Rams on top in Mountain West women’s hoops standings

Sam Lounsberry

From undefeated to winless, the Mountain West features women’s basketball teams all across the spectrum this season. While the regular season conference champion will still not likely be guaranteed a spot in the 64-team NCAA Tournament, the regular season crown is something the teams undoubtedly still take pride in.

With the season just now halfway over, it is high time for a look at each team around the league. We will start with the current front-runners and work our way down to the bottom:

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1. Colorado State (18-1, 9-0 MW)

This team is the best that head coach Ryun Williams has had in his 4-year tenure at CSU, and that is saying something considering the Rams have won the regular season title two years running. They appear poised for the 3-peat. Players up and down Williams’ roster have proven they can light up the scoreboard. Alana Arias, Ellen Nystrom, Keyora Wharry, Elin Gustavsson and Jamie Patrick have all scored like mad in several games each. Plus, the Rams lock it down on defense. They force 16.8 turnovers per game and give up an average of just 51.8 points. They can open a lead into a blowout at any point, as they win by an average of 17 points. CSU running the table to finish MW play 18-0 for a third straight regular season championship looks more likely with every game played. But the Rams will not be satisfied unless they win the MW Tournament in Las Vegas to secure an automatic NCAA Tourney bid, a feat each of the last two conference championship teams have fallen short of.

2. Fresno State (12-8, 8-1 MW)

Balance is key, and the Bulldogs have it. Three players average double-figures for Fresno State, and one of them, Bego Faz Davolos, is a dominant force inside. The 6-foot-3 forward out of Mexico leads the MW in rebounds per game (10.3) and blocks (3.7). Her team-best 12.4 points per game makes her the only player in the league averaging a double-double. FSU has posted a solid record so far, losing its first MW game Wednesday night to San Jose State. As a team, though, the Bulldogs look inferior to CSU. But when they come to Moby Arena on March 1, the matchup with the Rams could easily end up deciding the conference champ.

3. Boise State (15-6, 8-2 MW)

The Broncos are dangerously lurking in the shadows of CSU and Fresno State. Their only two losses in the conference came to CSU and Fresno State, and they could easily knock off the Rams when they play in Boise on Feb. 10. Weapons on both sides of the court line Boise State’s roster, and most of them will be returning after this season. Sophomore Yaiza Rodriguez ranks second in the MW in assists with 5.4 per game, junior Brooke Pahukoa ranks fourth in scoring at 16.37 points per game and sophomore Shalen Shaw snags 2.3 steals per game. Oh, and senior Miquelle Askew leads the league in field goal percentage at 56 percent while averaging 13.4 points per game. With some luck, the Broncos could win the conference if CSU and Fresno State each drop a couple games.

4. UNLV (13-8, 6-4 MW)

At this point, UNLV is probably out of the race for the regular season conference title. CSU and Fresno State losing more than four games each while the Rebels win out is a hard scenario to imagine. But while they might be out of contention for first place, the Rebels could easily shake up the standings by knocking off one of the top three teams. A pair of seniors in Aley Rhode and Amie Callaway rank third and fourth in rebounding in the conference, respectively, and sophomore Brooke Johnson leads the league in steals at 2.9 per game. UNLV lost to CSU by single digits last month.

5. San Jose State (8-14, 6-5 MW)

The Spartans’ fast-paced, run-and-gun style of offense is certainly entertaining. Jumpers fly up early in the shot clock from all over the court. The style can be effective. CSU struggled against SJSU on the road, winning by just two points in The Event Center. Trying to run with the Spartans and outshoot them from 3-point range is the last thing you want to do. SJSU captured a signature conference win Wednesday over Fresno State. They are led by Dezz Ramos, who averages 19.4 points per game. Last year, SJSU upset CSU in the Mountain West Tournament and made a run to the final game, where it fell to Boise State. SJSU could easily heat up and make a similar run come March.

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6. Utah State (10-11, 5-5 MW)

Last year’s Mountain West Freshman of the Year Funda Nakkasoglu has continued her offensive showcase as a sophomore this year. The guard out of Australia is averaging a league-best 21.2 points per game. She can single-handedly will the Aggies to a win, but it takes a team to be truly great. USU lacks another player averaging double-figures, and commits more than 15 turnovers per game as a team. Expect the Aggies to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.

7. New Mexico (11-9, 4-5 MW)

The Lobos are the prototypical team in Mountain West this year. Their leading scorer, Khadijah Shumpert, scores 14.3 points per game. This is a freshman and sophomore heavy team, so the Lobos will be focusing on improving their young players the rest of the way. They squeaked out a win over a UNLV team that looked better on paper, and they should be able to get a few more quality MW wins by the time conference play is over.

8. Nevada (4-16, 3-6 MW)

With seven freshman, the Wolf Pack is another young team that is trying to improve game by game as the season progresses. None of their wins this year have been truly impressive, as their three in the MW have all come against the lowest teams in the standings.

9. Wyoming (11-10, 4-7 MW)

One heck of a point guard leads this team in Marquelle Dent, but she has not had much help this year. The senior out of Regis Jesuit High School in Denver leads the MW in assists (5.5) and ranks third in scoring (17.4). She is speedy and can hit the jump shots from nearly anywhere, either on a catch-and-shoot or off the dribble. The Cowgirls are certainly good enough to hang around in close games and win occasionally. They could pull off a run in the second half of MW play and finish above .500 in the conference.

10. San Diego State (6-15, 1-9 MW)

Offensively challenged. The Aztecs have dropped their last nine games straight, and have failed to break the 60-point mark in seven of them. In fact, they failed to break 50 in three of those games. McKynzie Fort is the Aztecs’ bright spot, averaging 14.1 points per game as a sophomore.

11. Air Force (0-21, 0-10 MW)

Not much can be said about a team that has lost 31 games in a row dating back to last season. Their RPI is currently 342 out of 349 women’s Div. I teams, and it is looking like they might go all season without a win.

Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.