Just like it does most every week, this week’s Mountain West basketball slate featured multiple exciting finishes and chaotic developments. Let’s hop into our final power rankings for the month of January!
1. New Mexico
Another week, another new leader atop the Mountain West Conference. The Lobos have now earned five straight wins. But with three Quad 1 and 2 victories by a combined 65 points—including a 34-point shellacking Sunday evening against Nevada—they place in the top-15 nationally in NET. New Mexico is averaging 91.2 points over this five-game winning streak with an adjusted offensive rating of 126.0 points per 100 possessions over that span. One thing’s for certain: When healthy, they are one of the most talented, dominant mid-majors in America.
2. Utah State
Truth be told, Utah State is on the same tier as New Mexico, so this second-place ranking shouldn’t be taken as a slight. It is now in sole possession of the top spot in the Mountain West. The Aggies secured their first Quad 1 win of the season Saturday over Boise State, courtesy of Ian Martinez’s game-tying layup with one second left in regulation that forced overtime in a sold-out ExtraMile Arena. Utah State’s 90-84 overtime win came by dominating the charity stripe in OT, making it now winners of 17 of its last 18. They return home to face a struggling SJSU before hitting the road for another tough contest against San Diego State inside Viejas.
3. Boise State
Boise State’s battle with Utah State was one of the most exciting MW battles of the season with myriad lead changes and both teams going blow-to-blow with one another. Though the Broncos were not able to close the door in overtime after the Aggies scored the period’s first six points. The Broncos remain outside the top-50 in NET but are still likely a tournament team at the time of this writing. Three of their next four will be on the road against New Mexico, Colorado State and Utah State, which is tall task for any team to handle.
4. San Diego State
SDSU took care of business in its only game of the week last week, earning an 81-65 victory over Wyoming. They remain unbeaten 10-0 at home this season, having not lost a home game since Jan. 14, 2023. That will be tested this upcoming week with a home affair against Utah State, who’s been inarguably the surprise of the Mountain West this season.
The Pokes pulled off one of the most improbable comebacks you’d ever see after trailing by 11 with 1:11 to go. Mason Walters’ layup tied it at 65 as the buzzer expired, soon followed by Akuel Kot’s go-ahead four-point play in overtime to put Wyoming ahead 76-74 with 27.5 seconds left.
OT it is.— Alex Taylor (@alex_m_taylor22) January 27, 2024
Mason Walters with the buzzer-beater at the end of regulation to tie it 65-65. pic.twitter.com/yKQb1LqCqU
Akuel Kot’s 4-point play to put the Cowboys up 76-74 with 27.5 left to go. pic.twitter.com/nxiGc9lpX2— Alex Taylor (@alex_m_taylor22) January 27, 2024
Sam Griffin finished with 24 points on 8-of-19 shooting while Kot added 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Saturday was another episode why the Mountain West is oftentimes coo coo (for Cocoa Puffs). What a moment.
The Wolf Pack are now losers of four of their last five games, with its lone victory over that span coming against Colorado State Wednesday. The Pack held a vaunted CSU backcourt to just 15 points on a combined 7-of-24 shooting. The sunshine and roses didn’t last long, getting drubbed by 34 points to a hungry and healthy New Mexico squad Sunday evening, snapping Steve Alford’s nine-game win streak against his former team. Its lone game of the week this week will be against SJSU on Friday before it hits the road again to face a very formidable Utah State squad on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
7. Colorado State
Since the turn of the calendar, the Rams have lost four consecutive true road games against Utah State, Boise State, Nevada and Wyoming, respectively. Their loss to Wyoming came in unreal fashion, which, as a result, was their first Quad 3 loss of the season after having not lost a non-Quad 1 game all year. They have a good enough non-conference resume to keep their tournament hopes alive, but can’t afford any more dastardly blunders away from home to keep that true.
UNLV’s time in the top-6 was short-lived, getting blasted by 32 at home by Air Force—who entered the game winless in MW play—last week. It shot a measly 31.6 percent from the floor and a lowly 5-of-28 from beyond the arc, while Air Force shot 55.4 percent and 14-of-28 from distance. You’re not going to win any game under those circumstances. It bounced back against San Jose State with a 12-point win, but are losers of three of its last five and four of its last seven, which is why they come at No. 8 this week.
9. Fresno State
Fresno State entered Saturday losers of five of its last six, though it earned a 14-point win over Air Force after entering halftime down three. After being ahead by just six with seven minutes left, the Bulldogs exploded for a 10-2 run and did not trail by nine the rest of the way. Led by big Enoch Boakye, Donovan Yap and Isaiah Pope down the stretch, this was a win that Fresno needed to secure to quiet any noise for another game, though challenges await with three of their next four on the road, beginning with UNLV Tuesday.
10. San Jose State
The Spartans suffered two losses at home last week to New Mexico and UNLV, having now lost six of their last seven to open MW play. While they have good individual defenders, team defense has been perhaps the biggest reason for its struggle; it’s been good on the glass, but MW opponents are shooting 43.0 percent with an effective field goal percentage nearing 60 percent (58.6). That’s not sustainable, even with good 3-point shooting.
11. Air Force
Rytis Petraitis’ 18-point, 13-rebound, 11-assist triple double against UNLV was historic; it marked the second time in program history where a triple double was recorded, joining teammate Ethan Taylor. It snapped Air Force’s eight-game losing streak, though the Falcons suffered its sixth loss of MW play Saturday against Fresno State amid a late collapse.