How The Mountain West Can Get Two NCAA Tournament Bids
Yes, it is possible for the league to get a legit at-large team.
Utah State is the leagues only hope for a second bid.
The Mountain West can legitimately land two tems to the NCAA Tournament. First, Nevada is in regardless of what happens the rest of the way and that includes the unlikely scenario of losing the rest of its games.
Second, the Wolf Pack can still win the conference tournament and the league can still get a second team in the field of 68, and it does not require an underdog to win the tournament. There is no need for a scenario like last year to happen where it was New Mexico vs. San Diego State vying for the conference title.
Utah State is that second team which can get an at-large bid. They are a team that has slowly built a quality resume to be considered for a tournament bid. The Aggies are 22-6 overall, 12-3 in league play and have a shot to split the regular season title with Nevada.
The three league losses are to Nevada (yes, a blowout), at San Diego State and against Fresno State at home. Even with the Aztecs NET and KenPom rating outside the top 100, that loss looks better with San Diego State on a roll. Meaning, that loss is not looking all that bad.
It is always said on clockwork that the bubble is weak but this year could be the exception, Teams who are considered as the first four or eight our are not making great cases to earn a bid. The Aggies are finding themselves one of the first four out and just a few like CBS’ bracket place Utah State in the opening round game as a 12 seed.
Taking a look back at history, the Aggies look to be in really good shape to make the NCAA tournament when looking teams with a similar resume.
After looking at those numbers, the Aggies would really benefit from getting ints NET rating into the top 30, and that could happen if they are to upset Nevada next Saturday in Logan.
That game next week on March 2 will be huge and the biggest Mountain West game to date. If the Aggies can beat Nevada then it will give them a pair of Quadrant 1 victories, the other is a neutral floor win over St. Mary’s.
Even a loss to the Wolf Pack would not crush the Aggies at-large chances, assuming Utah State wins the rest of its games in the regular season. The non-Nevada games on the Aggies schedule are not easy wins and it starts with a streaking San Diego State team which has won five in a row and eight of nine.
Utah State gets the Aztecs at home on Feb. 26, Nevada the following Saturday and then ends the season against Colorado State on the road. KenPom has the Aggies winning all three of its remaining games, and, yes, that includes a projected one-point win over Nevada.
For Utah State to easily secure a tournament bid they would need to go 3-0 the rest of the way and win a pair of games and make it to the conference tournament final. That would give the Aggies a 27-7 record and a pair of Q1 wins and that should be enough to get them in the field of 68.
Even a loss to Nevada would not rule out the Aggies earning an at-large bid, but they would then would have to make the conference title game for hearing its name called on Selection Sunday.
The conference has taken a lot of heat for being extremely down this year, but the Aggie started very few expectations to be a threat this season. They started at the bottom and has worked its way up to have a chance to claim a share of the Mountain West title and also are in the running for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.