Mountain West: Men and women finding conference success

Justin Michael

The Mountain West has historically been one of the more competitive mid-major basketball conferences in division-one basketball, but over the last few years the perception of the league has changed vastly.

What used to be a multi-bid conference for the NCAA Tournament has become single-bid league at best, meaning that the end of year conference tournament is much more important than the regular season title. Although winning the regular season title is important because it gets you a first round bye.

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With only a handful of games remaining in the season, the race for the Mountain West league title is wide open. Nevada and Boise State are tied atop the league, with Colorado State sitting a half game back.

Here is a quick look at everything you need to know about Mountain West men’s hoops so far:

Who’s hot?

San Jose State:

After a slow start to the season, the Spartans have won three straight against Mountain West foes, most recently beating San Diego State 76-71 Tuesday night.

Led by Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Brandon Clarke, the Spartans are relevant in the Mountain West for the first time since joining the league. The sophomore forward is the league’s leading scorer, averaging 19.2 points and eight rebounds per-game.

Currently sitting in eighth place, four of the Spartans seven remaining games are against teams with losing records and the team is heating up at the perfect time.

Colorado State:

Despite playing with just seven scholarship players throughout the majority of conference-play, the Rams have more than held their own in the Mountain West and had one or two plays gone differently against Boise State, they could very well be in first place right now.

Winners in five of their last six contests, CSU has rode the duo of Emmanuel Omogbo and Gian Clavell all year. With six games remaining, the Rams will have an opportunity to win their first regular season conference championship in school history.

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Who’s not?

San Diego State:

After dominating the league for nearly a decade straight, San Diego State has struggled mightily this season.

The Aztecs have blown double-digit leads in multiple games this season and have suffered two separate three-game losing streaks. After losing three out of their last five contests, the Aztecs run of three-straight Mountain West regular season titles will be coming to an end this year.

UNLV:

Similarly to SDSU, UNLV has perennially been a Mountain West powerhouse but instability within the program has led to the fall of the once mighty Rebels.

At 10-15 with six games to go, UNLV is on pace to finish below .500 for the first time since 1995 and their worst finish in the Mountain West ever.

Mountain West men’s basketball standings:

Nevada (8-3)

Boise State (8-3)

Colorado State (8-4)

New Mexico (8-5)

Wyoming (6-6)

Fresno State (6-6)

San Diego State (5-6)

San Jose State (5-6)

Utah State (4-8)

Air Force (3-8)

UNLV (3-9)

Women’s hoops update:

The women’s league is a much different situation, as it is really only a three horse race. Going for fourth straight Mountain West championship, Colorado State currently sits alone in first place with Wyoming and New Mexico shortly behind.

Who’s Hot?

Colorado State:

Despite dropping their last matchup against Utah State, and barely scrapping by UNLV the game before, the Rams again find themselves being the creme of the crop in the Mountain West. Led by a defense that ranks 4th nationally in total defense, Colorado State is set up to make their fourth consecutive run at a regular season conference championship. Barring any unforeseen circumstances and being led by the Swedish duo of Ellen Nystrom and Elin Gustavsson, the Rams should not have any issues claiming the title.

New Mexico:

After winning four of their last five, the Lobos currently sit just two games out of first place with games against both of the top-two teams to go.

In UNM’s most recent win over Air Force, junior guard Cherise Beynon recorded the first triple-double by a Lobo since 1979 (20 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists).

Who’s Not?

Wyoming:

The Cowgirls of Wyoming got off to a red hot start to their season, winning 18 of their first 21 games. Wyoming has cooled off exponentially of late though, losing three of their last five.

Wyoming is still in solid position to compete for the league title, but with a remaining pair of games against Colorado State and a road game with New Mexico still to go, the Cowgirls have a tough schedule to get back on track with.

Mountain West women’s basketball standings:

Colorado State (10-2)

Wyoming (9-3)

New Mexico (9-4)

UNLV (7-5)

Fresno State (7-5)

Utah State (6-6)

Boise State (5-6)

San Jose State (5-6)

San Diego State (3-8)

Nevada (2-9)

Air Force (1-10)

Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael