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. 16 New Mexico (22-4 overall, 9-2 MW, 3 RPI): Remains No. 1 this week with a half-game lead over Colorado State. Junior guard Kendall Williams leads the conference in minutes played and is second in assists (4.67 per game). Other than sophomore center Alex Kirk’s 1.64 blocked shots per game (second in the conference), no other player ranks in the top five in statistical categories it tracks. Shows that this is one of the most complete teams in the conference with several players that can hurt teams. The Lobos play at Colorado State Saturday.
2. No. 22 Colorado State (21-4 overall, 8-2 MW, 13 RPI): If the Rams are going to win the league title, this could be the pivotal week with games at UNLV Wednesday and at home against New Mexico Saturday where they have won 27 straight. A road win at Air Force last week was impressive, but one at UNLV would be even bigger. New Mexico may be the most complete team in the conference, but the Rams arguably have the best starting five, all of which are seniors.
3. Air Force (15-9 overall, 6-5 MW, 72 RPI): Perhaps a bit high, but the Falcons have home wins over San Diego State and UNLV, and lost at UNLV in overtime. They suffered their first home loss of the season to Colorado State, but not before senior guard Michael Lyons scored 45 points. He leads the league in scoring (18 ppg). Air Force plays at Boise State Wednesday.
4. UNLV (19-7 overall, 6-5 MW, 19 RPI): The Rebels continue to struggle in conference play on the road (1-5), but they got a 70-67 home win over San Diego State last week. Wednesday’s home game with Colorado State is huge, but can UNLV go on the road and win when it plays at Wyoming Saturday? The team with the best overall talent in the conference needs to figure things out fast as tournament time approaches.
5. San Diego State (18-7 overall, 6-5 MW, 33 RPI): Two losses last week — both on the road — dropped the Aztecs. They are 3-5 in one-possession games this season so even when they lose they are close. The team seems to be getting healthy, but senior guard James Rahon, a starter, sprained a shoulder last Saturday against UNLV.
6. Boise State (16-8 overall, 4-6 MW, 42 RPI): The Broncos are still hoping for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but it needs to play better on the road (1-5) in league play. Sophomore guard Derrick Marks may be on the most underrated player in the conference. He ranks in the top five in the league in scoring (16.6 ppg), assists (3.59 apg), steals (2.0 per game, and the leader), field-goal percentage (48.2) and free-throw percentage (86, and the leader).
7. Wyoming (18-7 overall, 4-7 MW, 64 RPI): The Cowboys won two home games against Nevada and Fresno State last week, but may have the toughest schedule the rest of the regular season with road games at San Diego State, New Mexico and Air Force, and home games with UNLV and Colorado State. Senior forward Leonard Washington, UW’s leader in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field-goal percentage, is doubtful for tonight’s game at San Diego State with an ankle injury.
8. Nevada (12-12 overall, 3-7 MW, 134 RPI): A home win over Air Force last week and a previous win at Fresno State keeps the Wolf Pack at eighth. There is some talent on the roster, but the team is last in the conference in scoring defense (70.1 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (44.2) and 3-point percentage defense (37.8).
9. Fresno State (8-16 overall, 2-9 MW, 159 RPI): The Bulldogs may be last, but are capable of pulling off an upset every time they step on the floor. Fresno State nearly beat New Mexico at home last week, and led Wyoming by 14 early in the second half before losing in overtime. It could move up with week if it wins at Nevada. This is a very physical team that needs to learn how to score more (59.6 ppg).