WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.
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1. No. 20 New Mexico (17-3 overall, 4-1 MW, 7 RPI): The conference race got interesting again after the Lobos went 1-1 last week with a home win over Colorado State and a 55-34 loss at San Diego State. The loss to San Diego State wasn’t surprising, but scoring 34 points was. That is the lowest for New Mexico in the shot clock era. New Mexico beat ranked teams at the time following its previous two losses. It should get better this week with games at Wyoming and at home against Nevada.
2. No. 22 San Diego State (16-4 overall, 4-2 MW, 29 RPI): The Aztecs moved up by being the only team to win both games in league play last week, and they did it in impressive fashion. San Diego State is the most versatile team in the conference. Why? Six-foot-7 sophomore forward J.J. O’Brien started at point guard in both games last week, and earned MW Player of the Week honors. The team’s 0-2 mark the week before last is a distant memory.
3. Colorado State (16-4 overall, 3-2 MW, 23 RPI): Very close here between the Rams and UNLV. The edge goes to CSU based on its home win over UNLV this season. The Rams own the fourth-longest home winning streak in the nation at 24, and host Boise State and Wyoming this week. Senior center Colton Iverson (9.6) and senior forward Pierce Hornung (9.5) are 1-2 in the league in rebounding. Iverson leads the conference in field-goal percentage (56.1). A road win over the conference’s elite is still needed.
4. UNLV (16-4 overall, 3-2 MW, 17 RPI): The Rebels are identical to CSU in terms of overall record, conference record, conference home record (2-0) and conference road record (1-2). UNLV should be well rested as it played just one game, a home win against Wyoming. Being more consistent on the road will be key for the Rebels moving forward.
5. Air Force (12-6 overall, 3-2 MW, 71 RPI): One of the biggest movers this week, and the team with the longest current winning streak in the conference at three. The Falcons are one of four teams in the league that average more than 73 points per game. They are tops in assist-to-turnover ratio and have committed the fewest turnovers in the league (209). Air Force has two home games this week with Fresno State and San Diego State.
6. Boise State (14-5 overall, 2-3 MW, 66 RPI): The Broncos have lost three of their last four, but managed a split last week with Fresno State and Nevada. Boise State needs to get junior guard Jeff Elorriaga back from a concussion. He is their glue-guy and league-leader with 56 3-pointers made and a 48.3 shooting percentage behind the arc. The Broncos have a tough week ahead of them as they play at Colorado State Wednesday and host UNLV Saturday.
7. Wyoming (15-4 overall, 2-4 MW, 55 RPI): The Cowboys slipped last week after they lost at UNLV and at home to Air Force — the first time they’ve lost consecutive games this season. Wyoming will continue to struggle to score until its 3-point shooting improves. It shot 18.2 percent from 3 in its two losses and shooting a league-worst 25.8 percent from there in conference games. Things don’t get any easier for the Cowboys as they host New Mexico Wednesday and play at Colorado State Saturday.
8. Nevada (11-8 overall, 2-3 MW, 138 RPI): Talk about a tough week. The Wolf Pack plays at UNLV tonight and at New Mexico Saturday. Yikes! Guards Deonte Burton and Malik Story better play well. They are the top scoring duo in the conference. They combine for 32.4 points per game.
9. Fresno State (7-12 overall, 1-5 MW, 167 RPI): Same story, different week for the Bulldogs. They are pretty good defensively but last in the league in scoring (60.8 ppg). Until more offense emerges, wins will be hard to come by.