of work left to do. Nevada will have to bounce back from its exhilarating victory on Tuesday with a home bout against Air Force followed by a road trip to The Pit against New Mexico.
San Diego State (17-5, 8-2)
Bracket Matrix: 90
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 6.5
Skinny: Even with Tuesday’s road loss to the Wolf Pack, the No. 22-ranked Aztecs are still among the cream of the crop in the Mountain West with the top, as evidenced by earning a 7-seed in Lunardi’s projection. They weren’t able secure another Quad 1 win against Nevada, but will be up against the aforementioned Broncos — in a battle to take control atop the MW standings — and Utah State on Wednesday, two respective Q1 affairs. I expect Brian Dutcher’s squad to be motivated to close this tough stretch of games strongly heading into the final turn.
Utah State (18-5, 7-3)
Bracket Matrix: 11
Average Bracket Matrix Seed: 11.4
Skinny: Utah State is still on the outside-looking-in bracketology-wise, but it etched a huge win Wednesday over New Mexico, their sixth Quad 2 win of the season. The Aggies are 6-0 in Quad 2 games, but are 0-3 in Quad 1 games. Perhaps if New Mexico climbs up the NET if they (handedly) beat Nevada on Tuesday, it will flip to a Quad 1 win. Nevertheless, Utah State’s still facing upcoming bouts against San Diego State (Q1) sandwiched by Colorado State (Q2) and San Jose State (Q2) on the road. There’s plenty of opportunity to boost the resume in the near future, as well as against Nevada, UNLV and Boise State towards the latter-half of the season. I’m not counting out Utah State yet, especially with how explosive the offense can be. They’re still very much in the hunt.