Breaking Down The 2018-19 Mountain West Player of the Year Race
Could Nevada’s Caleb Martin be the first player ever to win back-to-back Mountain West POY honors?
The 2018-19 Mountain West Player of the Year Race is wide open
Now that we know which players will and won’t be returning to school this coming season, it’s not too early to begin debating who will contend for the Mountain West Player of the Year award in 2019. Below we have 17 players who are labeled as either darkhorses, contenders, or favorites for the accolade this upcoming season.
- Nico Carvacho, Colorado State – The CSU big man decided to stick around with the Rams after speaking with other schools amid the coaching change. Carvacho was one of just seven D-I players last year to rank in the nation’s top 35 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. He’s a lock to average a double-double in ’19.
- Braxton Huggins, Fresno State – The New Mexico State transfer was fourth on our list of the top ten incoming transfers for the ’18-19 season. With Fresno State losing Jahmel Taylor, Jaron Hopkins and Ray Bowles to transfer, the door is wide open for Huggins to bolster the Bulldog backcourt. Huggins more than doubled his scoring average as a junior (5.9 PPG to 13.7 PPG).
- Nisre Zouzoua, Nevada – Nevada is so deep that it’s impossible to tell what the rotations are going to look like in November. Regardless, it would be negligent to keep Zouzoua, a 20-points-per-game scorer with Bryant, off this list. Zouzoua is Nevada’s top backcourt addition and is eerily similar, statistically speaking, to Marcus Marshall, a MWC first team selection in 2017.
- Anthony Mathis, New Mexico – Every team could use a guy like Anthony Mathis, a high-energy, knockdown shooter who can heat up quickly. Mathis pocketed 47.3 percent of his three-point attempts last season, logging 18 consecutive double-digit scoring outputs. He’s a perfect fit in Paul Weir’s offensive system.
- JaQuan Lyle, New Mexico – Lyle, a former Ohio State Buckeye, sat out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA’s transfer eligibility rules. Though his per-game underclassmen averages are largely similar, Lyle improved his offensive efficiency by a wide margin as a sophomore. His points-per-possession average rocketed from 0.97 to 1.09, he became more selective with his three-pointers (attempt rate down from 36.7 to 30.7 but percentage up 15.5%), and is already one of the nation’s top passers.
- Vance Jackson, New Mexico – The UConn transfer sat out this past season and fielded offers from San Diego State, Baylor, Washington, TCU, and others before signing on to play with Paul Weir in Albuquerque. Jackson, a redshirt sophomore, can defend multiple positions and has a decent touch and handle for a 6-8 forward. He averaged 8.1 PPG and hit 39.7 percent of his three-point attempts as a freshman.
- Matt Mitchell, San Diego State – Mitchell struggled a bit with consistency as a freshman (as most do), but a standout sophomore season could certainly be in the cards for the Riverside native. Look for Mitchell’s role to expand with the departures of heavy-usage players Malik Pope and Trey Kell. He’s already one of the better defenders in the Mountain West.
- Devin Watson, San Diego State – Watson’s per-game scoring significantly decreased, as expected, after moving over from San Francisco, though he remained a steady offensive option for the Aztecs. His timely baskets in the conference tournament helped propel SDSU to the NCAA Tournament, something Watson can build off of going into his senior season. Look for Brian Dutcher to make Watson the team’s offensive centerpiece this winter.
- Sam Merrill, Utah State – With the sweetest stroke in the league, Merrill is a deadly scorer from the perimeter. The Aggies will bolster one of the Mountain West’s youngest rosters, though, which could make it an uphill battle for Merrill’s POY hopes. Even so, he’s likely to flirt with 20 points per game, 100 made three-pointers, and a 50/45/90 shooting slash line.