After splitting with the MW’s top four, CSU comes in at #2
Are the Rams for real?
Here are this week’s Mountain West Wire basketball power rankings, as voted on by our staff of basketball writers.
11. New Mexico (5-11, 1-11 MW; 17 points) ↓
The Lobos have officially hit rock bottom after two tough losses to Fresno State last week. This is one of the worst-shooting teams in the nation, and now they are being passed in the standings by even the lowliest of Mountain West clubs. Paul Weir’s days in Albuquerque could be numbered.
Next Up: vs. San Diego State (Wed/Fri)
10. Air Force (4-12, 2-10 MW; 22 points) ↓
The Falcons are really putting their name in the ring to be named the Mountain West’s Most Forgettable Team of the season. After a promising 3-3 start and an upset over Nevada, Joe Scott’s team has now dropped nine of its past ten games, and they were just swept by San Jose State. Oof.
Next Up: at UNLV (Sat/Mon)
9. San Jose State (5-11, 3-9 MW; 33 points) ↑↑
Well, what do we have here!? The Spartans are out of the basement and they’ve leapfrogged not one but two teams in the process! Jean Prioleau has reeled off a three-game winning streak of late, something he had never done before in his time with the Spartans — and they’re winning without Richard Washington (or Seneca Knight) in the lineup. Fantastic stuff!
Next Up: off this week; vs. San Diego State (Mon 2/8, Wed 2/10)
8. Fresno State (7-6, 5-6 MW; 51 points) ↔
Despite pulling off two victories last week, our staff was not moved enough to lift the Bulldogs out of their No. 8 ranking in this poll. That might be because those wins were both hard-fought battles against the league’s worst team, New Mexico. Still, new faces like Deon Stroud and Junior Ballard are starting to look comfortable in this team, which only bodes well.
Next Up: vs. Utah State (Thu/Sat)
7. Wyoming (10-7, 4-6 MW; 53 points) ↓
Following a three-game winning streak that included a sweep of Nevada, it appeared as though Wyoming was finding its form again; however, two blowout losses to San Diego State last week could throw a wrench in the development of Jeff Linder’s team. Marcus Williams continues to impress, but last week was a reminder of just how much work there is to do before this program can really compete with the league’s best.
Next Up: vs. Colorado State (Thu/Sat)
6. UNLV (6-8, 3-4 MW; 58 points) ↑
Still trying to figure out this UNLV team? Yeah, so are we. And so, it seems, is TJ Otzelberger. The Rebels had a very up-and-down week, starting with a shock win over Utah State, which was subsequently followed by a close to the Aggies in the rematch. However, playing without Bryce Hamilton on Sunday (ankle), UNLV’s offense was clearly missing its spark on its way to an 89-60 defeat at the hands of their rivals. Game 2 is tonight!
Next Up: at Nevada (today); vs. Air Force (Sat/Mon)
5. Nevada (11-7, 6-5 MW; 74 points) ↔
As was just mentioned, on Sunday, the Wolf Pack smacked their rivals to the south with a 29-point left hook fit for a fight night at the MGM Grand. Grant Sherfield had a double-double in the win, registering 15 points to go with 11 assists. The Wichita State transfer has quickly assumed the role of team leader, and he’s been delivering an All-MW performance this year. What’s even better for Steve Alford? Multiple guys have shown they can handle being the third scorer behind Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge. A monster test awaits this week as Nevada hosts league leaders Boise State.
Next Up: vs. Boise State (Fri/Sun)
4. San Diego State (13-4, 7-3 MW; 99 points) ↔
This ranking for San Diego State doesn’t feel quite right, especially coming on the heels of four straight victories by an average margin of 31.5 points. That said, those wins came against Air Force and Wyoming, so perhaps our staff was right to heed caution? Regardless of where we have them in the poll, one thing is clear: whatever offensive problems were plaguing this team during the first two weeks of January have gone to the wayside. Expect a lot more beatdowns in the Aztecs’ future too, as they are smack dab in the middle of their softest stretch of the schedule. Only UNM, SJSU, and Fresno State remain before their regular-season finale against Boise State, in what will surely be must-watch television.
Next Up: vs. New Mexico (Wed/Fri)
3. Utah State (13-5, 10-2 MW; 101 points) ↓
It was a little surprising not to see the Aggies drop a little further this week, considering they lost to UNLV on Monday, while San Diego State spent the week soundly blistering Wyoming. Utah State was able to recover and beat UNLV in the second game of the series, but Craig Smith’s defense has looked less formidable these past two weeks than it had previously. During their 11-game win streak, Utah State never allowed more than 65 points to an opponent; however, they have an average of 72.3 points per game over their past three contests. They’ll look to lock things back down this week.
Next Up: at Fresno State (Thu/Sat)
2. Colorado State (12-4, 9-3 MW; 102 points) ↑
Look at these Rams go! We are getting close to being able to shed this idea that Niko Medved is “building” a winner in Fort Collins — this team is winning now. Colorado State earned splits in each of their three series against the other teams in the top four, and that might be enough to earn them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Rams didn’t get to register early non-conference wins due to COVID pausing, but with a loss to St. Mary’s being the worst thing on their resume, the Selection Committee will have a tough time keeping them out. That’s assuming they don’t take their eye off the ball and falter down the stretch against the league’s weaker competition.
Next Up: at Wyoming (Thu/Sat)
1. Boise State (14-2, 10-1 MW; 116 points) ↔
Have we already gotten so comfortable with Boise State at the top of the league that their No. 1 ranking this week comes with little to no fanfare? While that may seem strange, it’s difficult to ignore that some of the shine came off of this Bronco team when they finally lost their first Mountain West game to Colorado State last week. Perhaps it’s just a tinge of disappointment that they won’t be defending an undefeated conference record in the Mountain West finale at Viejas? Who knows. Regardless, as Boise State showed in their rematch against CSU, they are still very much for real. The Broncos are receiving votes to get into the Top 25 still, and they appear to be the nearest thing the league has to an at-large lock. But that could change if they don’t perform well in their toughest stretch of the season — the Broncos are about to embark on a February in which they take on (in this order) Nevada, UNLV, Utah State, and San Diego State.
Next Up: at Nevada (Fri/Sun)
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.