MW men’s basketball power rankings entering the 4th week of conference play

Here are my weekly power rankings for Mountain West men’s basketball teams heading into this week’s games. Look for these rankings on a weekly basis throughout the conference season. RPI numbers are from as of Jan. 15.

  1. Nevada (16-3 overall, 5-0 MW, 16 RPI): Still the only undefeated team in conference play, and also the team with the longest winning streak in the conference at five. Depth remains an issue with this team, but so far it has made it work with its main players logging a lot of minutes. There will be a big test for the Wolf Pack this week. Games this week: at San Jose State, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU); vs. Boise State, 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).

2. Boise State (15-3, 5-1, 29 RPI): The Broncos bounced back well after their loss at Wyoming Jan. 6 with a road win at Fresno State and a home win over San Diego State in front of a sellout crowd. Senior guard Chandler Hutchison scored 44 points in the win over San Diego State and leads the conference in scoring at 19.8 points per game. The supporting cast around Hutchison is good, but also needs to be more consistent. Games this week: vs. Utah State, 7 p.m. Wednesday (Stadium/Facebook Live); at Nevada, 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).

3. San Diego State (11-5, 3-2, 64 RPI): No shame in a close loss at Boise State last week. Like many MW teams, consistency is an issue night in and night out. The defense is the best in the MW in terms of points allowed per game, but veteran guys need to be better on offense. Games this week: vs. Fresno State, 9 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU); at New Mexico, 5 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network).

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MW men’s basketball power rankings entering third week of conference play

Here are my weekly power rankings for Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Look for these rankings on a weekly basis throughout the conference season. RPI numbers are from as of Jan. 7.

1. Nevada (15-3 overall, 4-0 MW, 16 RPI): The lone undefeated team in conference play, and also the team with the longest winning streak in the conference at four. Not the deepest team in the MW, but probably the most talented. It will take a heck of an effort from any team in the league to beat the Wolf Pack. Game this week: vs. Utah State, 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3 — online).

2. Boise State (13-3, 3-1, 45 RPI): Yeah, the Broncos lost in overtime at Wyoming last Saturday, but they stay No. 2 in these rankings because — to me — they are the most complete team in the conference with the best player in senior guard Chandler Hutchison. But Boise State has a big week ahead of it to stay in this spot, or possibly surpass Nevada. Games this week: at Fresno State, 9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPNU); vs. San Diego State, 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).

3. Wyoming (11-5, 2-1, 50 RPI): The Cowboys’ first three games in league play were against San Diego State, Nevada and Boise State, and they went 2-1 with both wins at home. Any team would take that. Wyoming must become more consistent across the board, and a leg injury to junior guard Justin James late in last Saturday’s game with Boise State is a concern. The Cowboys also are last in the MW in scoring defense (76.1 ppg). That has to change. Games this week: at New Mexico, 7 p.m. Wednesday (Stadium/Facebook Live); vs. Colorado State, 2 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

Here are my weekly power rankings for Mountain West men’s basketball teams entering the second week of conference play. Look for these rankings on a weekly basis throughout the conference season. RPI numbers are from as of Jan. 1.

1. Nevada (13-3, 2-0 MW, 22 RPI): Started conference play with an impressive win at Fresno State, followed by a surprisingly close win at home over New Mexico. Still a solid No. 1 in these rankings, but for the Wolf Pack to survive the rigors of conference play, it needs to get more out of its bench. Games this week: vs. Wyoming, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (CBS Sports Network); at Air Force, noon Saturday (AT&T SportsNet).

2. Boise State (12-2, 2-0, 26 RPI): An impressive first weekend of conference play, including a road win at UNLV. Nevada may be a solid No. 1 in these rankings, but the Broncos are not far behind. Boise state averages an impressive 88 points per game. Games this week: vs. New Mexico, 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN3 — online); at Wyoming, 6 p.m. Saturday (AT&T SportsNet).

3. Wyoming (10-4, 1-0, 73 RPI): A nice home win over San Diego State to start conference play last week, and now the Cowboys face the two teams ahead of them in these rankings this week. We will learn a lot more about Wyoming this week. Games this week: at Nevada, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (CBS SportsNetwork); vs. Boise State, 6 p.m. Saturday (AT&T SportsNet).

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MW men’s basketball power rankings as league play begins

It is time for conference play for Mountain West men’s basketball team, and also the debut of my weekly power rankings. Look for these rankings on a weekly basis throughout the conference season. RPI numbers are from as of Dec. 26.

1. Nevada (11-3, 23 RPI): A head-scratching loss at San Francisco to end its nonconference season, but the preseason league favorite and defending regular-season and conference tournament champion earns the top spot. The Wolf Pack will be tested in its MW opener at Fresno State Wednesday. Games this week: at Fresno State, 8 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN3); vs. New Mexico, 3 p.m. Saturday (AT&T SportsNet).

2. Boise State (10-2, 29 RPI): The Broncos got smoked at SMU in its final nonconference game, but also racked up some nice wins. Senior Chandler Hutchison is playing like the preseason MW Player of the Year, and the supporting cast around him also has played well. Perhaps the most important statistic is Boise State leads the league in scoring defense at 64.5 points per game. Games this week: vs. Colorado State, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (CBS SportsNetwork); at UNLV, 9 p.m. Saturday (AT&T SportsNet).

3. San Diego State (8-3, 55 RPI): A two-point win at home over then No. 12 Gonzaga Dec. 21 was by far the conference’s best nonconference win. When this team is healthy, it may be the best team in the league. In coach Brian Dutcher’s first season, the Aztecs remain one of the better defensive teams in the country, but are pushing the tempo more offensively and average 78.3 points per game. Games this week: at Wyoming, 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN3); vs. Utah State, 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3).

