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. 12 New Mexico (25-4 overall, 12-2 MW, 2 RPI): Clinched the conference title with one week to go in the regular season. Second in the league in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, but more importantly, first in both categories in league games at 58.6 ppg and 37.7 percent, respectively. When post players Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow are playing well, this team is tough to beat.
2. UNLV (22-7 overall, 9-5 MW, 14 RPI): The Rebels have won four straight and may be playing the best basketball of any team in the conference right now. Junior forward Mike Moser is playing up to expectations after some early-season injuries. They end the season at home with Boise State tonight and Fresno State Saturday, and have the inside track to be the second seed at the MW Tournament in their home arena next week.
3. Boise State (20-8 overall, 8-6 MW, 44 RPI): The Broncos also have won four straight and are coming off an impressive 78-65 home win over Colorado State last Saturday. Boise State is playing for its NCAA Tournament lives right now, and tonight’s game at UNLV is another big test — as is Saturday’s home game with San Diego State. Sophomore guard Derrick Marks scored 33 of his 38 points against CSU in the second half. The Broncos are the highest scoring team in the MW at 74 ppg and 67.6 ppg in league play.
4. Colorado State (22-7 overall, 9-5 MW, 17 RPI): The Rams have lost three of their last four, and some of the league’s best guards (Michael Lyons, Air Force; Kendall Williams, New Mexico; Marks, Boise State) have gone off on them in recent games. Williams and Lyons both went for 40-plus. Colorado State should get better this week against Wyoming and Nevada, but needs to do a better job of defending along the perimeter.
5. San Diego State (20-8 overall, 8-6 MW, 32 RPI): The Aztecs have lost three of their last five games, but those losses have all come on the road at Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico by a combined 18 points. This is still a dangerous team, but needs to find ways to win close games.
6. Air Force (16-11 overall, 7-7 MW, 85 RPI): After a 5-2 start in conference play the Falcons have faltered, but still hanging in there. It will finish no worse than sixth place after being picked last in the preseason. With its style of play and a veteran group of starters, Air Force won’t be easy for anyone from here on out. But games at San Diego State and home against New Mexico also won’t be easy.
7. Fresno State (10-18 overall, 4-11 MW, 153 RPI): A home win over Air Force and a narrow loss at CSU last week moved the Bulldogs up one spot from last week. They are 2-2 in their last four game, and will give any team headaches with the way they play defense.
8. Wyoming (18-11 overall, 4-11 MW, 67 RPI): The Cowboys have lost four straight and just trying to get healthy for next week’s MW Tournament. Senior forward Leonard Washington is battling back issues, and also missed two games with a sprained left ankle. UW ends its regular season Wednesday against Colorado State, and then will try to get healthy for the conference tournament where it looks like it will play Nevada in the play-in game a week from today.
9. Nevada (12-16 overall, 3-11 MW, 166 RPI): Same story, different week for the Wolf Pack. There is some talented offensive players on the roster, but the team is last in the conference in scoring defense (71.1 ppg). Nevada has lost five straight. It hosts New Mexico Wednesday and plays at Colorado State Saturday. Looks like it will be seven losses in a row after this week.