Posted on: March 13, 2010 10:56 pm

A Mountain of Memories

John Wilkinson

San Diego State wins the Mountain West Tournament for the third time this decade, defeating UNLV on their home floor, 55-45. 

It was a slopfest between two emotionally spent teams less than 24 hours removed from hard fought upsets and clinching bids to the dance. Aztec freshman Kawhi Leonard provided the dirty work with a career best 21 rebounds and 16 points. Though they were the tourney's 4th seed, SDSU held wins against all league foes save for BYU, and have now won 9 of their last 10 games. 

What's next for the MWC

--New Mexico could have locked up a 2-seed in the West but will likely find themselves in the 4 or 5 slot. At 29-4, New Mexico is not some cupcake glutton destined for first round despair. Building a 15 game win-streak in this league is one of the more impressive feats from any team this season. Conference MVP Darington Hobson has the right mixture of skill and swagger to ensure the Lobos don't buckle under the big stage. 

--BYU figures to land a 5-6 seed after stumbling in the semis, and just as Hobson is for New Mexico, Jimmer Fredette is a force no one wants to see in their bracket, and the balance is there to set the Cougars up for the Sweet 16. 

--UNLV can almost consider itself co-champs for how beneficial this tournament was to its seeding. Expect anywhere from a 7-11 seed for the tourney-savvy Rebs. 

--Champs San Diego St. also fall into the 7-11-seed range most likely, and have the size, athleticism, and now some opportune confidence to make a run. 

The potential is there for each school to be the higher seed in the first round. Whether they're favored or not, I would not be surprised if the conference came out of day one 4-0. Equal astonishment would arise if the MWC didn't have two reps in the Sweet 16. 

Performances to remeber for maybe a night or two 
Jimmer Fredette, BYU, quarterfinals vs. TCU: 45 points, 6 assists, 23-24 FT
Darington Hobson, NM, quarterfinals vs. Air Force: 28 pts, 15 rebs
Kawhi Leonard, SDSU, finals vs. UNLV: 16 pts, 21 rebs
Billy White, SDSU, semifianals vs. NM: 28 pts

Mountain West, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for the competitive basketball, gutsy performances, and a lights-out Mormon they call Jimmer. 

Final Mountain West Bracket
Posted on: March 13, 2010 5:25 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2010 5:28 pm

Who will be king of the mountain?

John Wilkinson

Final Four veterans Steve Fisher and Lon Kruger vie for the top of the Mountain West as San Diego St. and UNLV square off in Vegas at 7.

The Mountain West is already assured four tournament bids, but prime seeding took a hit with both BYU and New Mexico slipping in the semis. Nevertheless, UNLV and San Diego St. are two teams capable of streaking to the Sweet 16 and tonight's final in Vegas will be a thriller. 

Quick question, would you go to less class if you attended SDSU or UNLV?

The Aztecs entered the tournament needing at least one win to secure a spot in the ultimate bracket, so they went ahead and won a pair, just to be safe. In the process, SDSU snapped the Lobos' 15 game winning streak and perhaps a shot at a 2-seed. 

UNLV stymied Jimmer Fredette and BYU in the night-capper and will be tough to beat here on their home floor. The Rebs literally have the keys to this tournament, champions in 2 of the past 3 seasons. 

If you're an east coaster with a day job who might have missed Mountain West action this year, tune in, you've been missing some of the best ball being played in any conference right now.

Mountain West Conference Tournament

Championship Game

(4) San Diego St. vs. (3) UNLV 

Posted on: March 12, 2010 12:16 am
Edited on: March 12, 2010 1:17 am

Thursday Night Wrap-up

Thomas Beisner

12:00 pm

After what already seems to be four to five weeks of conference tournaments in our rear view mirror, Selection Sunday is now coming up on the horizon and things are starting to sort themselves out a bit.  On Thursday, some teams were relegated to the bubble and prayers (Memphis) while some teams continued their post-season hoops hopes (Notre Dame).  With 27 games on the docket for Friday, including the Patriot League Championship, answers are certain to be headed the way of all college basketball fans.  Before we get started, though, let's look back at what turned out to be a big-time Thursday in the world of college basktball.

Will the Onuaku injury affect seeding? - Perhaps the biggest story on Thursday (besides Syracuse's loss) was the injury suffered by Syracuse big man Arinze Onuaku which, depending on who you talk to, is either major or minor. Onuaku will have an MRI on Friday and the results will be available….probably after the seeding is announced. Especially if it’s serious. Regardless of what the injury turns out to be, you’d have to assume the Orange is fairly safe with their #1 seed. What they need to be more concerned about, however, is how a team that is now essentially only six-deep is going to respond in a two games in three days tournament setting.

