MW men’s basketball power rankings entering 7th week of conference play

Here are my weekly power rankings for Mountain West men’s basketball teams heading into this week’s games. RPI numbers are from NCAA.com as of Feb. 4.

  1. No. 23 Nevada (20-4 overall, 9-1 MW, 12 RPI): The Wolf Pack have bounced back well after a loss at Wyoming Jan. 24. Still not a deep team, but also still the best team in the conference. A couple of tough games this week, but they are at home. Games this week: vs. Nevada, 9 p.m. Wednesday (CBS Sports Network); vs. San Diego State, 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2).

2. Boise State (19-4, 9-2, 37 RPI): Coach Leon Rice has waded across the Boise River and rode a horse through campus to get people to Taco Bell Arena. It has worked, but he shouldn’t have to do these things because the Broncos are legit. A pair of challenging road games await the Broncos. Games this week: at New Mexico, 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPNU); at Utah State, 7 p.m. Saturday (AT&T SportsNet).

3. New Mexico (12-12, 7-4, 160 RPI): A short-handed squad lost at Utah State and then struggled to win at San Jose State last week. Still, the Lobos remain in third place in the standings, and in these power rankings. Don’t think anyone saw this coming. Games this week: vs. Boise State, 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPNU); at Air Force, 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3 — online).

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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 NCAA.com 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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MW men’s basketball power rankings

We enter the third week of conference play, and while there wasn’t a lot of movement among the top teams in my power rankings, there was some among other teams.

RPI rankings are from RealTimeRPI.com, and nine of the 11 MW teams have RPIs of between 100 and 181. As a league, the MW has an RPI of 11 out of 32 conferences.

As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

1. Boise State (12-4 overall, 3-0 MW, 49 RPI): The Broncos remain the top dog in the conference. They’ve won nine in a row. Junior forward James Webb III has won back-to-back MW Player of the Week honors, and three this season. Boise State made nearly a 30-point rise in the RPI from last week.

2. San Diego State (10-6, 3-0, 100 RPI): We will see this week if the Aztecs are worthy of being ranked this high with road games at Colorado State and Boise State.

3. New Mexico (10-6, 3-0, 116 RPI): A four-game losing streak prior to league play seems a distant memory after winning three straight to open league play. The defense has improved, which has led to better offense.

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Coaches weigh in about keeping MW Tournament at Thomas & Mack Center

Wyoming men’s basketball coach Larry Shyatt spoke for a little more than 20 minutes Monday on behalf of the other 10 Mountain West men’s hoops coaches about the league’s decision to change the format of the MW Tournament to eight teams for both the men’s and women’s events starting in 2017.

Larry Shyatt

Larry Shyatt

In the past, and for the 2016 event, all teams were allowed to participate.

Here’s is Shyatt’s full statement from Monday. Quick hint, he didn’t hold anything back and needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

http://www.wyosports.net/shyatt-issues-statement-on-behalf-of-mw-hoops-coaches-on/article_642f6f4a-ad82-11e5-b81b-9bd0b26a88d4.html

The MW decision, which was released on Dec. 18, also included keeping the MW Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas — the home court for UNLV — through 2019.

UNLV has won three MW Tournament titles there, with the last one coming in 2008. The MW gets a good deal in terms of “rent” for the facility, which was the driving force to keeping it there.

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UW-Colorado State men’s hoops: 3 takes, notes, quotes and video

My 3 takes from Wyoming’s 59-48 win over Colorado State at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

1. Repeat performance: The Cowboys held the Rams to 54 points and 34 percent shooting in a 60-54 win at Moby Arena on Jan. 7. They out did themselves in this game as they held Colorado State to season-lows in points and shooting percentage at 30. The Rams were 3 of 25 from 3-point range, and just 5 of 25 in the first half.

“Wyoming is a good team, and we’re a real good team. Sometimes you just can’t explain. This is one of those games that you just can’t explain,” Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. “I’m not embarrassed at all of this game, our guys tried for 40 minutes. We just couldn’t make shots, and when you don’t make shots you don’t look very good.”

Here are some second half highlights from the game:

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UW-CSU postgame thoughts, notes, quotes and VIDEO

It may not have been one of the best played games between Wyoming and Colorado State in its long men’s basketball history.

But it was one of the more exciting ones as the Cowboys won 60-54 in front of a near sellout crowd of 8,108 Wednesday night at Moby Arena Wednesday night.

Wyoming had 17 turnovers, went nearly nine minutes without a basket in the second half, had two of its better players in foul trouble and its best player rattled by an injury.

Yet, the Cowboys never trailed in the game and improved to 14-2 overall, 3-0 in the Mountain West. It is the first time since the 2002-03 season that UW has started 3-0 in MW play. The Pokes also snapped a five-game losing streak at Colorado State (14-2, 1-2) and snapped the Rams’ 10-game home winning streak.

And one last streak, UW has won three straight road games after losing its first two this season.

Redshirt sophomore guard Jason McManamen of Torrington hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds to play to give UW a 59-54 lead. That sealed the win. McManamen had eight poins off the bench and made both of his 3-pointers in the game.

