Mountain West Basketball Tournament: Games We’re Hoping For In Every Round
Choosing a matchup we want to see in the quarterfinals, semis, and championship game in next week’s Mountain West Tournament
Games we need to see in the Mountain West Tournament
The Mountain West Tournament bracket is set. Nevada and Utah State shared the regular season title and look to be the favorites in next week’s showcase in Vegas.
To get our tournament coverage started, we’re highlighting three matchups we need to see at the Thomas & Mack Center, one for each round.
As always, let’s have some fun.
Quarterfinals: No. 10 Wyoming vs. No. 2 Utah State
Alright, hear me out on this one. Wyoming is bad. The Cowboys are 8-23 on the season and went just 4-14 in league play. However, Allen Edwards’ group is led by one of the elite players in the Mountain West in Justin James, who is enjoying a phenomenal individual season. On the year, James is averaging 21.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Pit James and his one-man-show ability against Utah State and see what happens. As good of shape as Utah State is in right now for an at-large bid, any loss (especially to an awful team like Wyoming) could make Selection Sunday that much more nerve-wracking for the Aggies. Plus, I’m just not emotionally ready to see James’ career end quite yet.
Semifinals: No. 1 Nevada vs. No. 4 San Diego State
These two teams hate each other. Technical fouls were called and frustrations boiled over in Nevada’s loss in Viejas on February 20, a 65-57 SDSU victory. The Wolf Pack responded on senior night by blasting the Aztecs by 28 to even the series despite Jeremy Hemsley’s hopes of “ruining the party.” Meanwhile, San Diego State is the only Mountain West team Eric Musselman doesn’t own a winning record against since becoming the Wolf Pack head coach, adding to the overall storyline between these two teams. Last season had the same setup, too, as the conference rivals split the season series. San Diego State, of course, dismantled Nevada 90-73 in the Friday semifinal matchup en route to the Mountain West title the following night. We need to run this one back for the second straight year.
Championship: No. 1 Nevada vs. No. 2 Utah State
Rooting for the top two teams to play in the championship is boring, but this matchup sure isn’t. America has to have this game. The coaching matchup is awesome (the always fascinating Eric Musselman vs. surging first-year head coach Craig Smith), the individual player matchups are great (Caleb Martin vs. Sam Merrill and Jordan Caroline/Trey Porter vs. Neemia Queta), and all hell broke loose the last time these two met (court-storming, handshake line fiasco, Jordan Caroline punching a fire extinguisher glass). If this matchup were to happen, the Wolf Pack and Aggies would be fighting for the Mountain West title, NCAA Tournament seeding, bragging rights, and everything else that would come from a potential rubber match between former WAC rivals. It would easily be one of the most intriguing Mountain West basketball games in recent memory. Sign me up.
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.