Mountain West Tournament Day 2: What We Learned
All of the higher seeds advance for the second consecutive day
The 2019 MW semis are set
The second day of the Mountain West Tournament is in the books. Below are the three biggest takeaways from Thursday’s action.
Nevada-San Diego State will be a bloodbath
Round III? Sign me up. Nevada and San Diego State had to use the entire gas tank Thursday to notch quarterfinals victories. The Wolf Pack, taking on eighth-seeded Boise State, trailed 27-12 early before closing the gap late in the first half and eventually winding up with the victory. The Aztecs, meanwhile, shook off a poor shooting night to down UNLV. So what does this mean for Friday’s semifinals matchup? Well, it’s going to be heated and energy-packed, if nothing else. These two teams hate each other and nothing would make their fans happier than picking up a win over a conference rival for the second time this season. Nevada hopes to avenge last year’s loss in the Mountain West Tournament semis to SDSU, a blowout in which Eric Musselman’s group once trailed by 34 points.
Selection Sunday won’t be stressful for Utah State
You could hear a collective sigh of relief from the Utah State sidelines after the Aggies finished off the pesky New Mexico Lobos 91-83 late Thursday night. It wasn’t a sparkly performance from the Mountain West co-champion against UNM. Utah State had a season-high 24 turnovers, three starters in foul trouble, and needed to rally in the second half amidst a sea of Lobo fans at the Thomas & Mack Center. Regardless, a win is a win and Utah State won’t have a chance to suffer a resume-damaging loss between now and Selection Sunday. Utah State has a rubber match Friday evening against Fresno State, a team that’s top 100 in NET and will be a Q2 result on USU’s team sheet. With now two teams essentially locking up NCAA Tournament bids already, a San Diego State or Fresno State title would likely mean the Mountain West sends three teams to the dance for the first time since 2015.
UNLV is what we thought they were
To quote the great Dennis Green after the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in 2006, “they are who we thought they were.” The Runnin’ Rebels are who I thought they were this season. UNLV shot 32 percent from the field in its 63-55 defeat at the hands of San Diego State on Thursday, the team’s third loss to the Aztecs this season. First off, the Rebels didn’t have a bad year at all. UNLV had its best conference record under Marvin Menzies (11-7), but the context of those 11 wins and seven losses is what matters most. The conference’s fifth-seeded Rebels were swept by No. 1 seed Nevada, lost its only games to No. 2 seed Utah State and No. 3 seed Utah State, and failed to get a ‘W’ in any of their three chances against SDSU. Each of the 11 conference victories were against teams that finished lower than UNLV in the standings.
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.