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Cowboys get little respect in preseason from MW media

The Mountain West held its annual Men’s Basketball Media Summit Wednesday, which is a fancy term for media day, here in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel.

Aside from the odd name, the oddest thing to me was the predicted order of finish for Wyoming. Selected media members picked UW seventh in the 11-team league. I voted in this, and had UW 4th.

Nine returning lettermen, most of which played big roles in the Cowboys’ 23-win season and CBI championship didn’t get a lot of respect from others who cover the conference.

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Another new experience for many Cowboys as MW Men’s Basketball Tournament begins

There’s been a lot of firsts for Wyoming men’s basketball this season.

A first-year coach.

First-year players, and others with bigger roles.

Five UW players will go through another first Wednesday when the No. 7 seed Cowboys (18-13) play No. 10 Air Force (11-20) at 2:30 p.m. MT  in a first-round game. They will play in their first-ever MW Tournament game.

Justin James

Two in particular are sophomore guard Justin James and junior forward Hayden Dalton. Both were on the team last year, but were suspended prior to the tournament after being cited by Laramie police for drug use. James and Dalton are UW’s two leading scorers at 15.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.

“It hurt knowing I couldn’t be out there helping my team in some way. This year I’m ready to play,” James said.

Needless to say, UW needs both players to have good games Wednesday, but perhaps the biggest area is ball security. James and Dalton lead UW in turnovers. Between both, they average about five turnovers per game, and many of them are careless turnovers that can easily be avoided.

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MW not perceived as a good hoops league, but don’t tell Allen Edwards that

As Wyoming gets set to begin play in the Mountain West Tournament at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday against Air Force, it appears — and this isn’t breaking news — that the MW will again be a one-bid league to the NCAA Tournament.

Allen Edwards

Last year, San Diego State went 16-2 in MW play and was the top seed in the MW Tournament. It lost to Fresno State in the tournament’s championship game, and played in the NIT. Nevada won this year’s regular-season MW title, and although its RPI entering the MW Tournament is 36, the Wolf Pack seemingly has to win the tournament to get to the NCAAs.

Right, wrong or indifferent, on a national scale the MW is a mid-major conference. The days of getting multiple teams into the NCAA Tournament, let alone five not that long ago, are gone — at least until its 11 hoops-playing members win some notable nonconference games.

First-year UW coach Allen Edwards was asked about this perception Monday, and had this to say:  “Sometimes the perception hurts because of the year San Diego State (sixth seed) and New Mexico (fifth seed) has had, and probably because those guys not taking down a Power 5 team. This is a well-balanced league and we’ve been beating up on each other. Sometimes that looks bad. There are teams in this league can go into the (NCAA) Tournament and get a win. Nevada is a good team. So is Colorado State, Boise State, Fresno State. … I can go down the list all the way down to us (the seventh seed in the MW Tournament). I disagree with people saying it’s down year or a one-bid league.”

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Marshall’s contributions are more than what shows up on stat sheets

Morris Marshall’s career with the Wyoming men’s basketball team hasn’t been full of a lot of bright spots.

Morris Marshall

The 6-foot-4 guard came to UW last season from Santa Fe Junior College in Florida, and he averaged three minutes in eight games in 2015-16.

This season, with a new coach and more up-tempo offense Marshall’s role figured to increase. However, he’s dealt with a nagging shin injury since the summer. Although he’s been healthy the last few weeks, Marshall has played in only 13 games and averaged 6.5 minutes per contest.

Marshall’s final home regular-season game for the Cowboys is at 2 p.m. Saturday against San Jose State. Will he play, and how much, remains to be seen. But whether he plays or not, Marshall’s been an important part of this team according to one of its key players.

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MW men’s basketball: mediocrity or competitive?

First-year Wyoming coach Allen Edwards was asked Monday why he thinks the Cowboys’ opponent Tuesday — San Diego State — has been off this season. The Aztecs enter the game 11-9 overall and 3-5 in the Mountain West. They were picked to win the conference in the preseason by the league’s head coaches and select media. I was one of those media members, and also picked the Aztecs to win it.

“I think it’s because the league is more balanced than it has been. yet they’re only losing by a few points,” Edwards said. “Last year when going through league 16-2, they got a lot of wins by close margins. This year, they’ve not found a way to do that consistently. It may look like they’re having a down year, but many of those losses could have been flipped.”

That’s a good and fair point.

San Diego State is 0-6 in games decided by six points or less, or two possessions. Four of its five MW losses has been by six points or less, including three by three points or less. The Aztecs lost their last two games by a combined four points, but held double-digit leads in both.

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Cowboys, Wolf Pack enter as even teams on paper

Saturday is the biggest game on the schedule for the Wyoming men’s basketball team. One reason is because it’s the next game on the’ schedule. But the biggest reason is up until now, this is the best team that’s come into the Arena-Auditorium this season.

UW (12-5 overall, 2-2 Mountain West) hosts Nevada (14-3, 3-1) at 4 p.m. MT, and fans can watch it online on ESPN3. Nevada is in second place in the conference behind Boise State, but has the best record in the league.

When you look at this game on paper, you see two pretty even teams.

— Nevada leads the MW in scoring (79.4 ppg), followed by UW (78.6 ppg). Both teams allow pretty much the same amount of points. Nevada allows 72.2, UW 72.9 per contest. Look for a high-scoring, entertaining game Saturday if nothing else.

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