Mountain West disappoints with the country watching
The Mountain West had a banner regular-season with a record five teams getting NCAA tournament bids. This was finally the time to quiet the critics. Instead, the critics just got louder.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told me last week his teams needed to go out and prove all the naysayers wrong, make certain that history wouldn't repeat itself when the stakes were raised and judgment was made on his conference.
Instead, it's the same old story.
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UNLV was the most talented team in the league with lottery pick Anthony Bennett and an abundance of talent, but the Runnin' Rebels -- seeded fifth in the East Regional -- came up short against No. 12 California in San Jose.
Then the pride of the league, a New Mexico team that earned a No. 3 seed after sweeping the regular-season and conference tourney, went down to Harvard in what was the most shocking upset of the first day of the NCAA tournament. The Lobos drew a Crimson team that lost arguably its two top players just prior to the season and barely won the Ivy League.
Now, after Boise State was also knocked off in the First Four to La Salle, the Mountain West has just two teams left standing. Larry Eustachy's Colorado State group advanced past a more talented Missouri team in the 8-9 game on Thursday night in Lexington, but it would be a shock if the Rams get through the weekend with the event's top overall seed, Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, up next on Saturday.
Steve Fisher's San Diego State team might wind up having to become the torchbearer for the league -- and the Aztecs haven't even taken the court yet. San Diego State will face No. 10 Oklahoma on Friday and then should get a chance at second-seeded Georgetown.
The perception of this league had finally begun to alter, with the early season results and the fact it was regarded so highly in the RPI.
There were some who claimed it was once again superior to the Pac-12, but the Mountain West teams are dropping like flies while that "other" West Coast league, the one that has taken a beating in recent years, swept all three of its first-round contests.
Cal took care of UNLV (even if it was basically a home game for the Bears). Arizona got past a dangerous Belmont squad. Oregon, which was hosed by the selection committee with a 12-seed, pulled the upset that wasn't really much of an upset against Oklahoma State. UCLA and Colorado both play winnable games on Friday.
Here's the tally:
Mountain West: 1-3
Thompson was hoping people would begin to come around with the Mountain West in a stellar, record-breaking season in which the conference got five teams in the field.
Then Thursday came and all got quiet in the Mountain West office.
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