Utah State Leads Six Teams Vying for #2 Seed in MW Tourney
Aggies have the inside track, but any slip-ups could cause chaos
SDSU has already clinched the top spot, but how will things play out beneath them?
With the Mountain West regular season title already locked up by San Diego State—and with the Aztecs focusing on bigger things, like a potential #1 seed and a chance to cut down the nets in Atlanta—the major storyline in the league has shifted to who will finish in second place.
Currently, there are five teams leading the fight for the Mountain West’s silver medal: Utah State, Colorado State, Nevada, Boise State, and UNLV. The Aggies currently hold a half-game edge over the Rams and Wolf Pack, with the Broncos a full game back. UNLV is in sixth place, but their 8-6 record is only one and half games off Utah State’s pace.
Why is the race for second place so important?
Because with undefeated San Diego State on the other side of the bracket, the teams that finish in second and third will have a few extra games before they have to play the Aztecs. The teams that earn the #4 and #5 seed will face the difficult task of playing an above-average team in their first game and SDSU in the next.
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, each game holds massive sway over seeding for the Mountain West Tournament. To give you an idea of just how contentious these next few weeks will be, take a look at some of the big matchups remaining on the schedule:
- 2/18 – Nevada @ New Mexico
- 2/18 – Colorado State @ UNLV
- 2/22 – UNLV @ San Diego State
- 2/23 – New Mexico @ Boise State
- 2/25 – Colorado State @ San Diego State
- 2/26 – Boise State @ UNLV
- 2/29 – San Diego State @ Nevada
- 2/29 – Utah State @ New Mexico
With so many important games remaining, there are myriad scenarios of how the standings will look on March 1. Here’s a quick investigation into how each team can find their way to second place in the Mountain West.
NEW MEXICO (17-10, 6-8 MW)
Remaining Schedule: 2/18 vs. Nevada, 2/23 @ Boise State, 2/26 @ Air Force, 2/29 vs. Utah State
Yes, that’s right. The Lobos are still in it.
New Mexico is currently in seventh place and below .500 in league play, but they have just enough rope that if everything goes right—and it really is almost everything—they could end up finishing in second place.
Here’s how: Wyoming would need to beat Utah State and Nevada. San Jose State would need to beat Colorado State, Utah State, and UNLV. Air Force would need to beat the Rams in Fort Collins. If all of that happens, and New Mexico takes care of its own business against the Wolf Pack, Broncos, and Falcons, it would set up a spectacular season finale in The Pit.
If the Lobos could win that game, then New Mexico, Utah State, Nevada, Boise State, and Colorado State would all finish with a league record of 10-8. Tiebreaking procedures dictate that the team with the best record against these opponents will receive the highest seed. The Lobos and Aggies would move into a two-way tiebreaker by virtue each having gone 4-2 against these opponents.
The tiebreaker then moves to head-to-head record, which would give New Mexico the advantage—the final game of the season would be the only regular-season meeting of the two teams.
There is virtually no chance that all of that would happen. But the mere fact that it is even still a possibility is amazing, considering how quickly the Lobos have fallen off the map after their 15-3 start to the season.
UNLV (13-14, 8-6 MW)
Remaining Schedule: 2/18 vs. Colorado State, 2/22 @ San Diego State, 2/26 vs. Boise State, 2/29 @ San Jose State
It would still take some major chaos in the Mountain West for the Rebels to finish in second place, but it’s not as far-fetched as New Mexico’s bid. UNLV has plenty of roads into second place—even without a win over San Diego State.
Like New Mexico, the Rebels would really need Utah State to fall apart down the stretch, with the other three teams currently ahead of them stumbling as well. But UNLV could lose to the Aztecs and still finish 11-7. A handful of scenarios could see the Rebels sitting clear of everyone else in the #2 position.
Interestingly, if the Rebels can’t land in the #2 or #3 spot, they may actually have better luck down as the #6 or #7 team. They could stay away from San Diego State and will still have the benefit of playing at home for the Mountain West Tournament.
These scenarios are much, much more likely than the Rebels finishing second. But even more likely is that one of the next four teams will take home the silver. [CONTINUED]