Boise State has nearly cracked the national Top 25 polls
For the first time this season, the Broncos are alone at the top of the league.
Here are this week’s Mountain West Wire basketball power rankings, as voted on by our staff of ten writers.
11. San Jose State (3-11, 1-9 MW; 12 points) ↔
Finally some good news to report out of the SJSU camp — the Spartans picked up their first Division I win of the season last week, outlasting the Lobos in an 83-71 win on Saturday. Perhaps most noteworthy is that the win came without either of the team’s top preseason stars (Richard Washington Jr. is injured, Seneca Knight transferred to LSU) in action. Omari Moore engineered much of the action, scoring 14 points to go along with ten rebounds and five assists for San Jose State, while four other Spartans all scored 16 points apiece. That’s a new career high for both Trey Smith and Sebastian Mendoza, by the way.
Next Up: Air Force (Thu/Sat)
10. New Mexico (5-9, 1-9 MW; 18 points) ↔
Well, if the Spartans only took one half of the series last week, that leaves the other win for Dr. Paul Weir and New Mexico. The Lobos landed a solid punch on San Jose State in the series opener on Thursday, beating SJSU by a score of 67-51 on the back of Makuach Maluach’s career-high 25 points. Not to be outdone, JUCO transfer Valdir Manuel put up his own 25-point performance in Saturday’s loss to San Jose State. While a split in the series was certainly not what the Lobos were hoping for, at this stage in the season, they should be happy with any wins they can muster. The team is starting to come along, but it’s far too late to make anything of note happen this year.
Next Up: Fresno State (Thu/Sat)
9. Air Force (4-10, 2-8 MW; 30 points) ↓
The Falcons continue to deliver confusing results, but if you have to squint this hard to figure out if a team is any good…they probably aren’t. There are things that this team does well (Top 50 nationally in effective field goal rate, Top 100 in generating steals) but those are outweighed by inefficiencies elsewhere on the court. In particular, a lack of effective size is crushing the Academy’s ability to establish post dominance. Perhaps that could explain their pair of 30-plus-point losses to San Diego State last week. Ouch. Joe Scott can help his team erase those bad memories in their next series against San Jose State, where a third (and maybe fourth!) MW win are on the table.
Next Up: San Jose State (Thu/Sat)
8. Fresno State (5-6, 3-6 MW; 42 points) ↓↓
Our staff has had some trouble placing Fresno State this season. They’ve risen as high as No. 6 and fallen as low as No. 10, but it is starting to feel like the Bulldogs are nestling into a final resting place in the Mountain West standings. Each of the seven teams ahead of them in the leaderboard currently have a record of .500 or better in league play, while Fresno State is going to struggle mightily to get back to that mark this year. They can get close, though, with two wins this week over New Mexico. Fresno State is currently on a three-game skid, although they may have dodged a fourth bullet when their second game with Boise State was canceled due to a false positive in the Broncos’ program.
Next Up: New Mexico (Thu/Sat)
7. UNLV (6-6, 3-2 MW; 50 points) ↑↑
Are the Rebels back? UNLV pulled off a massive win on Monday by beating Utah State; however, that result is not reflected in these rankings. It will be interesting to see whether TJ Otzelberger’s team can keep their current win streak going. The Rebels are 5-2 since coming off a one-month break due to COVID-19, and those two losses came in very hard-fought road games against Colorado State. There are plenty of questions about the team’s efficiency on offense, but UNLV has been enjoying a great run of defense over the past five games. The team has allowed fewer than 60 points in each of the past five, though two of those games came again non-D1 competition. Still, it’s very encouraging for a UNLV team that was wholly (and perhaps fairly) written off after a disastrous start to the season.
Next Up: Utah State (Wed); Nevada (Sun/Tue)
6. Wyoming (10-5, 4-4 MW; 62 points) ↑↑↑
This is another team that our staff can’t seem to keep in the same place for more than week. The Cowboys have been ranked as high as No. 3 in these polls, and just last week, Jeff Linder’s team was dragging all the way at No. 9. As is usually the case, the truth is really somewhere in the middle, and this week’s ranking for Wyoming reflects that. The Cowboys nabbed a pair of impressive victories at home over Nevada last week to extend their win streak to three in league play. The team continues to struggle mightily on defense, ranking worse than 300th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, but they are a Top 100 offensive team. So long as they can keep outscoring their opponents, the porous D can be forgiven. The offense will have a tall task this week, though, as the team travels to take on SDSU.