The Big Names are Done - It was really only a matter of time until they all bid adieu to this year’s college basketball season, but a trio of big name programs finally had the final nail placed in their post-season coffin on Thursday. North Carolina jumped out to a double-digit lead against Georgia Tech and then came out in the second half looking all North Carolina-like and gave the game away. Tom Crean’s Indiana Revival, still sputtering along in year two, took a thumping at the hands of mighty Northwestern while Arizona’s run of 25 straight NCAA tourney appearances came to an end (after two years of undeserved bids) against another traditional power on life support, UCLA. They say things are going to get better. I say at least they didn’t give up like UConn. I am worried about Sean Miller, though. The losses seem to be taking their toll and he’s gone from looking like a sober Billy Gillispie to Texas A&M Billy Gillispie. That’s not a good trend.

If a tree falls in the Staples Center, does it make a sound? - The national media wrote the Pac-10 off a long, long time ago. Surprisingly, the Pac-10 fans apparently have done the same. Outside of the Salt Lake City's Megaplex 12 during the premiere of I Got the Hookup, it’s possible that no venue has ever been so empty for such a fan-friendly event.  I watched Oregon and Washington’s overtime affair Wednesday night (a great game) while feeding my son and the Staples Center appeared to have about only 7-8 people more than my couch. When UCLA plays in their home city and can’t get fans, you know it’s bad. However, the Pac-10 tournament did introduce me to Rebecca Haarlow, so it can’t be all bad, right?

Coaching redemption in C-USA - With John Calipari gone from Memphis, the national spotlight has dimmed significantly on the only official conference of the United States. UTEP seized the opportunity and grabbed the regular season title with a 15-1 record, but it’s a couple of underdog coaches that are making the most of their chances. Seventh-seeded Houston coach Tom Penders is being reported as a dead man walking whose employment only lasts as long as his team’s season. After an upset of second-seeded Memphis, it lasts another day. His semifinal opponent, Southern Miss, is coached by another recognizable name trying to make the most of his situation. Larry Eustachy, the disgraced former Iowa State coach, has made steady improvements in his sixth season in Hattiesberg and brought home his 20th win in an upset of UAB (and their former big name coach Mike Davis). By Friday evening, one of these two maligned coaches will be one win away from going dancing.

Jimmer! - Obviously wanting to prove that Montana's Anthony Johnson isn't the only guy out west who can fill it up, BYU junior Jimmer Fredette poured in a Mountain West tournament record 45 points in a win over TCU.  Fredette, who had been battling strep throat, mono, a stomach virus, typhoid fever, the mumps, pink eye, an ingrown toenail and Osgood Schlatter's disease, returned to the lineup with a bang, though I feel his 45 points are cheapened a bit by 23 made free throws.  Anthony Johnson wouldn't do that.  But, I do respect The Jimmer for his honesty displayed in this interview, perhaps the most honest in college basketball history (fast forward to 3:45).

Frankengody has returned - If you’ve watched Luke Harangody’s basketball career the past 27 years, you knew he was going to come back and play at least one more game. He just wouldn’t go out like that. But, give Harangody credit for not only coming back, but for being an impact player despite his injury and sparking his team to three wins now and, dare I say, the NCAA tournament. The Irish will get a shot at West Virginia Friday and Harangody will look to come off the bench and lead his team in scoring for the third straight game. Plus, he’s the only person besides my wife who can get only two haircuts in 12 months and be perfectly fine with hit. That deserves some respect.

The Almosts - Oh, how close they came. Air Force and LSU, winners of a combined three conference games, pushed a pair of highly ranked teams to the brink. LSU gave Bruce Pearl and Tennessee all they could handle before fading down the stretch and Air Force lost a heartbreaker to New Mexico, 75-69. I wish we could say some inspiring things to both teams but there’s nothing left to say. Except maybe to just clean out their lockers. You don’t want this season lingering any longer than it has to.

The other #1 seeds take the floor Friday - On Thursday, Syracuse fell to Georgetown and Kansas got a good little push from Texas Tech. On Friday, the presumed other two top seeds, Kentucky and Duke, take the floor and try to get used to their dancing shoes. Duke will square off with Virginia, a team that once lead the conference and snapped a nine-game losing streak Thursday, in a game where they’ll be heavily favored. With West Virginia still in contention for a Big East title, the Dukies might have to win the ACC tournament to keep their top seed. Meanwhile, John Calipari will lead his troops against Alabama in his first ever SEC tournament game. The Cats beat the Tide on February 9 and shouldn’t encounter much trouble. However, they then will likely face Tennessee and Vanderbilt in loseable games. Their #1 footing is more solid than Duke’s, but it's important that the young Cats get comfortable in the post-season tournament setting before embarking on the what is shaping up to be a journey full of very high expectations.

