MW men’s basketball power rankings

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.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. New Mexico (20-4 overall, 7-2 MW, 3 RPI): The first-place team in the conference by a half game, and the highest ranked team at No. 19 despite a loss at UNLV last Saturday.  Despite some teams on the Lobos heels right now, this is still the best and most consistent team in the league.

2. Colorado State (19-4 overall, 6-2 MW, 15 RPI): The Rams are No. 24 in the polls , but this is a big week for them. They put their 26-game home winning streak on the line tonight against San Diego State, and then travel to Air Force Saturday. And, the Rams still get New Mexico at home. A conference title is still very much within reach.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

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.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. New Mexico (19-3 overall, 6-1 MW, 5 RPI): Best overall and conference record, and the highest RPI. Tough to go against those three factors. The only team in the conference with a winning road conference record (2-1), and is 5-2 on the road overall. Best team in the league, without a doubt, right now, even though it doesn’t have any eye-popping statistics.

2. Colorado State (18-4 overall, 5-2 MW, 15 RPI): A 26-game home winning streak, a starting lineup with five seniors and the best rebounding team in the conference — and one of the best in the country. As stated in previous weeks, the Rams need a big conference road win. It plays at Nevada tonight — a game it should win.

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UW-San Diego State pregame notes

It will be interesting to see in today’s Wyoming-San Diego State men’s hoops game if San Diego State has point guard Xavier Thames. He sat out the conference-opener last week at Fresno State with a bad back, and had no points and no assists in 25 minutes in the Aztecs’ 82-75 home loss to UNLV on Wednesday.

There are plenty of other guys that can play the point for SDSU. But still, that could be an interesting thing to follow today. This would have been a good game to get senior guard Luke Martinez back at 6-foot-4 to help defend the 6-3 Thames, 6-3 senior guard Chase Tapley or even 6-5 guard Jamaal Franklin — the reigning MW Player of the Year. SDSU also has a 6-8 freshman, Winston Shepard, than can play the point, or at very least, handle the ball.

–UW and San Diego State were a combined 8 of 56 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range in their last games. The Cowboys must make some 3s to have a chance to win today.

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UW-San Diego State Q&A

I am still in Orlando, Fla., for the Associated Press Sports Editors winter conference and contest judging event. Not trying to rub it in to those of you back in Wyoming, but the weather is a lot better here. … Windy, but in the 70s.

Anyway, I caught up with Mark Zeigler who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune and I asked him five questions on Wednesday’s Wyoming-SDSU game.

With San Diego State’s recent struggles, is the team wearing down because of a lack of depth with only nine scholarship players? I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but it certainly looks that way. Two things I have noticed that would indicate accumulated fatigue are players getting stuck in screens far more often than earlier in the season, and flatter jump shots. Both point to tired or heavy legs. And the nine scholarship players is deceiving. One rarely plays. Another plays but only because a guard has to come off the bench and there’s no one else. Another is DeShawn Stephens, who was cut from his high school team and, while an incredibly inspirational story, is in just his third year of organized basketball (and first at the Division I level). So when Jamaal Franklin sat out the Air Force game with a sprained ankle and Garrett Green, his replacement in the starting lineup, sprained an ankle midway through the second half, they in reality were down to four experienced players who get meaningful minutes.

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UW-San Diego State postgame thoughts

“We made decisions with the basketball, and even without the basketball, we haven’t done all year. We have even done that in practice.”

That’s how Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt described his team’s offense in a 52-42 loss to the 13th-ranked Aztecs Tuesday night in Laramie.

Shyatt said it wasn’t so much what SDSU did on defense, other than play with great positioning, than his team “self-destructing” with its decision-making.

UW shot only 30.6 percent. That and its point total were season-lows.

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UW-San Diego State key to the game

Here it is, my highly anticipated key for the Wyoming men’s basketball team in tonight’s home game against No. 13 San Diego State:

Keeping tabs on Tapley: San Diego State guard Chase Tapley was the Aztecs’ third or fourth option the last two seasons, but now as a junior he’s the top scoring option and leads the Mountain West in scoring at 16.6 points per game. Tapley is arguably the league’s best pure scorer. Tapley may get his points, but Wyoming needs to make him work for them. And, if Tapley gets his points, UW needs to make sure no one else for the Aztecs has big games offensively.

Here are a couple of other things to chew on:

–San Diego State has only nine players on scholarship. It has four walk-ons, but they don’t play much. Could the altitude in Laramie play a factor with such a short bench?

–San Diego State has won the last three games against UW by an average of 32 points. But it’s lost the last two games in Laramie during the month of January. The Cowboys won 85-83 on Jan. 9, 1010 and 83-79 on Jan. 14, 2009.

For more on the game, and my other four keys/things to watch, see today’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

UW-San Diego State Q&A

I asked Mark Zeigler, who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, five questions about Tuesday’s game with Wyoming.

After losing so much talent of last season’s team, how has San Diego State been able to simply reload? It’s a combination of rebuilding and reloading. They lost four starters and 72 percent of their offense, but they’ve replaced that with a mix of returning players and newcomers. Xavier Thames and Garrett Green are both transfers, and Chase Tapley, James Rahon and Tim Shelton are returnees. Tapley and Rahon played big minutes last season, but Shelton was limited to about 10 minutes per game by injuries. Having him healthy is like adding a new player. The key thing, though, is that everyone around last year, including the transfers sitting out, was infused with the culture of winning from a 34-3 season. And that, more than anything, seems to have rubbed off. One other thing, and I wrote about this Saturday, is that this is Fisher’s best “film team,” a really cerebral group that is really engaged and attentive during scout and film sessions. Here’s a link, in case anybody is interested: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/20/sdsus-secret-weapon/

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