Next Up: San Diego State (Thu/Sat)
5. Nevada (10-7, 5-5 MW; 66 points) ↔
Coming into last week, the outlook on the Wolf Pack was that they might start to threaten to jump into the fray with the league’s well-established top four. However, following two losses at Wyoming, Steve Alford’s club provided a pair of good reasons to pump the brakes a little. This is still a talented team that has a legitimate star in Grant Sherfield, but the rest of the parts are still works in progress. Desmond Cambridge is probably the most complete of those products, but the recent play of Warren Washington is also encouraging for Nevada. Still, if they wanted to prove that they belong in the “top teams” conversation, getting swept by a team below them in the rankings was a curious choice. A massive in-state rivalry series now looms, and even a split could see Nevada fall from the No. 5 spot for the first time in weeks.
Next Up: UNLV (Sun/Tue)
4. San Diego State (11-4, 5-3 MW; 85 points) ↓
This ranking is a bit of a surprise, especially considering the Aztecs won both of their games against Air Force last week by a combined 69 points, but it’s not exactly as if the Falcons are world-beaters themselves. More likely is that our voters, like many around the country, are in the midst of an infatuation with an upstart Colorado State squad, a resurgent Utah State team, and a Boise State club that may the best in school history. It’s wild to think that the Aztecs could ever be an afterthought in the league, but getting swept by the Aggies — in addition to the collapse against CSU — has made San Diego State look uncharacteristically vulnerable. Those writing the Aztecs off, though, do so at their own peril. This is still an NCAA Tournament team, in quality if not in resume, and they should prove it this week against Wyoming.
Next Up: Wyoming (Thu/Sat)
3. Colorado State (11-3, 8-2 MW; 87 points) ↔
The Rams are enjoying their time in the spotlight, as they are starting to gain national recognition thanks to wins over San Diego State and Utah State to go along with a very comely win-loss record. David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens are both turning in all-league performances, and starters Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood seem to understand and enjoy their respective roles in Niko Medved’s team. There are still question marks surrounding the center position, though James Moors has started to establish himself as the preferred choice over Dischon Thomas in these past few games. If they can steal a win at home against Boise State this week — and if they can avoid any really bad losses in league play — the Rams should remain squarely in the at-large conversation for the NCAA Tournament. But before they start looking ahead, they’ve got some massive business to attend to at Moby. With the Aggies losing to UNLV already this week, the Rams may actually have a shot to leapfrog into the top spot here if they are able to sweep the Broncos.
Next Up: Boise State (Wed/Fri)
2. Utah State (12-5, 9-2 MW; 100 points) ↓
Just when the Aggies were finally starting to re-establish themselves as serious contenders — not only in the Mountain West, but also for an at-large bid in the Big Dance — their 11-game winning streak was snapped by Colorado State in the second game of their series against the Rams last week. To make matters worse, the Aggies then dropped their opener against UNLV on Monday in a game where their offense never fully clicked. That is going to be the big question for this team: can the Aggie offense keep pace with the stunning defensive efforts led by Neemias Queta? There isn’t a whole lot of time left to figure out solutions for unanswered problems, so Craig Smith’s team had better use the next few series to work out the kinks because a late February trip to Boise State is still on the schedule, and Utah State will need all the firepower they can get to keep up with all the Broncos’ weapons.
Next Up: UNLV (Wed)
1. Boise State (13-1, 9-0 MW; 108 points) ↑
After tying for the top spot last week, this week’s honors are Boise State’s alone! The Broncos have been playing well ever since their opening night loss to Houston (who could end up with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament), and that run of form has Leon Rice’s team on the precipice of being ranked in the AP Top 25 for just the second time in school history. However, as many have been quick to point out, the Broncos have yet to enter the meaty part of the Mountain West schedule, racking up all nine of their victories so far over teams ranked No. 6 or lower in the league. That changes this week, as Boise State’s faces its first real test since the Houston game when they travel to Fort Collins to lock horns with the Rams. A split in the series might not be enough to push the Broncos into the national polls, so they will be eying a sweep of Colorado State as they try to extend their program-best winning streak to 15 games. If they do, expect to see this Boise State team reach new heights in next week’s Top 25 poll.
Next Up: Colorado State (Wed/Fri)
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.