Complete Mountain West Basketball Tournament Primer
The 2018 Mountain West Tournament begins Wednesday with first round games
Nevada looks to defend its conference title
The 2018 Mountain West Tournament gets started Wednesday in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center with UNLV and Air Force in a first round matchup.
To get you prepped for the upcoming tournament, here is a complete primer of what to know about this year’s teams.
Air Force (No. 9 seed)
How they got here: Air Force won two of its last four to grab the No. 9 seed, but offensive lapses continue to plague the Falcons.
Key stat: The Falcons take an inordinate amount of three-point attempts, ranking 50th nationally in three-point attempt rate and just 321st in three-point percentage, according to KenPom.
X-factor: Ryan Swan-Ford. Air Force’s de-facto big man will have his hands full against UNLV’s loaded frontcourt of Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston in the first round.
Last year: Lost in quarterfinals to Colorado State
Boise State (No. 2 seed)
How they got here: Leon Rice’s team enters the Mountain West Tournament with a sturdy 13 conference wins, good for the No. 2 seed. Boise State started the season 20-4 but split its final half-dozen games.
Key stat: Boise State is 19-1 when it makes at least 32% of its three-point attempts, but is just 4-6 when it fails to accomplish the 32% benchmark.
X-factor: Justinian Jessup. The Broncos are undefeated when Jessup makes at least half of his three-pointers (14-0). Jessup has 17 made triples in the last five games.
Last year: Lost in quarterfinals to San Diego State
Colorado State (No. 10 seed)
How they got here: After placing Larry Eustachy on leave mid-season, the Rams turned to associate head coach Steve Barnes and then assistant coach Jase Herl to handle the head coaching duties. Due to injuries and off-court distractions, CSU has plummeted after a 24-win 2017.
Key stat: Nico Carvacho ranks in the top 35 nationally in both offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding percentage.
X-factor: Prentiss Nixon. To survive the first round and move past Utah State, Nixon needs to bring his ‘A’ game. He’ll have his hands full with USU’s Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill.
Last year: Lost in championship to Nevada
Fresno State (No. 4 seed)
How they got here: The Bulldogs were one of the hottest MWC teams after winning five straight games by 13+ points in February, but the loss of Jaron Hopkins to injury hinders Fresno’s tournament hopes.
Key stat: When 25% or fewer of Fresno State’s field goal attempts are three-pointers, the Bulldogs are 10-1 (overtime loss at Utah State being the exception).
X-factor: Sam Bittner. The breakout junior has excelled from downtown this season (48.8% three-point shooter) and might need to knock down some big shots to keep Fresno State alive.
Last year: Lost in semifinals to Nevada
New Mexico (No. 3 seed)
How they got here: The Lobos ride a five-game winning streak into Vegas. First-year head coach Paul Weir has shocked the league by propelling UNM to a No. 3 seed after being placed ninth in most preseason projections.
Key stat: New Mexico averaged more than 1.18 points per possession in conference in half of its games, going 9-0 in such performances.
X-factor: Antino Jackson. In wins, Jackson’s assist:turnover ratio is 2.27, but in losses it’s 1.13. When Jackson makes smart plays and takes care of the ball, New Mexico can be tough to stop.
Last year: Lost in quarterfinals to Fresno State
Nevada (No. 1 seed)
How they got here: Eric Musselman’s group coasted through conference play to grab its second consecutive outright Mountain West title. A season-ending injury to Lindsey Drew and dismissal of Darien Williams has put the already short rotation in a challenging situation.
Key stat: Nevada is the only team in the nation that ranks in the top 15 in three-point percentage (12th) and opponent three-point percentage (13th).
X-factor: Kendall Stephens. The sharpshooting Purdue transfer is nursing a torn thumb ligament. Stephens averages 3.5 made three-pointers per game this season.
Last year: Won championship over Colorado State
San Diego State (No. 5 seed)
How they got here: At 5-7 in conference play after a blowout loss to Nevada, the Aztecs appeared to have put up the white flag. Instead, SDSU has ripped off six straight wins including a revenge victory over Nevada in the season finale.
Key stat: SDSU is 16-2 when its free throw rate (free throw attempts/field goal attempts) is greater than 27.0% and 3-8 when it’s 27.0% or lower.
X-factor: Trey Kell. In four games with Kell sidelined, SDSU’s offense averaged 1.01 points per possession (249th nationally) but in six games since, the average has improved to 1.12 points per possession (65th nationally).
Last year: Lost in semifinals to Colorado State
San Jose State (No. 11 seed)
How they got here: San Jose State lost its first 16 conference games before etching out a home win over Utah State to avoid a winless league record in Jean Prioleau’s first season as head coach.
Key stat: Turning the ball over in nearly a quarter of its offensive possessions (23.6%), the Spartans rank 349th in turnover percentage.
X-factor: Keith Fisher. As long as he can stay out of foul trouble, the freshman forward is good double-digit scoring totals and a handful of rebounds.
Last year: Lost in first round to Utah State
UNLV (No. 8 seed)
How they got here: The new-look Rebels shined in non-conference, declined in January, found another hot streak, and collapsed down the stretch. UNLV has lost five straight games.
Key stat: UNLV has allowed opponents to shoot 49-108 (45.4%) from deep during its ongoing five-game losing streak.
X-factor: Jovan Mooring. The UNLV guard averages 19.0 PPG off 46.5% shooting in Rebel wins and 12.0 PPG off 24.6% shooting in Rebel losses this season.
Last year: Lost in first round to San Diego State
Utah State (No. 7 seed)
How they got here: Utah State was above .500 three separate times in league play, but dropped four of its last five games to fall to a No. 7 seed.
Key stat: The Aggies are 25th nationally in three-point attempt rate, but are just 5-11 when 43.0% or more of their attempts are three-pointers.
X-factor: DeAngelo Isby. Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen can’t do it by themselves, making Isby the next-best scoring option.
Last year: Lost in quarterfinals to Nevada
Wyoming (No. 6 seed)
How they got here: Wyoming had an up-and-down year full of overtime games (six in total), quality wins (Nevada, Boise State, South Dakota State, Louisiana Lafayette, Oregon State) and bad losses (Denver, Colorado State, Northern Colorado).
Key stat: Wyoming is 6-0 when its defensive rebounding percentage is 83.0% or better and 1-8 when it’s 73.0% or worse.
X-factor: Alan Herndon. The conference’s defensive player of the year has had a number of clutch defensive plays late in games this season. When he anchors the Wyoming defense, the Pokes are dangerous.
Last year: Lost in first round to Air Force