NCAA Tournament: How Many Mountain West Teams Can Get In?
There is a long list of events that could occur for the MW for the tournament.
How many bids can the MW get?
The Mountain West is always a point of discussion around now to March when discussing tournament bids. No matter what the season is, the Mountain West is also a conference we see bid stealing opportunities appear when there aren’t many at-large teams, similarly to this season. Today, we’ll discuss the most likely numbers of bids, which can be an at-large, and which teams can steal a request.
Potential At Large Teams resumes.
Boise State Broncos: NET (17) QUAD 1: (1-1) QUAD 2 (0-0) QUAD 3 (4-0) QUAD 4: (6-0)
The NET rankings, the main formula the selection committee uses to select their tournament teams, absolutely LOVE Boise State. According to most bracketologists, the Broncos are on the right side of the bubble, but they’re an intriguing team. I have zero doubt that the Broncos not only deserve to make the tournament and can even win a few games, but Leon Rice’s team can also win games.
So, why are the Broncos so interesting? Boise State only holds one Quadrant One victory on the road against BYU, and their only loss is against a fantastic Houston Cougars team. The Broncos have two key Q1 opportunities on the road against Colorado State coming up, a Q2 on the road in Reno. If the Broncos can split with CSU, split in Reno, then finish up the season hosting USU, and then a road game against SDSU. Hypothetically, let’s say Boise splits all four series and avoid losing to UNLV or Fresno; that means the Broncos finish up 20-5 with likely no losses outside the 2nd quadrant; we’ll see what happens in the conference tournament, likely nothing dramatic enough to keep the Broncos out.
What can keep the Broncos out or sweating on selection Sunday?
The main selling point on Boise’s resume is the lack of losses. Only one loss coming to a final four contender is more than fine, if you are starting losing to UNLV or Fresno State, that’s where problems arise. Thankfully for the Broncos, the eight conference games they’ve already won have been against the conference’s four worst teams.
That last-second Abu Kigab jumper to defeat SJSU will be paramount come March because if Boise State lost a Q4 game, that would be potentially detrimental for Boise’s tournament dreams. The verdict here is, if the Broncos, at worst, sweep the series against Fresno & UNLV and split the other four, Boise will be fine almost no matter what occurs in Vegas for the conference tournament. The Broncos are well on track for their first bid since 2016.
San Diego State Aztecs: NET (44) Q1: (1-2) Q2 (3-2) Q3: (3-0) Q4: (1-0)
Had I been writing this five days ago, SDSU would look vastly better than currently. The Aztecs finished up losing the series against Utah State on the road, two Q1 losses, with Matt Mitchell missing game two with an injury. The loss to Colorado State in Viejas will be something to monitor for the next eight weeks.
That loss right now is a Quadrant two-loss, but if CSU starts losing, it can become a Q3 loss, a more significant blemish on the Aztec’s resume. In the same token, Tempe’s win against ASU currently is a Q2 victory, ranking 125th in the NET; I have a hard time believing come March that ASU won’t be in the top 75. With the recent pair of losses to USU, does the committee consider that Matt Mitchell missed the 2nd game? Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs next four series, against the conference’s bottom-dwellers, Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Fresno State.
SDSU needs to go 8-0 in these games, they cannot afford a bad loss. San Diego State then ends the season with the Boise State series. Ideally, you don’t get swept in that one. The wins carry San Diego State for the moment, although there’s work to do. Right now, SDSU is firmly on the bubble, with most bracketology folks having them barely out right now.
Utah State Aggies: NET (43) Q1 (0-1) Q2: (2-2) Q3: (3-0) Q4: (5-0)
One week ago, this wasn’t even a conversation; USU was out of the picture before picking up two wins over the Aztecs. USU started the year 1-3 with no debilitating losses but had a rough week at the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic/Battle 4 Atlantis in Asheville, NC. Many had doubts about USU’s guard situation early in the season, but Craig Smith has put the pieces together. Smith’s team plays defense at a high-level and found three above-average guards with Rollie Worster, Marco Anthony, and sharpshooter Steven Ashworth. Brock Miller’s shot is revitalized, and of course, Neemias Queta and Justin Bean’s elite duos.
There’s a ton of reason to believe that USU could be in the mix for an at-large bid. However, the Aggies have zero Q1 wins and likely will only have two left in the docket, both on Boise’s road. The Aggies have the most challenging road at making the Big Dance here due to the lack of quality wins pieced together with the early season struggles. I have no doubt that Utah State is one of the top teams in the conference and can win a tournament game. However, their resume, other than the NET ranking, could hurt USU.
The Aggies have to hold their own against UNLV, Wyoming, Fresno, CSU, and Nevada; the only losses they can endure is to Boise State. Craig Smith’s best chance to get into the tournament is winning their third consecutive MW Tournament, something we’ll discuss here in a moment, seeing which teams other than these three can cut down the nets in Vegas.
POTENTIAL BID STEALERS:
NEVADA WOLF PACK
The Pack can beat anybody in the Mountain West due to their guard play. Grant Sherfield deserves to be right in the conversation for conference POTY, averaging 18.7/4.0/5.7, with shooting 41% from three; there’s so much talent there with Sherfield, and they can carry the team. Along with Sherfield, you have Desmond Cambridge that can score in bunches, and when you have two tremendous guards, you can get hot and win a conference tournament. The loss to Air Force seems to be an outlier because we’ve seen that the Pack is competitive with the top dogs in the conference; in the series against SDSU, the Pack had two ultra-competitive games 2nd loss came on a Trey Pulliam buzzer-beating mid-range shot. Steve Alford‘s crew virtually has zero chance at snagging an at large big due to some very questionable home losses but can beat anybody in the conference. Elite guard play always travels and always makes you dangerous.
COLORADO STATE RAMS:
I debated whether or not to include the Rams in the at-large portion of this piece, but I don’t see a real path. The Rams played only four non-conference games, and one was a 53-33 loss to Saint Mary’s. The Rams defense has been far better than many imagined, and the shooting is still there for CSU; Isaiah Stevens during his sophomore year has been unbelievably good. Stevens is averaging 15.4/4.7/6.3 and is shooting 48.9% from three, having a guy like Stevens alongside David Roddy down low, with fellow guards Kendle Moore and John Tonje. The shooting of Colorado State pieced together with coming back from down 26 against SDSU to win late. CSU gets two massive opportunities to solidify themselves against Boise State and Utah State coming up.
The most likely amount of bids is two, although three or four is feasible. Utah State needs to string together some wins, and Nevada or CSU could win the conference tournament.