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Mountain West basketball rankings: Is everybody chasing SDSU again?

Isaiah Stevens
Isaiah Stevens is one of four key returning players for Colorado State this season. (Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos)

Each week, Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray will rank the Mountain West basketball teams. Here are this week’s rankings, with each team’s record and a comment. All records and rankings based on the games completed by Monday night.

1. San Diego State

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: Among the biggest losers from last year’s NCAA Tournament being canceled was SDSU, which had the program’s best shot of getting to an Elite Eight (or better). The loss of Malachi Flynn, K.J. Feagin and Yanni Wetzell can’t be overstated, but this team remains in a good position to return to the NCAA Tournament. Cal State Northridge grad transfer Terrell Gomez is one of the nation’s top shooters.

2. Boise State

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: Boise State’s roster is replete with talent, so much so it had the most players on my preseason “Top 25 players in the Mountain West” article, and that was without Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot, who some believe to be Boise State’s to player (and the Broncos have the MW preseason player of the year in Derrick Alston Jr.). This should be Leon Rice’s best team yet.

3. Colorado State

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: CSU returns the best nucleus of any MW team, with the only major loss being center Nico Carvacho, and that’s a big one. But the quartet of Isaiah Stevens, David Roddy, Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore is excellent, and each of those players was an underclassmen last season, so they should be improved. The only major question is center, with former Nevada commit Dischon Thomas being a top option.

4. UNLV

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: UNLV has good top-end talent in Bryce Hamilton and David Jenkins Jr., which potentially gives the Rebels two of the conference's top-five players. Toss in quality big man Cheikh Mbacke Diong, veteran point guard Marvin Coleman, 3-point ace Moses Wood and MW preseason freshman of the year Nick Blair, and expectations are high in Las Vegas, as they should be given the roster turnover.

5. Utah State

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: This is probably low for Utah State, although I’d toss team Nos. 2-5 on this list in the same tier, so there’s little to differentiate that group. The Aggies loss stud Sam Merrill, but that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare with center Neemias Queta potentially being the league’s best player and forward Justin Bean also being a top-10 player. The backcourt is the big question mark, but this is a solid team.

6. Nevada

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: No MW team was decimated by graduations like Nevada, which lost its top four scorers, all of whom earned all-conference honors last season. Steve Alford has taken a page out of the Eric Musselman book with a roster led by transfers Desmond Cambridge (Brown), Grant Sherfield (Wichita State) and Warren Washington (Oregon State). That should be enough to keep Nevada above .500.

7. Fresno State

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: Justin Hutson has had one good season and one bad season at Fresno State, the good season coming with a roster he inherited from Rodney Terry in year one. So this is a big season in the trajectory of Hutson’s program, and there aren’t a lot of certainties outside of big man Orlando Robinson, who was excellent as a freshman last year. He’s the only returner who averaged more than five ppg last year.

8. New Mexico

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: Due to New Mexico’s COVID restrictions, the state’s two Division-I program fled to Texas cities Lubbock and Amarillo, two of the hardest-hit coronavirus hot spots in the Lone Star State. The Lobos are in Lubbock at South Plains College and don’t have any non-conference games scheduled yet since it hasn’t been able to practice. New Mexico has been impacted by COVID-19 more than any MW school.

9. Wyoming

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: There are only two first-year coaches in the MW this season, and Wyoming’s Jeff Linder, formerly an assistant at Boise State, inherited the better of the two rosters (Air Force was the other school to make a coaching change). Hunter Maldonado is one of the league better players. He led Wyoming in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals last year, but he’ll have more help this season.

10. San Jose State

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: Jean Prioleau is in his fourth season at SJSU and has posted a 15-77 overall record and 5-49 MW mark, so, yes, he’s on the hot seat. The Spartans’ seven wins last year were the most under Prioleau, and SJSU does return All-MW talent Seneca Knight and Richard Washington, who averaged double figures last season, so SJSU should at least have a fighting chance this season.

11. Air Force

Last week: N/A

Record: 0-0

Comment: Joe Scott enters the first year of his second tenure at Air Force and reeled AJ Walker, one of the league’s top point guards, out of the transfer portal. There’s not much returning production elsewhere on the roster. Scott got Air Force into the 2004 NCAA Tournament before leaving for Princeton. If he gets the Falcons back to the Big Dance in his second tenure, they should build a statue of him on campus.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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