At the start of this basketball season, I gave you all a look at my Mountain West preseason men’s basketball ballot and preseason poll that I submitted to the league as part of the league tip-off event. While I would love to say I had everything right, I didn’t. Some things were spot on, and some weren’t even close. As we hit the halfway point of conference play this season, I’ve rebuilt my ballot and poll to reflect my picks for the conference’s awards as well as ranking each 11 teams from top to bottom.
Midseason Player of the Year: Derrick Marks, G, Boise State
There simply hasn’t been a better or more valuable player to his team than Marks has to Boise State. Through eight Mountain West games, the senior is averaging 23.8 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the field, 49 percent from the 3-point line and 86 percent from the free throw line. While he has had some help from the likes of James Webb III, Marks is the biggest single reason the Broncos sit at 5-3 in the Mountain West.
Newcomer of the Year: Stanton Kidd, F, Colorado State University
While there are plenty of talented newcomers in the MW this season like Julien Lewis and the aforementioned Webb III, none are as versatile and integral as Kidd. The senior from Baltimore has kicked in 10.2 points per game to along with 4.1 rebounds per contest while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point land in just 23 minutes per game. Kidd, along with J.J. Avila and Tiel Daniels, forms one of the most efficient and effective frontcourts in the league.
Freshman of the Year: Rashad Vaughn, G, UNLV
In what might be his only season at UNLV, especially after the season the Rebels have had, Vaughn has done nothing but live up to the hype he came in with. Rated the No. 5 overall player in the class of 2014 by ESPN, Vaughn has been UNLV’s best and most consistent source of offense, averaging 17.8 points per game along with 5.4 rebounds per contest. The Runnin’ Rebs sit at just 12-9 overall, but would be much worse off if it weren’t for the fabulous freshman.
Now that we’ve got the individual awards out of the way, here is my All-Mountain West First Team as of the season’s midpoint.
Derrick Marks, G, Boise State
Marvelle Harris, G, Fresno State
Rashad Vaughn, G, UNLV
J.J. Avila, F, Colorado State
Larry Nance Jr., F, Wyoming
And finally, I’ll rank each of the 11 teams from top to bottom.
- Colorado State
CSU let games against Wyoming and Boise State slip right through their grasp, but the Rams have been the most complete team through the first half of the conference season.
- San Diego State
Their offense isn’t pretty, in fact at times, it is downright ugly. But the Aztecs are the best defensive team in the conference and are likely the favorite to win the league.
The only team to beat CSU at home this year has been dominant on its own home floor, something absolutely necessary for them to continue if the Cowboys want a shot at the regular season title.
- New Mexico
Despite the loss of their three best players from a year ago, as well as starting guard Cullen Neal, the Lobos are again in the thick of the Mountain West title chase.
- Boise State
With Anthony Drmic out for the year many people, myself included, thought the Broncos would crumble. They’ve done anything but that, and still in contention for their first MW championship.
- Utah State
This is where things drop off. Though the Aggies have responded admirably after losing almost their entire roster last year, they struggle mightily on the road and face a tough schedule in the second half of the year.
- Fresno State
The Bulldogs are a team I thought would seriously contend for the league title, but that’s one I missed. After Saturday’s loss to CSU, the Bulldogs fall to 5-4 and are likely eliminated from title contention or any postseason berth.
The biggest disappointment in the Mountain West this year has to be the Rebels. Head coach Dave Rice has a team loaded with NBA talent, but can’t seem to get them to figure it out. A team that knocked off then-No. 3 Arizona sits near the bottom of a weak league.
- Air Force
It’s been rough skies for the Falcons after losing guard Tre Coggins in the offseason and forward Kamryn Williams to an Achilles tear earlier this year. To add to that, the Falcons’ best player, Max Yon, has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team for personal reasons.
In the words of Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were.” The Wolf Pack was decimated with the losses Cole Huff and Deonte Burton and have been outmatched in just about every game so far.
- San Jose State
If you thought things were bad for Air Force and Nevada, you were wrong. The Spartans, who drew just about 300 fans for their game against CSU, are down to six scholarship players after injuries and suspensions obliterated their roster. SJSU isn’t eligible for the postseason because of NCAA violations and you have to think head coach Dave Wojcik just wants this nightmare to end.
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.