San Diego State running away with Mountain West men’s hoops race

Keegan Pope

The Mountain West men’s basketball season has reached its midway point, and despite this year having more parity than most, it is a familiar face at the top. More than likely, the Mountain West is looking like a one or two-bid league, depending on whether someone can make a run in the Mountain West conference tournament come March. 

After the first month of the season, here’s how the MW breaks down:

Ad

San Diego State forward Winston Shepard, shown dunking against CSU last season, has been a big reason the Aztecs sit in first place in the Mountain West standings.  (Keith Albertson/Collegian)
San Diego State forward Winston Shepard, shown dunking against CSU last season, has been a big reason the Aztecs sit in first place in the Mountain West standings. (Keith Albertson/Collegian)

1) San Diego State 16-6 (9-0 MW)

After its unimpressive performance during non-conference play, many wondered if someone would overtake the Aztecs as the Mountain West’s premier team this year. Not so fast. SDSU is rolling right now, and has won all five of its MW road games to date. Barring a major change, the Aztecs should claim another MW regular season title. 

2) New Mexico 13-8 (6-2 MW)

The Lobos have been the definition of Jekyll and Hyde through the first half of Mountain West play. The Lobos are 5-0 when committing 15 or more turnovers and 1-2 when when they commit less than 15. Not a stat you see very often. Transfer guard Elijah Brown has emerged as a MW Player of the Year candidate, and the Lobos are in prime position to for another top-3 league finish. 

3) Boise State 15-7 (6-3 MW)

Boise State had a chance to take sole possession of second place in the league with a win against New Mexico, but the Broncos couldn’t get it done, and now sit 3 1/2 games back of San Diego State. James Webb III has been among the best players in the league, but Anthony Drmic’s return from injury has been less than stellar, one of the big reasons the Broncos sit at third in the Mountain West.

4) Fresno  State 14-7 (5-3 MW)

Pegged as a preseason sleeper candidate, the Bulldogs have been what everyone thought they were. Besides a blowout loss to New Mexico, Fresno State has been impressive so far, nearly knocking off San Diego State on the road before falling in overtime. Their second-half schedule could present some challenges, with road games at New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming, 

5) Nevada 13-8 (5-4 MW)

One of the more impressive turnarounds has been that of Nevada under first-year coach Eric Mussleman. Despite the loss of senior forward AJ West earlier this season, the Wolf Pack has one of the best young cores in the league. Cameron Oliver is a possible Mountain West Freshman of the Year candidate, so don’t be surprised if Nevada finishes in the top third of the league when the regular season ends. 

Ad

6) Colorado State 12-9 (4-4 MW)

CSU has fallen on hard times recently, losing three of its last five after squeaking out wins over UNLV and San Jose State in early January. Since then, CSU has lost two games at home and was handled in the second half of a road loss at Wyoming. Things won’t get much easier for the Rams, who face San Diego State, Nevada, UNLV, Boise State and Utah State in its next five games. 

7) UNLV 13-9 (4-5 MW)

The Runnin’ Rebels have been vastly improved since head coach Dave Rice’s departure after their loss on Jan. 9. UNLV is 4-2 under interim head coach Todd Simon, but were humbled at home 67-52 by San Diego State Saturday. They may still be the most dangerous team in the league because of their talent, but they could also finish in the bottom half of the league because of their inconsistency. 

8) Wyoming 11-12 (4-6 MW)

Cowboys’ guard Josh Adams might be the best player in the league this year, and Colorado State found that our firsthand Saturday when he scored 26 second-half points to lead the Cowboys to a victory over the Rams. Outside of guard Jason McManamen though, Adams hasn’t had much help on offense, which is why the Cowboys sit at 4-6 in the league. 

9) Utah State 11-9 (3-6 MW)

Utah State was expected to compete for the Mountain West title before forward David Collette left the program two days before the season began. The Aggies have struggled to find an interior scoring presence to compliment Jalen Moore. USU faces a tough schedule over its final nine games, traveling to Boise State, Fresno State, Wyoming and Nevada. 

10) San Jose State 7-15 (2-8 MW)

Maybe the biggest surprise through the first half of Mountain West play has been San Jose State, considering it hadn’t won a league game in nearly two years coming into this season. The Spartans are out of last place for the first time in a very long time, and have been competitive in nearly every game this season. 

11) Air Force 10-12 (1-8 MW)

After starting the season 9-4, the Falcons have found themselves thoroughly outmatched in many of its games through the first half of MW play. Air Force has lost five games by at least 19 points and has struggled mightily on offense over the past three games, failing to break 60 points in all of them. 

Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.