Here are highlights of that last 3-pointers, and what McManamen had to say after the game:

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UW-Colorado State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a Q&A session with Matt Stephens, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradoan about Wednesday night’s Border War game with the University of Wyoming.

UW (13-2 overall, 2-0 Mountain West) and Colorado State (14-1, 1-1) tip off at 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Follow on Twitter: @MattStephens

With nine transfers on the roster from other Division I schools or junior colleges, what has coach Larry Eustachy done to be able to take that mixture of talent and blend it into a team that is 14-1 and was nationally ranked as of last week?

I think it’s less about what he’s done since they got here and more a focus on the recruiting process, especially the help Eustachy receives from assistant coach Ross Hodge. Under Eustachy, and Tim Miles before him, Colorado State has done a good job – for the most part – finding talented basketball players who are high-character individuals.

There have been the run-ins with the law every few years, but they’ve always been isolated incidents. Eustachy has done a great job finding guys who have personalities that don’t clash with their teammates. This is a team that gets along pretty well.

Look at Daniel Bejarano. He’s a guy who two years ago told me he didn’t really have friends at CSU – not even his teammates he lived with – and cared more about his family in Phoenix than making new relationships in Fort Collins. Now he’s a leader on the court and off it, often hanging out with his teammates as just one of the guys.

It’s also helped that John Gillon, Tiel Daniels and Stanton Kidd sat out last season and were able to get to know their team pretty well during that year.

 

Who, in your mind, really makes this team click when things are going well or even lifts them up when things aren’t going well?

It has to be Gillon. Quite the unexpected star off the bench.

CSU doesn’t use a traditional point guard in its starting rotation and instead uses Bejarano in that role for the first few minutes, but when Gillon comes in, he’s explosive.

He’s generously listed at 6-foot (even Eustachy admits that’s quite a stretch), looks out of control at times, but always has a plan. He does one of two things when the ball is in his hand, shoot a deep 3-pointer (he’s 20 of 40 from the perimeter) or drive hard to the basket, only to draw a foul or dish it off late.

He didn’t want Jon Octeus to transfer, hoping to learn from him before taking over the point, but has blossomed nicely.

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UW-Colorado State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Stephens, who covers Colorado State men’s basketball for the Fort Collins Coloradan, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 2 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @MattStephens

Are the Rams where you thought they would be in the conference standings based on what it lost from last season’s NCAA Tournament team and had coming back?

To be completely honest with you, I didn’t have CSU making the NCAA tournament this year, but the Rams were fourth on my preseason ballot behind New Mexico, Boise State and San Diego State. Sitting in eighth with a game to go is a bit of a surprise, but not so much because of what CSU failed to do this season.

Nevada and Fresno State have found a way to struggled through nonconference, but pick up some quality wins in Mountain West play, which has dropped the Rams, Wyoming and Utah State down a couple of pegs in the standings. It’s wild to think that Nevada, which will finish with an overall record below .500, could earn the No. 3 seed in the Mountain West tournament next week if it and Air Force wins Saturday.

 

Junior guard Daniel Bejarano won the league’s sixth man award last season, and has seemingly made a smooth transition into being a starter and leader. Is that accurate or has there been some bumps along the road?

I’d say it’s accurate. He’s really turned up his game since Mountain West play started and you can count on him to score close to 20 points per night and lead the Rams in rebounding. His blowup with coach Larry Eustachy at San Diego State was an obvious hiccup and his offense struggled at Air Force, but other than those instances, he’s earned my vote for first-team all-conference.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi offers his first Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings of the 2013-14 season. Look for these rankings once a week through the end of the regular season. As always, your feedback is encouraged.

1. No. 10 San Diego State (14-1 overall, 3-0 MW): The hottest team in the league with a 13-game winning streak. The Aztecs also own the best nonconference win for the MW with a win at Kansas. This was supposed to be a transition year. A healthy Xavier Thames at guard makes a big difference.

2. New Mexico (12-3, 3-0): One of three teams (San Diego State, Nevada) with two road conference victories. Winners of five straight. Has the best frontline duo in the league in Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. The bench isn’t the deepest, but the Lobos are still very good.

3, Nevada (9-8, 4-0): The biggest surprise in the league so far. Can the Wolf Pack keep this up? Time will tell, but the frontcourt is much better and senior guard Deonte Burton (21.8 ppg) is making his case as a player of the year candidate in the league. A home game tonight against Boise State will be another big test. The Wolf Pack is 4-4 at home but 5-2 on the road.

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UW-Colorado St. postgame thoughts

Colorado State was good, senior center Colton Iverson was dominant and there wasn’t much Wyoming could do about it.

The Cowboys lost their regular-season finale 78-56 to the Rams Wednesday night at the Arena-Auditorium. They finished the regular season on a five-game losing streak, and with a record of 18-12 overall and 4-12 in the Mountain West.

It looks like UW will play Nevada at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the play-in game at the Mountain West Tournament.

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