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.
Last week: 1
Record: 17-4, 8-1 MW
Comment: San Diego State has a huge week ahead as it plays at Nevada on Tuesday before hosting Boise State on Friday. If the Aztecs win both games, it becomes the heavy favorite to win the MW regular-season title as it’d put SDSU two games up on the rest of the field with seven to play. SDSU also plays at Utah State next Wednesday, so this three-game stretch couldn’t be any bigger for the Aztecs.
Last week: 2
Record: 19-3, 6-3
Comment: After its double-overtime loss at Nevada last Monday, the Lobos didn’t look great at home against Air Force but pulled out the win by closing on a 17-8 run to take a 81-73 victory. New Mexico has scored at least 100 points per 100 possessions in all but one game this season, that being a 71-67 loss at Fresno State (95.8 points per 100 possessions). That’s awfully impressive offensive basketball.
Last week: 3
Record: 17-5, 7-2
Comment: Boise State shook off a terrible start against Fresno State to beat the Bulldogs before romping past Colorado State. In the game against Fresno State, the Broncos scored two points in its first 12 possessions (1-of-5 shooting, seven turnovers) but overcame the early deficit. There were no such issues in the 80-59 win over CSU on Saturday. This week brings games with Air Force and SDSU.
Last week: 4
Record: 16-6, 6-3
Comment: The Wolf Pack picked up its first home win over a ranked team since 2003 in its 97-94 double-overtime victory over New Mexico before losing at rival UNLV. The Pack is the last unbeaten team at home in the MW at 10-0. If it beats SDSU at home Tuesday, it has a strong shot of going perfect at Lawlor as its remaining home games thereafter are against Air Force, Fresno State, SJSU and UNLV.
Last week: 5
Record: 17-5, 6-3
Comment: Utah State has already played the road gauntlet of at Boise State (23-point loss), at Nevada (15-point loss) and at San Diego State (10-point loss). Now it gets to host all three of those teams plus New Mexico (the Aggies don’t play at the Pit this season). A home win over New Mexico this Wednesday would make Utah State legit MW title contenders given the favorable schedule down the stretch.
Last week: 6
Record: 13-9, 4-5
Comment: SJSU has beat the teams below it in the MW standings, going 4-0 against those opponents. Meanwhile, the Spartans are 0-5 against teams above it. SJSU’s next two games are versus teams below it as the Spartans face Wyoming and Fresno State next, which gives SJSU a chance to get above .500 in league play. The last time SJSU finished above-.500 in league was 1993-94 (11-7 in the Big West).
Last week: 10
Record: 14-7, 3-6
Comment: UNLV got much needed back-to-back home wins, dispatching Wyoming and Nevada to record two straight victories for the first time since early December when it won 10 straight. The win over Wyoming was led by the offense, which tallied 86 points (its third-highest figure against a Division I opponent). The win over Nevada was led by the defense, which held the Wolf Pack to 62 points. UNLV could build a nice win streak as it plays Colorado State, Fresno State and Wyoming next.
Last week: 7
Record: 12-10, 3-6
Comment: After a three-game win streak, Air Force has lost three in a row, including competitive games with SDSU and New Mexico while getting blown out at San Jose State. Five of the Falcons’ top-six scorers (and seven of their top eight) are freshmen or sophomores, so this is likely to end up being a good foundational season for Joe Scott in his third season at Air Force. A solid nucleus is being put in place.
Last week: 9
Record: 10-12, 2-7
Comment: Colorado State’s post-David Roddy decline shows how hard it is to sustain a 20-win program year in and year out, something only SDSU and Boise State have accomplished over the last decade among MW programs. The Rams’ run of close games – three straight overtimes followed by a one-point game – ended Saturday with an 80-59 loss at Boise State.
Last week: 8
Record: 7-13, 3-6
Comment: Fresno State was held to 53 points in both of its losses last week, defeats at Boise State and home against Utah State. In nine MW games, the Bulldogs have hit 60 points just three times (wins over New Mexico and UNLV and a loss to San Jose State). Fresno State is averaging 59.3 points in MW games, which makes winning those games really tough. This is the conference’s worst offense, by far.
Last week: 11
Record: 6-14, 1-7
Comment: Wyoming has challenged New Mexico and San Diego State to the final buzzer, so it’s not like playing the Cowboys is a gimmie. But there have also been plenty of noncompetitive games, including a 20-piont loss to Utah State, a 17-point loss to Boise State and a 14-point loss to UNLV. The only lingering question is whether star center Graham Ike (foot) will play this season with coach Jeff Linder saying this week he’s making progress and any decision on whether he plays will be left up to Ike.
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.