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, 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. 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.

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WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

UNLV (20-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) plays at Wyoming (18-8, 4-8) at 5:30 p.m. today in Laramie.

Question: UNLV has won 14 straight home games but has struggled on the road, especially in league play. What are the main reasons for the Rebels’ road woes?

Answer: When you say “struggled” you’re being too kind. The Rebels are 1-9 in their past 10 Mountain West road games, a pathetic skid that started with a 68-66 loss at Wyoming last Feb. 4. The coaches and players share the blame. The coaches are obviously not motivating the players or making the necessary adjustments on the road, and the players need to be held accountable for a lack of effort and intensity. UNLV’s past three losses at Air Force, Fresno State and Boise State were particularly disturbing because the team’s effort was poor. In addition to those factors, the Rebels have all kinds of problems scoring in their half-court offense, and most of the conference road games are played at a slower pace. Defense travels better than offense, too, and UNLV is weaker defensively under Dave Rice than it was under Lon Kruger. It’s an immature team with a relatively new coaching staff, so some struggles on the road can be expected, but 1-9 is ridiculous.

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UW-UNLV pregame notes

A good story in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal on UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett and how he has found the going a little tougher since Mountain West play started.

Colorado State beat UNLV in Fort Collins last Saturday. This is what CSU coach Larry Eustachy said about Bennett and UNLV this week on the Mountain West coaches teleconference: “(UNLV) was a little bit tired. I think Wyoming is going to get a real fresh UNLV team, along with Bennett. That’s going to be hard for anybody to handle, particularly at their place.”

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WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with UNLV men’s basketball beat  writer Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal about tonight’s game with Wyoming at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Look for Q&As with writers who cover the Mountain West foes of UW throughout the conference season.

Question: At 15-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West, how would you assess UNLV’s play to this point? What’s been good and not so good?
Answer:The Rebels have shown only brief flashes of their potential, but that’s not surprising. From the start, I expected this team to underachieve according to expectations the first two months of the season and begin to peak in February and March. Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser and Khem Birch have started only three games together on the front line. Bennett, Birch and guards Katin Reinhardt and Bryce Dejean-Jones are newcomers. It’s not a young team at this point, but it’s a group still learning how to play together as a team, especially on the offensive end. UNLV’s resume was not that impressive until it beat San Diego State on the road last week. At the same time, the Rebels don’t have any bad losses, and each of their four losses were by six points or fewer to quality opponents — Oregon, North Carolina, New Mexico and Colorado State.

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MW men’s hoops 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 Look for these rankings every Tuesday during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these first rankings heading into league play.

1. San Diego State (12-2, RPI 42): The most complete team in the MW with a good mixture of veterans and newcomers. The Aztecs’ two losses have been against top 10 teams (Syracuse and Arizona), and they are the highest ranked MW team in both polls at 15th (coaches) and 16th (AP). They are second in the MW in scoring defense (57.9 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (38.1 percent).

2. UNLV (13-2, RPI 24): The elbow injury to junior forward Mike Moser hasn’t slowed the Rebels down much, and they also are in the top 25 in both polls (19th coaches) and 24 (AP). Freshman forward Anthony Bennett leads the league in scoring (19.9 ppg) and is third in rebounding (9.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.47 bpg). UNLV also leads the MW in assists (18 apg) and steals (9.13 spg).

3. Wyoming (13-0, RPI 25): The Cowboys broke into the top 25 in the coaches poll Monday, and are ranked for the first time since 1988. UW will be more challenged to win games without senior guard and second-leading scorer Luke Martinez. Still, the Cowboys lead the MW in scoring defense (54.6 ppg). Senior forward Leonard Washington, the MW Player of the Week, has emerged as a Player of the Year candidate.

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UW-UNLV postgame thoughts

A horrible first half and a good second half.

That summed up Wyoming’s effort in a 56-48 loss to No. 20 UNLV Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament here at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UW made only three field goals and shot 12.5 percent in the first half. That was as poor as I’ve seen the team play offensively this season. UNLV played well defensively, but UW just didn’t have it.

The second half was better, but before it did UW trailed by 22. The lead was cut to six with under a minute to play. It could have been cut more but UW couldn’t capitalize on some chances.

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For the second time in less than a week, Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and who covers UNLV men’s basketball answered five questions I had for him on Thursday’s game with Wyoming in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament.

What was your take of last Saturday’s UNLV-Wyoming game and what surprised you the most about the outcome of the game? The Cowboys played well, the Rebels shot well as expected, and the officiating was awful. Two soccer flops by UNLV players drew key fouls on Leonard Washington and JayDee Luster. Sometimes officials act as if they get paid by the whistle. The game was choppy and ugly because of too many unnecessary foul calls. That did not surprise me, because I get used to seeing poor officiating, and the final score didn’t surprise me. But in reality it was closer than an 11-point game.
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Thoughts on All-MW men’s hoops team

Here is the link to the All-Mountain West men’s basketball team and other honorees:

I was fortunate to vote on this, and I had four of the five players on both the first and second teams, including UW junior forward Leonard Washington. He’s UW’s highest All-MW pick since senior guard Brandon Ewing made the first team in 2008-09.

I didn’t vote for senior point guard JayDee Luster as the Defensive Player of the Year, but it was well-deserved. When coach Larry Shyatt says he’s the best defender he’s coached in his 40 years on the job, that really says something.

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UW-UNLV postgame thoughts

Wyoming was close to beating No. 17 UNLV here at the Thomas & Mack Center, but foul trouble, turnovers and missed shots late cost the Cowboys in a 74-63 loss Saturday night.

The 11-point loss matches UW’s most lopsided (if you consider 11 points lopsided) of the season.

The Cowboys have played the three best teams in the MW, San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV, to nine points, 10 points and 11 points on the road. The SDSU game went into overtime and UW beat UNLV in Laramie.

They are close to beating these teams. We will see how much closer Thursday when the Cowboys and Rebels play again in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament at 9:30 p.m.

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Matt Youmans covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he answered five questions I had for him on Saturday’s game wt Wyoming.

Is the return of Heath Schroyer to Laramie a big deal down there with him or the team, or is it more for us in the media to bring up? Has Schroyer talked much about coming back? It’s not a big deal. Of the three assistants hired by Dave Rice, Schroyer was sort of the afterthought to most UNLV fans. Justin Hutson brought the reputation as an excellent recruiter and defensive coach from San Diego State. Stacey Augmon obviously is one of the Rebels’ five all-time greatest players, and he has the experience as an NBA assistant coach. Schroyer’s teams at Wyoming never really earned the respect of UNLV fans. But Jerry Tarkanian praised the hire of Schroyer from the start, and I will say Schroyer has been a very good addition to the staff. He’s a high-energy guy who gets involved in practices and on the sideline in games. Schroyer has not talked much about the Cowboys, but he did say recently he’s not that surprised by their success because he recruited several of those players and felt he was always short-handed there because of injuries. The Rebels’ coaches will downplay the Schroyer theme heading into this game. But if they win, you can bet on some players saying something like, “We really wanted to win this one for Coach Schroyer.”
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