We’re nearly two weeks into the college basketball regular season, and to say there have been a few surprises would be an understatement. Northern Iowa, whom CSU beat at home, upset No. 1 North Carolina last week, and that’s just the beginning of what has been a wacky first couple of weeks.
Here’s how teams around the Mountain West have fared:
Fresno State (4-0)
The Bulldogs have been challenged in their early-season slate beating Pepperdine, Lamar and San Francisco by an average of six points per at home. Fresno St. responded with an impressive 82-65 road win over Rice Sunday. Their first real test comes Monday, when they will travel to Eugene to face No. 21 Oregon’s star-studded backcourt of Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks.
By the numbers: Fresno State G/F Paul Watson is considered one of the better perimeter players in the league, but has struggled early on, averaging just eight points and four rebounds per game on 35 percent shooting.
Colorado State (3-0)
Remember that Northern Iowa win over North Carolina I was talking about? It’s not only big for the Panthers, but for the Rams as well. CSU is currently ranked No. 1 in the RPI, which is nice, except for the fact that the Rams are only three games into the season. The Rams continue in Corpus Christi Coastal Classic tournament after winning their preliminary round home game against Oakland Sunday.
Realistically, CSU should easily handle both Abilene Christian and Portland to move to 5-0 on the year. But following that, the Rams get two quality opponents coming into Moby Arena, with Long Beach State and archrival Colorado coming to town on Dec. 3 and Dec. 6, respectively.
By the numbers: Two of the Rams’ top three leading rebounders are their senior guards, Joe De Ciman and Gian Clavell, neither of which stands taller than 6-foot-6.
Utah State (3-0)
Despite sophomore forward David Collette abruptly leaving the team, the Aggies have been impressive so far in the non-conference. A season-opening road win over Weber State – who could very well win the Big Sky – was a nice start to Tim Duryea’s tenure. The Aggies handled both of their inferior opponents – Adams State and Union (TN) – and should win easily against Utah Valley Tuesday night.
But the gauntlet starts Sunday. USU will travel to Durham, North Carolina to face to No. 6 Duke before heading to Missouri State and then returning to the state of Utah to face a very talented BYU team, before hosting UC Irvine and its 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye. If the Aggies can split those four games, they’ll be in good shape
By the numbers: Returning starters Chris Smith and Jalen Moore are the only Aggies players to average more than 25 minutes per game, and are the team’s leading scorers and rebounders.
Air Force (3-1)
It has been a bit of an up and down start for the Falcons, who are 3-1, but have yet to see any NCAA Tournament-worthy competition. That will change when they travel to Boulder to face Colorado Wednesday night. Air Force is led by Trevor Lyons, the younger brother of former Falcons scoring machine Michael Lyons. Their non-conference schedule isn’t particularly tough, but games against New Mexico State, Denver and Ohio State could be big confidence boosters if the Falcons can steal one or two.
By the numbers: Lyons, who averaged just eight points per game last year, is averaging nearly 18 per game in the Falcons four games this season to go along with 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest.
First-year coach Eric Mussleman’s first four games have gone swimmingly for the Wolf Pack, outside of a heartbreaking 76-75 loss at Hawaii. After averaging just 6.5 points per game over his first three years, senior guard Marqueze Coleman has exploded this season, dropping 24.8 points per game, while pitching in nearly five rebounds and three assists per game.
Nevada’s next real test comes against an up-and-coming Oregon State program on Dec. 5. The Wolf Pack also travel to play No. 20 Wichita State on Dec. 22.
By the numbers: True freshmen Cameron Oliver, Eric Cooper Jr. and Lindsey Drew are each playing between 25 and 27 minutes per game, and have combined to average 16 points and 15 rebounds in Nevada’s first four games.
New Mexico (3-1)
The Lobos salvaged a bit of their pride, coming back late to make their game against Southern Cal look respectable. The Lobos easily handled Texas Southern and Loyola (Chicago), and also picked up a nice road win at New Mexico State.
UNM will get another stiff road test when it travels to West Lafayette, Indiana on Dec. 5 to face No. 16 Purdue. The Lobos also have notable remaining non-conference games against Northern Iowa, New Mexico State and Auburn before they kick off Mountain West play on Dec. 30 against Nevada.
By the numbers: The Lobos are led by Samford transfer Tim Williams, who is averaging 18 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 64 percent from the field. In UNM’s loss to USC, Williams notched a double-double with 25 points and 15 rebounds on 12 for 21 shooting.
The Rebels have done a great job of beating bad teams early in the year. But they squandered a chance to pick up a decent win Monday night when they handed a 77-75 win to UCLA. Poor shot selection and 16 turnovers doomed UNLV, and despite the immense talent on the Rebels’ roster, they’ve got a ways to go to compete for the Mountain West title this winter.
Star freshman Stephen Zimmerman Jr. has been one of the bright spots early on, averaging 12 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. The Rebels have four more potential matchups against top-25 teams, including Indiana, Wichita State, Oregon and Arizona.
By the numbers: No UNLV players is averaging more than 30 minutes per game, and nine players have logged at least 15 minutes per contest.
San Diego State (3-2)
It hasn’t been exactly the start to this season that Steve Fisher and the Aztecs were looking for. SDSU had chances to pick up a signature win on the road against No. 16 Utah, but couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Then came an ugly 10-point win over San Diego Christian and a rare home loss to Arkansas Little-Rock. They’ll have a chance to turn things around Thursday when they host a loaded 14th-ranked Cal team, but there’s a ways to go for the Aztecs.
By the numbers: True freshman Jeremy Hemsley leads the Aztecs with 13.6 points per game, and is shooting 52 percent from the floor and 47 percent from behind the arc.
Boise State (2-2)
A season-opening loss at Montana wasn’t pretty, and the Broncos missed a chance for a big road win at No. 12 Arizona. But boy are these guys fun to watch. James Webb III might be the best player in the Mountain West, and Nick Duncan and Anthony Drmic can light it up from outside. Boise State’s only two meaningful games left in the non-conference schedule come Thursday against UC Irvine and Dec. 12 at home vs. Oregon.
By the numbers: The Broncos have made an impressive 42 3-pointer already this season, giving them an average of 10.5 makes from behind the arc per game.
It’s going to be a long, cold winter in Laramie. Everyone knew the loss of the Cowboys’ four senior from last year would hurt, but I don’t know if anyone expected them to fall this far. After losing to Division II Fort Lewis in an exhibition game, Wyoming was handled by Indiana State before losing a heartbreaker to Montana State. Senior guard Josh Adams scored 36 points against MSU, but hasn’t had much help early in the year. The Cowboys only chance for a big win in non-conference play comes Dec. 5 when they host No. 14 Cal, but that one could get very, very ugly.
By the numbers: Alexander Aka Gorski, the Cowboys’ second-leading scorer, played just eight minutes per game last season, averaging 2.1 points per contest.
San Jose State (1-2)
The Spartans got their first Division I win since Feb. 18, 2014 when they took down Montana 64-61. But that win was sandwiched in between two losses to Idaho and Montana State, both considered inferior to the Griz. It’s a step in the right direction for Dave Wojcik’s program, though.
By the numbers: Three of SJSU’s four leading scorers were not on the team last season, when the Spartans went 2-28 overall and 0-18 in the Mountain West.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.