Friday’s Games to Watch

Illinois vs. Wisconsin 2:00 pm
*Lehigh vs. Lafayette 4:45 pm
Texas A&M vs. Kansas 7:00 pm
Georgetown vs. Marquette 7:00 pm
Notre Dame vs. West Virginia 9:00 pm
San Diego State vs. New Mexico 9:00 pm
Baylor vs. Kansas State 9:30 pm

* denotes championship game

Posted on: March 10, 2010 10:45 am

Mountain West Tournament


Mid-Major? Not even close.

Tipping off this afternoon in Vegas, the Mountain West Conference Tournament could potentially propel four schools to the dance with headliners BYU and New Mexico primed for a run at Indy. While many of us in EST turn the TV off after the 9 o'clock game, the MWC is just getting started and in a drama-laden year of late-night television, it's been the most entertaining of them all.

Why is this tournament more significant that say, the Big XII or SEC? Well, a team like New Mexico could catapult itself all the way to a 2 seed, and conversely, plummet as low as a 5 or 6. Same goes for BYU. Then you have UNLV and San Diego State, who presumably need to take care of business in the first round to secure a spot in the dance. 

New Mexico Lobos (28-3, 14-2)
This year's 'best team you haven't watched,' the Lobos quickly out-played their pre-season prognostication winning 14 of their first 15 out of the gate, and haven't looked back as they enter the post season ranked 8th in the country. National coach of the year candidate Steve Alford boasts a balanced attack led by MWC Player of the Year Darington Hobson, a stat-sheet infusing guard averaging 16 pts, 9 rebs, and 5 assits per game. The Lobos hold wins over Texas A&M on a neutral court, Dayton, Texas Tech, and a regular season sweep of BYU. They hang on to the ball, rebound, and have a bevy of long-range surgeons. 
But wait, there's more: The Lobos were picked to finish 5th in the league pre-season, as any team with nine underclassmen and a JUCO transfer should be. Just so happens that JUCO transfer is the conference POY, and hey Iowa, are you watching? I guess this Alford guy isn't too bad after all, eh? 

BYU Cougars (28-4, 13-3)
Though technically prohibited from dancing, BYU is no stranger to the NCAA Tourney and this looks like their best shot yet to make a deep run. All-American guard Jimmer Fredette is a bona-fide spectacle, pouring in 20 ppg with the potential to go for 30, even 40+ every game. Fredette, however, has been hamstrung by the mono virus most of the season. The Cougs lead the nation in scoring margin and free throw %, and rank 2nd overall in points per game and 3-point %, and they rarely turn the ball over, meaning simply, you do not want to see them in your bracket. The boys of Brigham Young in Vegas...I smell a Farrelly Bros. movie...
But wait, there's more: Fredette, a junior, is expected to enter the Draft, where he is being projected as a late first-rounder. Fredette's older brother, T.J., is an aspiring New York rapper (swear). Ain't no party like a LDS party, cuz a LDS party, in fact, does not stop. 

UNLV Runnin' Rebels (23-7, 11-5)
The Runnin' Rebs enjoy home-court advantage, which gives them a real shot to win their third MWC tournament in four years. It certainly wouldn't be a shock, as they've beaten every team in this conference save for the Utes. The Rebs are also hoping to regain the services of PG Derrick Jasper, who's missed the last month with an MCL injury. At a rangy 6'-6". the Kentucky transfer is a tough matchup for most league guards and frees up some space for fellow guard and future pro Tre'von Willis. 
But wait, there's more: UNLV beat NM, BYU, and SDSU in the regular season but were swept by Utah. Go fig.

    doin' the 'Madson'

San Diego State Aztecs (22-8, 11-5)
After being one of the first teams out of last year's dance, the 'Tecs find themselves bubbled yet again. A win in the opener versus Colorado St. might be enough, but they'll get a shot at New Mexico in the semis to remove any doubt. In a traditionally guard-dominated league, SDSU is led by a trio of long, athletic forwards in Billy White, Malcolm Thomas, and the MWC's Rookie of the Year Kawhi Leonard. 
There are some other teams in the Mountain West, and its tournament has historically favored the underdogs, but these four teams are head n' shoulders above anyone else and are each capable of making a in the dance. It's not hyperbole to say this could be the most competitive conference tournament, and it's a damn near guarantee that it'll be one of the most exciting. 

Mountain West Conference Tournament  Today-Saturday
First Round
(8) Wyoming vs. (9) Air Force 
5pm EST
Complete MWC Bracket

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com