Mountain West Basketball 2019: Way-Too-Early Preview

Mountain West Basketball 2019: Way-Too-Early Preview

Air Force

Mountain West Basketball 2019: Way-Too-Early Preview


6) UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

2017-18 season/postseason: 20-13 (8-10)
Notable returnees: Shakur Juiston, Kris Clyburn, Amauri Hardy, Tervell Beck, Chiekh Mbacke Diong
Impact additions: Bryce Hamilton (No. 134), Trey Woodbury (No. 147), Noah Robotham (Akron transfer)
Key losses: Jovan Mooring, Brandon McCoy, Jordan Johnson
Preview: The 2017-18 UNLV basketball season will be remembered, in large part, as a disappointment by Rebel fans’ measures, despite nearly doubling its win total from a season ago. UNLV started the season off to a thundering 11-2 start while gathering AP Top 25 votes before going 9-11 the remainder of the year. Shakur Juiston might have to put the team on his shoulders in 2019 as high-usage offensive players Jovan Mooring, Brandon McCoy and Jordan Johnson have all moved on. The Rebels add quality freshmen newcomers Bryce Hamilton and Trey Woodbury to pair with Akron transfer and Las Vegas native Noah Robotham. Expect a middle-of-the-pack season for the Rebels after another offseason of heavy roster turnover.

5) Boise State Broncos

2017-18 season/postseason: 23-9 (13-5)/NIT first round
Notable returnees: Justinian Jessup, Alex Hobbs, Marcus Dickinson, Zach Haney
Impact additions: Riley Abercrombie
Key losses: Lexus Williams, Chandler Hutchison, Christian Sengfelder
Preview: The first year of the post-Chandler Hutchison era won’t be an easy one, especially with Lexus Williams and Christian Sengfelder also graduating (each of the three started in every appearance this season). Returning is sharpshooter Justinian Jessup, big man Zach Haney, and a capable guard duo in Alex Hobbs and Marcus Dickinson. Hobbs will be the key to a successful ’18-19 season. He had 12 double-digit scoring performances last season (five as a freshman) and will have a heavier dose of usage this upcoming year.

4) Fresno State Bulldogs

2017-18 season/postseason: 21-11 (11-7)
Notable returnees: Bryson Williams, Nate Grimes, Sam Bittner
Impact additions: Braxton Huggins (New Mexico State transfer), Noah Blackwell (Long Beach State transfer), Isaac Likekele (No. 112)
Draft decisions: Deshon Taylor
Key losses
: Jahmel Taylor, Jaron Hopkins, Ray Bowles, Terrell Carter
Preview: Four of last year’s top six scorers are gone, but if the bulk of the roster returns this fall, Fresno State could be a 20-win team yet again. Former San Diego State associate head coach Justin Hutson takes over after Rodney Terry up and left for UTEP. New Mexico State transfer Braxton Huggins (13.7 PPG, 42.0% 3P) and Long Beach State transfer Noah Blackwell (8.1 PPG, 38.0% 3P) will help counter the backcourt departures. The Bulldogs also have two legitimate POY contenders in Deshon Taylor and Bryson Williams, leaving first-year coach Justin Hutson with plenty of tools to play with in his first season.

3) San Diego State Aztecs

2017-18 season/postseason: 22-11 (11-7)/NCAA Tournament – round of 64
Notable returnees: Devin Watson, Matt Mitchell, Jeremy Hemsley, Jordan Schakel
Impact additions: Joel Mensah (No. 180), Nathan Mensah (No. 272)
Draft decisions: Jalen McDaniels
Key losses: Trey Kell, Malik Pope, Max Montana, Kameron Rooks
Preview: Losing senior leaders Trey Kell and Malik Pope hurts, but San Diego State returns plenty from the 2018 Mountain West Championship-winning squad to contend again. Jalen McDaniels (who has declared for the draft without an agent) and Matt Mitchell impressed as freshmen and could be all-league caliber with a productive summer, while seniors Jeremy Hemsley and Devin Watson round out an excellent backcourt. Incoming freshmen Joel Mensah and Nathan Mensah provide some much-needed size and depth. San Diego State will be right in the thick of things again in the Mountain West.

2) New Mexico Lobos

2017-18 season/postseason: 19-15 (12-6)
Notable returnees: Anthony Mathis, Troy Simons, Chris McNeal, Makuach Maluach, Dane Kuiper
Impact additions: Vance Jackson (UConn transfer), Carlton Bragg (Kansas/Arizona State transfer), JaQuan Lyle (Ohio State transfer), Drue Drinnon (No. 214), Tajuan Agee (JUCO transfer), Isaiah Maurice (JUCO transfer)
Key losses: Antino Jackson, Sam Logwood, Joe Furstinger
Preview: New Mexico was one of the most pleasant surprises in all of college basketball this past season, falling a few baskets short of an NCAA Tournament bid after being projected to finish ninth in the league. Paul Weir welcomes a trio of former five-star recruits to Albuquerque this season in Vance Jackson (UConn transfer), Carlton Bragg (Kansas/Arizona State transfer) and JaQuan Lyle (Ohio State transfer). Each of the three have had their own respective setbacks, but Weir’s energetic, disciplined style will maximize a roster that is oozing with as much talent as this program can remember. The sky is the limit for New Mexico in year two of the Paul Weir era.

1) Nevada Wolf Pack

2017-18 season/postseason: 29-8 (15-3)/NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16
Notable returnees: Lindsey Drew, Josh Hall
Impact additions: Jazz Johnson (Portland transfer), Tre’Shawn Thurman (Omaha transfer), Corey Henson (Wagner transfer), G Nisre Zouzoua (Bryant transfer)
Draft decisions: Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin
Key losses: Kendall Stephens, Hallice Cooke, Elijah Foster
Preview: With three all-league players deciding between a senior season in Reno or heading the pros, there typically would be cause for concern whether a team had enough talent to maintain its spot atop the league. That’s not the case here, though, as Nevada has four sit-out transfers eligible for the upcoming season which averaged a combined 64.5 points per game during the 2016-17 campaign. Lindsey Drew, who is recovering from a serious Achilles injury, will be an x-factor heading into next season, as will the development of Josh Hall, who was tremendous in the NCAA Tournament. Even if the Martin twins and Caroline opt to go pro, there is enough scoring punch for Nevada to grab three consecutive outright Mountain West regular season titles. If the trio returns, Nevada will be a sneaky Final Four pick.


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