Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 10:52 am

Conference tourney preview: Mountain West

It's a bittersweet year for the MWC. The league has seen a lot of good press and publicity with the tussle between Brigham Young and San Diego State at the top. But BYU and a few other schools are playing in their final tournament in the conference, so it's not all celebration and good vibes. Next season, BYU heads off to the West Coast Conference, hoping to run with the cool kids, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, as soon as it joins. TCU is also out in short time, heading to the Big East.

Oh, right, and Utah's going to the Pac-12. So get your fix of the final MWC conference tournament in this configuration, because it's never happening again.

The MWC bracket gets sorted out in Vegas, and it's no guarantee BYU and/or San Diego State reaches the final. This tournament is consistently hosting any type of seed in the title game. You don't think Colorado State or New Mexico are capable of winning two and playing for the auto bid? You think wrong.

Now, we're going to do a hybrid of the smaller-conference preview and the major-conference ones. We have the tournament history, etc. below our quarterfinals analysis. Those games begin tomorrow. Wyoming and TCU play tomorrow at 5 ET to determine who gets the Cougars Thursday.

BYU (1) vs. Wyoming/TCU. Probably the only gimme game of the MWC tourney. The Cougars have a faint, faint chance at a one seed. I don't think it's going to happen, period, but if it is to, they're going to have to absolutely smoke their quarterfinal opponent in order to get momentum going.

Colorado State (4) vs. New Mexico (5). This is one of the three best games of the entire bracket. Winner of this can absolutely win the whole thing. Consider, if New Mexico wins, it'll probably get BYU. And New Mexico beat BYU twice this season. So an interesting subplot there. Colorado State's a bubble team most can't seem to get a handle on. It's definitely got to win this one, then if if plays BYU tight ... maybe?

San Diego State (2) vs. Utah (7). Aztecs had no issues with Utah in the teams' two meetings this year. Expect more of the same here. San Diego State needs to root for ...

UNLV (3) vs. Air Force (6).
... Air Force to knock of Vegas. It's unlikely to happen, though. You know what saying I really hate? "We just have to make shots." Coaches use it every day. It's just awful. But Air Force applies more than others, because it's one of the 10 best shooting teams in the country, yet ranks second-to-last in offensive rebounding percentage. If the shots aren't falling, it has no chance. Vegas-San Diego State is a game second only to BYU-SDSU in the title game, in terms of desired matchups.

Top Three Players:

1. Jimmer Fredette, BYU
2. Kawhi Leonard, SDSU
3. Tre'Von Willis, UNLV

  • Conference RPI: 4
  • KenPom.com Conference Ranking: 6
  • Sagarin Conference Ranking: 5
NCAA Tournament Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV
NCAA Bubble Teams: Colorado State

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance

  • Air Force: 2006 (lost first round to Illinois, 78-69)
  • BYU: 2010 (won first round over Florida, 99-92; lost second round to Kansas State, 84-72)
  • Colorado State:   2003 (lost first round to Duke, 67-57)
  • New Mexico: 2010 (won first round over Montana, 62-57; lost second round to Washington, 82-64)
  • TCU: 1998 (lost first round to Florida State, 96-87)
  • San Diego State: 2010 (lost first round to Tennessee, 62-59)
  • UNLV: 2010 (lost first round to Northern Iowa, 69-66)
  • Utah: 2009 (lost first round to Arizona, 84-71)
  • Wyoming: 2002 (won first round over Gonzaga, 73-66; lost second round to Arizona, 68-60)

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: US Presswire

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