SDSU still on top; Wyoming rising thanks to hot start
It’s that time again, folks.
Welcome back to another edition of the Mountain West Wire Basketball Power Rankings! It’s still difficult to piece together the big picture for the Mountain West, considering how uneven the schedule has been thus far. With multiple teams currently on pause, and multiple others only just beginning to play, the jury is still out on pretty much everybody.
That being said, there are a few takeaways from the past week of play, and we’ll go into a little more detail for each team below. For now, just know that our Genius Bar of staff writers contributed to the vote totals below, and most of the votes were cast on Saturday (before Colorado State played). As a reminder, 11 points for each 1st-place vote, 10 points for 2nd-place, so and so forth, turtles all the way down.
Let’s not deprive ourselves any longer. Here are this week’s Power Rankings:
11. San Jose State (1-2; 25 points) ↔
After spending the first few weeks of the season on pause as they navigated COVID restrictions, Jean Prioleau and the Spartans were able to fit three games in last week. Unfortunately, the results were not as encouraging as the team might have liked. San Jose State beat Fresno Pacific (NCAA D-II) but was unable to stay competitive in their first official matchup against Saint Mary’s. While Sunday’s game against Cal Poly was certainly closer, the Spartans fell to their Big West opponents, 75-71. Richard Washington and Omari Moore have been playing well, but if SJSU is going to crawl out of the basement, they’ll need Seneca Knight to wake up from an early quiet spell.
10. Air Force (2-2; 31 points) ↓
The Falcons debuted in the MWWire Power Rankings at #9 last week, but they are the first team to tumble down the leaderboard following a blowout 81-53 loss to Drake on Sunday. The drubbing in Des Moines was Air Force’s only game of the week, and it could not have gone worse. The Falcons couldn’t get their three-point game working, shooting just 22 percent from beyond the arc, and they gave up a staggering 1.23 points per possession to the Bulldogs. If you need some positive takeaways, note that AJ Walker was in double-digits for the first time since the opener against CSUN, scoring 14 points. Also, Abe Kinrade had a nice little game, scoring 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Still, the team lost by 28 points. So… a mixed bag.
9. New Mexico (1-0; 33 points) ↑
Finally some good news for Lobo fans! After being displaced and delayed, UNM was able to take the court for the first time on Sunday against Rice. New Mexico turned some heads against the Owls, with Makuach Maluach having the best day of all, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 8-of-14 from the field. Maluach will need to step up as one of the few holdovers from last year’s team, and Game 1 showed that he is ready to take on that responsibility. Other encouraging performances came from newcomers Rod Brown and Bayron Matos. It will be interesting to see how new faces like Jeremiah Francis and Saquan Singleton will gel in the Lobo lineup, but it’s far too early to make any judgment calls on anyone. Still, the first batch of returns were very encouraging for Paul Weir and company.
8. UNLV (1-4; 36 points) ↓
Despite not actually playing any games last week, our staff decided to drop the Rebels down a peg. UNLV is currently on pause due to a positive COVID-19 test in their program; however, even though they weren’t playing, we were still able to learn some things about the Rebels’ previous opponents. Perhaps most notable is that UNLV’s only win on the year came against Kansas State, an achievement that was cheapened when the Wildcats were soundly beaten by a struggling Division II program in Fort Hays State. Elsewhere, UNC and Alabama have shown some inconsistency while Davidson and Montana State haven’t really done a whole lot of anything. There’s still time for TJ Otzelberger to turn the season around, but the team will need to hit the ground running as soon as the pause is lifted.
7. Fresno State (1-0; 43 points) ↑
The prime beneficiary of UNLV’s continued fall us Fresno State. The Bulldogs have yet to play a Division I opponent on the season, after being forced to go on pause following their opening day win over William Jessup. They are scheduled to hit the floor again on Saturday against Fresno Pacific, but their first D1 contest won’t come until conference play begins for them on Dec. 28 against Colorado State. It’s certainly possible that the Bulldogs could add games between now and then, but it will be a while before we have anything definitive to say about this team.
6. Utah State (2-3; 60 points) ↔
The Aggies’ only game last week was a walkover against College of Idaho, so public perception hasn’t really changed much around this program. For that reason, Utah State stands pat at No. 6 in this week’s Power Rankings. Looking back at the earlier results for the Aggies, it’s important to note that outside of the head-scratcher against (a very good) South Dakota State team, USU was in a position to win against VCU and BYU. Sure, the team needs to figure out how to finish games out, but the situation in Logan may not be as dire as some would make it out to be. As Marco Anthony, Rollie Worster, and other new faces become more comfortable in the lineup, watch for this very well-coached team to steadily rise in the rankings.