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Mountain West basketball rankings: Make or break games loom this week for top MW teams

Tre Coleman and Nevada play at New Mexico on Tuesday in a huge game for both sides. (Mike Stefansson/NSN)
Tre Coleman and Nevada play at New Mexico on Tuesday in a huge game for both sides. (Mike Stefansson/NSN)
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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: 1

Record: 18-5, 9-2 MW

Comment: The Aztecs missed an opportunity to put away the MW last week by splitting games with Nevada (a road loss) and Boise State (a home win). That’s not a bad result, but it does keep the top of the MW supremely packed. SDSU couldn’t get a second-half stop at Nevada, with second-half defense being a concern for the Aztecs. SDSU has a huge road game at Utah State on Wednesday.

2. Boise State

Last week: 3

Record: 18-6, 8-3

Comment: Boise State never had a shot in its 72-52 loss at SDSU as Marcus Shaver Jr. was out with a foot injury and Tyson Degenhart got into early foul trouble. Shaver’s health is a bigger concern than the loss, and Boise State has a fairly easily stretch the next two weeks – games with Wyoming, Colorado State, UNLV – that is should be able to navigate if Shaver has to miss a couple more games.

3. Nevada

Last week: 4

Record: 18-6, 8-3

Comment: Nevada pulled off back-to-back home wins over Top 25 teams when it upset SDSU last week and then used a 15-0 second-half run to bully Air Force off the court. The Wolf Pack is one of 18 unbeaten D-I teams at home, but to win the MW title, Nevada likely needs at least three wins on the road in its last four away from home (at New Mexico, at Utah State, at Fresno State, at Wyoming).

4. New Mexico

Last week: 2

Record: 19-4, 6-4

Comment: New Mexico was blown out at Utah State and is now 5-4 in its last nine game after a 14-0 start. That includes road losses to Fresno State and Utah State and a home loss to UNLV. The Lobos have probably been the least consistent team among the top five in the MW since conference play began, but the ceiling is huge. The consistency comes down to defense, which has been poor the last three games.

5. Utah State

Last week: 5

Record: 19-5, 8-3

Comment: It seems like nobody is taking Utah State seriously as a MW contender or NCAA Tournament team, but the Aggies are a win at home Wednesday against San Diego State away from being in first place in the conference. After blowing out New Mexico at the Spectrum last week, the Aggies must feel good about their chances of defending home against the Aztecs and showing the MW they’re legit.

6. San Jose State

Last week: 6

Record: 14-9, 5-5

Comment: My view of SJSU might be tilted by the fact I saw the Spartans play their worst game of the season (by far) against Nevada, but this is a solid team. SJSU is 0-5 against the teams above it in the MW standings with an average margin of defeat of 14.4 points per game, so there are strides to make to beat the top of the conference. But this program has made huge strides in year two under Tim Miles.

7. Fresno State

Last week: 10

Record: 8-14, 4-7

Comment: Fresno State needs to play UNLV more often. The Bulldogs are 2-6 in their last eight games with both wins coming over the Rebels. One was a 13-point win at home and the latest a three-point victory at UNLV. The Bulldogs have averaged 79 points in those two victories against just 57.8 points per game in its nine other league contests. We know who Fresno State wants to see in the MW Tournament.


Last week: 7

Record: 15-8, 4-7

Comment: Oy vey, UNLV. The Rebels’ three-game winning streak (over Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado State) was snapped last Friday with a home loss to Fresno State. Those are the kinds of teams UNLV should not be losing to, but the Rebels played absolutely no defense against a team that struggles to score. UNLV has played one good defensive game in MW action – its 68-62 win over Nevada on Jan. 28.

9. Air Force

Last week: 8

Record: 12-12, 3-8

Comment: Air Force’s skid stretched to five games with losses to Boise State and Nevada last week. The Falcons are the youngest team in the MW by a long shot, so the key this season is learning lessons to build a brighter future. Joe Scott’s rebuild is taking time – as you’d expect at a service academy – but his team has gone from five wins to 11 to now 12 (the Falcons probably win 15 games by season’s end).

10. Colorado State

Last week: 9

Record: 10-14, 2-9

Comment: Colorado State’s ugly season hit rock bottom in its 88-79 loss to Utah State, not so much for what happened on the court, but more so for what happened in the crowd as the Rams’ student section chanted “RUSSIA” at Ukrainian-born Aggies player Max Shulga. CSU athletics and head coach Niko Medved were quick to denounce those students, who should be tracked down and expelled.

11. Wyoming

Last week: 11

Record: 7-16, 2-8

Comment: Wyoming split two games last week, beating Fresno State at home before losing by 20 at San Jose State in the team’s worst showing of the season (per game score). The Cowboys’ level of play has been all over the place in MW action with four games scores of 80 or better (on a 100 scale) and five at 37 or lower. Wyoming’s ceiling is higher than most of the bottom teams in the MW, but you don’t know what you’ll get from the Cowboys.

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

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