As 2020 draws to a close, we look back at a wild year
We ring in this New Year the same way we did the last one: with SDSU the clear favorite to win the league.
While the college basketball season still feels like it has only just gotten off the ground, it’s time again to watch the ball drop and ring in a New Year. Much like last year, the Aztecs are ranked, on top of the league, and looking like the clear favorites to represent the Mountain West in the NCAA Tournament.
Let’s check in with each team and see where they’re at heading into the final days of 2020.
11. San Jose State (1-4, 0-2 MW; 11 points) ↔
Sadly, the Spartans are just a mess at the moment. Not only are they losing games by large margins and being forced to play without a permanent home, but now the team will have to press on without last year’s leading scorer, Seneca Knight, who has opted out of the season citing COVID-19 concerns.
10. UNLV (1-4, 0-0 MW; 29 points) ↓
Just when it looked like the Rebels might be putting things together after a disastrous 0-4 start to the season, the program was hit was a pause due to positive COVID-19 tests. The team hasn’t played in nearly a month since their win over Kansas State, so the sour taste of the early troubles still hasn’t been fully cleared from the public’s palate.
9. Fresno State (2-1, 0-1 MW; 31 points) ↑
The Bulldogs finally have a true Division I game on the books! After scoring wins over non-D1 schools Fresno Pacific and William Jessup, the team had a rude awakening in 22-point loss to Colorado State on Monday in their league opener. Orlando Robinson is going to need his supporting cast to start stepping up immediately.
8. New Mexico (3-2, 0-2 MW; 32 points) ↓
Following a 3-0 start which only included one true Division I opponent (Rice), the other foot dropped last week — and it dropped right on the Lobos’ collective neck. In two road contests against Boise State, UNM lost by a combined 61 points and failed to score more than 53 points in either game. We’ll have a clearer picture of where this team is at after their next series with Nevada.
7. Air Force (3-3, 1-1 MW; 34 points) ↑
Well, this is certainly a pleasant surprise for Joe Scott and company. The Falcons have been the de facto beneficiary of early struggles and long pauses by the programs below them in the Power Rankings. Still, for now, the nation’s second-slowest team (behind Virginia) sits atop the logjam in the bottom half of the league.
t-5. Colorado State (4-1, 1-0 MW; 62 points) ↑
The Rams have had something of a strange start to their season. They were on pause for the first few weeks, and then dazzled in a 91-52 win over NAU. That high-scoring performance was followed by a 33-point stinker against Saint Mary’s, and then subsequently followed that up with a win over then-undefeated Santa Clara. The Rams also ran Fresno out of the gym. It looks like the SMC game was just a fluke, and that CSU is on the rise.
t-5. Nevada (6-3, 1-1 MW; 62 points) ↔
The Wolf Pack have hit a plateau of sorts after an impressive opening salvo to the season that included wins over Nebraska and a couple WCC foes in Pacific and San Diego. The team hasn’t been able to build momentum, though, as a few disappointing losses have poked their head up. Most notably, Nevada dropped the back end of their opening series with Air Force at home. The jury is definitely still out on this team.
t-3. Utah State (5-3, 2-0 MW; 72 points) ↑
The Aggies are starting to return to form after a tumultuous start to the season that included a 24-point loss to South Dakota State. Since then, Marco Anthony and Rollie Worster have started to click in the backcourt, Brock Miller has found his shooting touch once again, and Neemias Queta and Justin Bean continue to form a formidable frontcourt. The Aggies look ready to insert themselves into the league’s Top 3 for good.
t-3. Wyoming (6-1, 0-0 MW; 72 points) ↔
It’s still amazing to see the Cowboys this high in the Power Rankings at the end of the calendar year, but in an absolutely wild year, perhaps it’s the most fitting finish. Last year’s last-place team is currently 6-1 and looking light-years ahead of where they were expected to be at this point. Unfortunately, momentum has hit a bit of a snag as the team has been paused for a while.
2. Boise State (6-1, 2-0 MW; 90 points) ↔
With their monster wins over Fresno State, and a roster that looks to be more and more comfortable with each other in each passing game, the question is no longer whether Boise State is a top-two team in the league. The question for the Broncos now is whether they can compete with San Diego State for the league’s top spot. For their part, BSU has been unblemished since an opening-week loss to Houston, and they did beat the same BYU team that bested the Aztecs. Still, that’s the only truly notable win for Boise State at the moment — and it might be a while before they get another given how their MW schedule is structured.
1. San Diego State (6-1, 0-0 MW; 99 points) ↔
The Aztecs remain in the top spot, and it’s difficult to see them moving out of first place for the foreseeable future. A disappointing loss to BYU ended any hopes of a long undefeated streak to open the season (again), and SDSU was perhaps unfairly punished by being dropped from the AP poll. Following a beatdown of Saint Mary’s, the team is now ranked No. 23 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll, but there is a feeling that the squad still isn’t being fully appreciated on the national scale. They could make a serious statement with a couple strong wins over Colorado State in their upcoming series.
Well, there you have it! Check back early next week for our updated MWW Power Rankings to see which teams are on the move!
Andrew Dieckhoff is a USBWA member writing about college basketball for Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and The DPI Gradebook presented by Heat Check CBB. Andy is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate of Portland State University. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.