SDSU the unanimous favorite in debut MWW Power Rankings
It’s finally that time, hoops fans — the MWW Power Rankings are here!
The opening two weeks of the season have provided plenty of drama across the country, but for the Mountain West in particular, it has seemed at times like the play is destined to be a tragedy. Fortunately for the league, its standard-bearer-du-jour has been doing an admirable job of maintaining some level of respect for the conference. For most other teams, the results have been a mixed bag at best — while an especially unlucky few still haven’t even logged their first result.
All of that is to say this: these power rankings are probably going to be a little volatile for a while. Maybe some of us are having a knee-jerk reaction to seeing a promising squad outperform expectations — or fall on its face. Maybe some of us are still clinging to our desperate hopes that this really is the year. Maybe some of us have seen everything that has transpired over thirteen days and our only takeaway is that we have no clue what’s going on.
Well, actually, there is one thing that seemed clear to all of us. We’ll get that in due course.
In the meantime, there are some interesting tiers/clusters forming in the Mountain West Wire power rankings. Below is a breakdown of our staff’s first vote of the 2020-21 season. (Note: 11 points awarded for each 1st-place vote, 10 points for 2nd, and so on. Ties not broken; this is not Sparta.)
11. San Jose State (0-0) — 16 points
The Spartans have yet to take the court thanks to strict limitations on public gatherings and travel in Santa Clara County. Unfortunately for Jean Prioleau’s squad, that means they haven’t had a chance to prove their doubters wrong yet. San Jose State tips off — hopefully — this week against NAIA foes Saint Katherine. The Spartans’ first Division I contest is currently scheduled for Dec. 18 against Santa Clara. Returners Seneca Knight and Richard Washington Jr. look to lead the team, while newcomers Jalen Dalcourt and Mike Ofoegbu could also make big contributions.
10. New Mexico (0-0) — 32 points
Are you noticing a trend here? For the most part, our staff was not kind to teams who haven’t been able to play yet (one major exception below). The Lobos picked up their basketball operations and moved them eastward to the Lone Star State, but they don’t have any games scheduled until Dec. 21, when they travel to Boise State for their conference opener. That series was originally scheduled to have taken place last week, but it was moved as New Mexico continues to get its program settled in and ready for action. Lobo lovers will have to wait a bit longer to see some of the new faces in town, including Jeremiah Francis III, Saquan Singleton, and Valdir Manuel.
9. Air Force (2-1) — 39 points
Here we go — real, live Division I results! The second Joe Scott era got off to an exciting start as the Falcons jumped out to an early lead against Cal State Northridge, but there were some red flags as they struggled to hold onto the lead late in that game. Those red flags turned into blaring sirens in Air Force’s next game, as Seattle completely wiped the floor with the Falcons. Perhaps the 63-45 loss was a wake-up call for Scott’s team, because they came out and delivered a smothering defensive performance on Saturday in 59-44 win over Lamar.
Final: Air Force 59, Lamar 44
Chris Joyce scores 23, Keaton Van Soelen has 15. AFA holds Lamar to 32% shooting.
That's 14 straight wins at Clune Arena for Joe Scott… but the last one came in 2004. pic.twitter.com/z84qbYmdxc
— Brent Briggeman (@BrentBriggeman) December 5, 2020
There are a lot of questions on offense, though, including a very quiet start for AJ Walker, who was thought to be the team’s top offensive option. Instead, Chris Joyce has taken up that role.
8. Fresno State (1-0) — 40 points
Hey, we have a result! Never mind the fact that it came against NAIA opponents William Jessup, so the game won’t actually count toward most analytics systems such as the NET and KenPom. Regardless, it provided some positive signs of life for a Fresno State program that fell off a cliff last season before a massive offseason exodus. Focusing instead on what came into town, transfer guards Deon Stroud (UTEP) and Devin Gage (DePaul) provide scoring and defensive acumen, respectively, and could be important complements to star big man Orlando Robinson this season.
7. UNLV (1-4) — 45 points
The league’s most active team so far, TJ Otzelberger’s UNLV squad came into the season with huge expectations, so an 0-4 start was major cause for concern among many onlookers. It should be noted that all four of the Rebels’ earliest opponents — Montana State, North Carolina, Alabama, and Davidson — all could hear their names called on Selection Sunday. Still, that shouldn’t excuse how bad the team looked over stretches on their way to an embarrassing home upset and a last-place finish in the Maui Invitational. Preseason Newcomer of the Year David Jenkins got all the offseason ink, but it’s been Iowa State transfer Caleb Grill who has been turning the most heads so far.
— Chris Lilly KAKE (@ChrisLillyKAKE) December 6, 2020
Grill had 27 against Alabama and has provided a number of highlight-reel dunks in addition to his sharpshooting. Jenkins fought off a very slow start to drop 25 points in the Rebels’ first win of the season, a road victory over Kansas State on Saturday. Still, the singular triumph wasn’t enough to remove the sour taste of UNLV’s first four games completely.
6. Utah State (1-3) — 52 points
While UNLV’s stuttering start was certainly jarring, the up-and-down performances from Utah State might be the most surprising early development. Despite bringing back some very familiar faces in guys like Neemias Queta, Justin Bean, Brock Miller, and Alphonso Anderson, the team still hasn’t completely figured out how to play together. While Marco Anthony and Rollie Worster have shown flashes of skill and flair, the sum of their parts still doesn’t add up to Sam Merrill. That’s not a knock on either player, either; rather, it is a sobering reminder that the Aggies are struggling to replace a legend. Like UNLV, Utah State has also played a number of really good opponents. Among the teams that beat the Aggies, VCU and BYU will likely vie for at-large bids this March, and South Dakota State has the look of a dangerous 12-seed out of the Summit League. The Jackrabbits have wins over Iowa State and Bradley in addition to beating Utah State. The Aggies did look good in a win over Northern Iowa, and they took BYU down to the very last seconds before losing 67-64. It is probably a little early to hit the panic button in Logan, but the public perception of the Aggies has taken a massive hit after the first two weeks of the season, and this ranking reflects that.