Mountain West Tournament Day 3: What We Learned
San Diego State scores another Nevada upset in the Mountain West Tournament semis
The 2019 MW title game is set
The third day of the Mountain West Tournament is in the books. Below are the three biggest takeaways from Friday’s action.
San Diego State, again, saved its best for March
What is up with this team? Every time we count them out, the Aztecs come back from the dead to be the team they were supposed to be in the preseason. For the second consecutive year, San Diego State looked lifeless at times during the regular season, fell behind early in the Mountain West standings, put together some momentum late in conference play, and will again have a chance to play for an NCAA Tournament bid via the MW title game. Brian Dutcher’s squad suffered losses in three of its final four games but were still the trendy pick to make a run in the conference tournament because of what the Aztecs did last March. Well, here we are once more, and SDSU is just 40 minutes away from another trip to the Big Dance.
Late-game miscues continue to plague Nevada
The way Nevada responded to San Diego State going up 13 early in the second half would have led one to believe that the Wolf Pack had enough momentum and composure to seal the victory. But after Tre’Shawn Thurman converted a go-ahead layup with 7:29 remaining, Eric Musselman’s squad spiraled out of control down the stretch. The tournament’s top seed yielded a 16-5 SDSU run the rest of the game, a stretch that included 11 missed field goal attempts, three missed free throws, and three turnovers. Nevada also slipped up in its road losses at Utah State and San Diego State late in the conference season. From here on out, any miscue in crunch time will mean the end of the season for the Wolf Pack.
Utah State’s offensive fluidity could spell trouble for opposing NCAA Tournament teams
Utah State’s offensive performance Saturday night against Fresno State was textbook. The Aggies spaced the floor, found open look after open look, and had excellent passing that led to easy shot opportunities. USU finished the night with 23 assists on 32 made field goals, 13 converted three-pointers, and 13 offensive rebounds on its 34 missed attempts. Craig Smith’s team led by double digits for the final 30 minutes of the game, but Utah State continued to work for quality shots and fight for loose balls. This brand of basketball isn’t new for this group. Utah State is 5th nationally in assist rate and 22nd in points per possession. This team has shot-makers, sure, but it doesn’t rely on good shooting nights to win games. It all starts with constantly searching for the best attempt available and making the most of every possession. That’s dangerous in March.
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.