UW-San Diego State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Tod Leonard, who helps cover San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, about Tuesday night’s game with the University of Wyoming at 9:05 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

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How surprised are you that San Diego State is No. 5 in the nation, undefeated in the MW and winners of 20 straight games? Wasn’t this supposed to be somewhat of a transition season for the Aztecs?

With the Mountain West Player of the Year from last season, Jamaal Franklin, leaving one season early for the NBA, there seemed to be a consensus in the Mountain West that this would be a transition season. The Aztecs were picked by the coaches to finish fourth in the conference. Nobody, including San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, saw a 20-game winning streak or 10-0 start in the MW coming. The team is young, and point guard Xavier Thames, who had a history of back trouble, needed to fill Franklin’s role and the Aztecs had to get a big contribution from sophomore forward Winston Shepard. Both have produced, and 6-feet-10 sophomore Skylar Spencer has come up big on the inside defense with 54 blocked shots in the past 20 games.

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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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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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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. No. 15 New Mexico (16-2 overall, 3-0 MW, 8 RPI): The only undefeated team in league play after two weeks, and the only team in the AP poll. The Lobos also have the conference’s longest winning streak at three, which says a lot about how tough all the teams are. Faces a big home game tonight against Colorado State where both teams are equally as good in the backcourt and frontcourt.

2. Colorado State (15-3, 2-1, 17 RPI): An overtime loss at San Diego State is the only conference loss. This is the most veteran team in the league, and perhaps the most physical. Senior and first-year center Colton Iverson and senior forward Pierce Hornung combine to average 19.1 rebounds per game, and the Rams are the conference’s best rebounding team. CSU needs a signature road win in league play, and tonight it gets a shot at New Mexico.

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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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Wyoming men’s hoops picked sixth in MW

The Wyoming men’s basketball team was picked sixth in the Mountain West preseason media poll. No big surprise there, and that’s where I picked the Pokes in my poll.

New Mexico received 22 of the 26 first-place votes. UNLV received the other four. I thought the Rebels would get a few more first-place votes. Perhaps a change in coaches from Lon Kruger to Dave Rice contributed to that.

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