Blog Entry

What-to-know tourney previews: Mountain West

Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:52 pm
The Mountain West shrank to eight teams this season, but with that downsize, the league actually became one of the best in the country. There's an argument to be made about the MWC vs. the ACC. After all, both could end up with four teams in the NCAAs. And even though most will side that the ACC is the better league, there's no doubt the MWC usurps the uninspiring Pac-12. The conference went 88-27 in the non-conference, putting it up there with every other league in terms of winning percentage. None of the teams entered conference play under .500.

And here's a little advance notice: the MWC will be even better next season. We'll save that talk for the summer and fall, though.

This year, the conference has three teams that can reach the second weekend, meaning it could win more than four tournament games for the first time in more than a decade. It's going to be the third consecutive year the MWC sends at least three to the NCAAs, too.

Last year's tournament was the Jimmer show. Although BYU's gone, don't expect this year's bracket to be any less entertaining. Let's get to the quarterfinal tilts and assess the possibilities in the coming days.

The carousel has turned for the top three teams in the Mountain West. Is SDSU the true best team? (US Presswire)


San Diego State (1) vs. Boise State (8): The Aztecs are one of the most surprising teams of 2011-12, considering the group lost so, so much of its production from last season. Remember, this was a team that was a No. 2 seed -- its highest ever in the NCAA -- in 2011. This could've been a rebuilding year, but instead sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin was the league's best player and guided SDSU to a 24-6 record. He averages 16.7 points per game. But here's the hitch: as far as this matchup is concerned, Boise State is a tough out for the Aztecs, who only earned a two-point home win over the Broncos in February. It'll be a fist fight, but SDSU should move on.

Colorado State (4) vs. TCU (5): The Rams make for the most intriguing MWC team because they're not in the field yet, though a lot of bracketologists disagree on their place within the bubble and overall seed list. Some have them in with room to spare, while others clearly have them out, even needing an MWC final appearance to justify inclusion. The Rams have been bad on the road, so they can't help themselves any more here, but getting another win against the top three, which they beat once, all at home, is paramount. Against upstart TCU, Colorado State split the season series. I think the Rams are definitely out with a loss here. Pierce Hornung is the most reliable scorer in the conference, and he'll be huge for CSU.

New Mexico (2) vs. Air Force (7): Not much to discuss here. New Mexico absolutely dominated Air Force in both meetings this year, winning by an average of 34.5. This shouldn't be trouble, and could set up a very entertaining semifinal with ...

UNLV (3) vs. Wyoming (6): The Runnin' Rebels. You want to know about the MWC's depth? Vegas is the three seed, but I also think this team goes further in the NCAAs than SDSU or UNM. The Rebs beat UNC in November, the team's biggest W, but it's a long way from November now. UNLV and Wyoming split the season series, so there's pause there -- again, the league is deep -- but Vegas is so much faster than Wyoming. Plus, the tournament is held in Las Vegas, so is there a mild edge? History says no, as UNLV hasn't patterned out to any sort of advantage. In a given year, though, it could be a factor. Is this one of those?

-- Matt Norlander

Category: NCAAB

Since: Mar 8, 2012
Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:25 am

What-to-know tourney previews: Mountain West

Everyone is on the Rebel, Aztec bandwagon, watch out for them Lobos. Deepest team 1 thru 12 in the MWC and they can play some D!! Rebels have a huge advantage playing at home but with as much fans as UNM takes to Vegas and I think fans from the other teams will be cheering for the visitors it will almost seem like a home game for the Lobos who by the way play great on the road. Should be a Great Tourney non-the-less.......GO BO'S!!!Wink

Since: Jan 10, 2011
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:23 am

What-to-know tourney previews: Mountain West

In the MWC, these guys have always approached The Dance with something of a chip on their shoulders, always touting how tough it is and how under-rated they think they are.  That may not be the case for long, as you point out.  They definitely have tougher travel routines than Eastern schools, and like it or not, the altitude in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico does affect the physical conditioning of the athletes.

This year, UNLV is undefeated at home, where they play the conference tourney EVERY year.  Yet, they have been surprisingly mediocre, given that the Rebels haven't won a regular season championship since 99-2000, or the tournament since 06-07.  The Aztecs are working on their third straight MWC tournament win, and fifth NCAA appearance under Steve Fisher (last year's National Coach of the Year).  UNM is not satisfied as a #2 seed, given the pre-season expectation for their team, and few experts are surprised that CSU's Tim Miles has his team on the plus side of the bubble watch.  Still, the Rams probably need to get to the final to tilt the scales in their favor and get that fourth NCAA slot.

The conference will not be the same after SDSU moves to the Big West, Boise State, and TCU follow the money trail, but this year's Mountain West tournament will at least have some of the same unpredicability and excitement that use to be the exclusive province of the ACC.  As an East Coast Aztec fan, it's awesome to watch. Cool

Since: Nov 24, 2008
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:03 am

What-to-know tourney previews: Mountain West

This tournament should be fun to watch.  All of the teams have a chance even Air Force has been playing better
since the coaching change.  When all is said and done it will probably be SDSU and UNLV.  They always seem to
meet somehow in this tourney.  Even though SDSU has the easier road to the final the game, CSU game could be
very troublesome.  This conference has some really good coaches, starting with Steve Fisher at SDSU.  This year tourney
is just a preview of better thing next year between SDSU and UNLV where both teams will be really good as in both top 15 good.

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