It’s only February, to quote the great Jon Rothstein!
We’re over halfway through the 2022-23 Mountain West men’s basketball conference slate and nearly one month from the Mountain West Tournament! By now, we know what *most* teams are and most teams aren’t, but there’s still the famed parity from game-to-game and week-to-week. That said, let’s dive into this week’s power rankings!
1. San Diego State (18-5, 9-2)
Last week: 1
Skinny: For the second consecutive week, SDSU places atop our power rankings! They did suffer a tough nine-point loss to Nevada in Reno, but unleashed all their angry emotions on Boise State (without their best player) Friday, eviscerating them 72-52. Even with a bad Matt Bradley outing, the Aztecs held the foursome of Chibuzo Agbo, Max Rice, Tyson Degenhart and a hobbled Naje Smith in check, for the most part. Nathan Mensah was also a dominating force and looked like the MW Defensive Player of the Year we’ve been accustomed to over the years, which was a big reason why SDSU was able to jump out to a big lead. Now, they’ll face a surging Utah State squad in Logan on Wednesday, their first Quad 1 road game of the season.
2. Nevada (18-6, 8-3)
Last week: 5
Skinny: Nevada is the only team in the Mountain West to have beaten both San Diego State and Boise State, the two foes who were above them heading into last week. They are also the only team with eight Quad 1 and 2 victories. Thus, their wins against SDSU and Air Force puts them jumps them to No. 2 this week. Nevada’s still getting very good basketball from Jarod Lucas, Will Baker and Kenan Blackshear, one of the best trios in the conference. Next up: A pivotal matchup against New Mexico in The Pit!
3. Boise State (18-6, 8-3)
Last week: 2
Skinny: It didn’t help that Boise State was without their best player, Marcus Shaver, on Friday, or without Degenhart for a healthy portion of the game due to foul trouble. But the Broncos looked everything but good against an angry SDSU coming off a loss. They were blown out by 20 and the game was fairly one-sided. It’s uncertain or not what Shaver’s status is for this next week, but they are going to need their point guard over this brutal stretch run if they want to avoid getting deeper into the Bubble.
4. Utah State (19-5, 8-3)
Last week: 4
Skinny: Utah State was letting it fly against Colorado State on Saturday. They knocked down 18 triples, including 13 combined from Steven Ashworth and five from Taylor Funk, who scored 47 combined points. Utah State’s offense might be clicking at the perfect time, as they welcome San Diego State to the building on Wednesday in an important Q1 meeting. This is a big week for them.
5. New Mexico (19-4, 6-4)
Last week: 3
Skinny: In New Mexico’s only game last week, they got trucked by 11 on the road against the Aggies. They’ve now lost two of their last three, both on the road. They’ve been dynamite at home this season outside of its clunker against UNLV on Jan. 7, and will have perhaps its biggest home contest to date against Nevada on Tuesday. This is a pivotal game for both programs, who are both entrenched in the Bubble. UNM lost to three by Nevada in a controversial double OT ending last month.
6. San Jose State (14-9, 5-5)
Last week: 6
Skinny: All five of San Jose State’s starters reached double figures against Wyoming on Saturday night — spearheaded by Omari Moore, who had 29 points with five 3-pointers, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. All but eight of their points came from the quintet, knocking down 11 triples and shot 56.6 percent from the floor; it also forced an 16 turnovers against a Wyoming squad who doesn’t typically turn the rock over often. This was a good win for Wyoming despite the opponent, and will have to travel to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs on Tuesday before a home bout against Utah State on Saturday.
7. Fresno State (8-14, 4-7)
Last week: 10
Skinny: Fun fact: Half of Fresno State’s victories have come against UNLV. The first came in a 13-point win — 76-63 — on Jan. 21 and the most recent came in Vegas on Friday, 82-79. It accounts for their only two MW victories since Jan. 3, when they handed New Mexico their first loss of the season. Isaiah Hill and Jemarl Baker had two of their best games this season, despite a valiant 27-point effort from UNLV’s Elijah Harkless. Fresno State’s offense has been pretty dormant all season, but knocking down nine triples and 49.0 percent of its shots definitely helps!
8. UNLV (15-8, 4-7)
Last week: 7
Skinny: UNLV remains one of the most perplexing teams in the conference. They seemed to tighten up defensively over their three-game win streak over Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado State. But then hit another bump in the road against Fresno State, the worst offense in the conference, allowing 82 points — 45 in the second half — and north of 120 points per 100 possessions. UNLV has plenty of good individual defenders, but still hasn’t put it fully together after their roaring start to the 2022-23 season. Will they be able to get back on track on the road against Wyoming and SJSU this week? Only time will tell.
9. Air Force (12-12, 3-8)
Last week: 8
Skinny: Air Force gave Nevada trouble for a half, but got outscored by 17 in the second-half en-route to a 72-52 loss. The Falcons have now lost five straight — all of which have come against Quad 1 or 2 opponents. They now head to Colorado Springs with two straight home affairs against Colorado State and New Mexico; two high-tempo teams against a methodical, “death by 1,000 cuts” Princeton attack.
10. Colorado State (10-14, 2-9)
Last week: 9
Skinny: Similarly to Air Force, Colorado State’s also looking to snap out of a five-game losing streak. They’ve won just two games since Dec. 18. Eight of their last 10 losses have come by a dozen or fewer points, including a nine-point loss to Utah State on Saturday. And it also wasn’t the best night for their fan base. Yikes! #notgreat™
11. Wyoming (7-15, 2-8)
Last week: 11
Skinny: Wyoming did trounce Fresno State on Tuesday, but then got trounce-d by San Jose State in Northern California on Saturday. Hunter Maldonado was outstanding with 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting, but the Pokes didn’t get much production elsewhere; they got one point from leading-scorer Noah Reynolds, six points from Xavier DuSell and none from Hunter Thompson. They’re going to need more from the supporting cast if they want to be in any game, let alone win them.