Broncos retake top spot ahead of regular season finale at SDSU
It’s coming down to the wire.
Here are this week’s Mountain West Wire basketball power rankings, as voted on by our staff of basketball writers.
Note: Monday night’s game between New Mexico and Air Force was not factored into these rankings; all votes were locked prior to tip-off. Team records shown below do reflect the Lobos’ 73-65 victory.)
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11. NEW MEXICO (6-13, 2-13 MW; 15 points) ↔
The Lobos came tantalizingly close to nabbing their second Mountain West win of the season last week, but fell in two close games — including one that went to overtime — against Wyoming on a neutral court (Air Force’s Clune Arena). It appears staying in one place may have helped them, though, as the Lobos finally snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Air Force in that same arena on Monday night.
Next Up: at Air Force (Wed)
10. AIR FORCE (4-17, 2-15 MW; 38 points) ↔
While the Lobos were busy getting used to the Falcons’ home floor, Joe Scott’s club took the week off for a bit of rest and recovery. Unfortunately for Air Force, it does not appear as though the vacation was nearly long enough, as they now sport the league’s worst record after falling to New Mexico.
Next Up: vs. New Mexico (Wed); at Colorado State (Sat/Mon)
9. SAN JOSÉ STATE (5-15, 3-13 MW; 44 points) ↔
In a game that got some national attention thanks to its tip time coming during a relatively quiet Sunday slate, the Spartans nearly pulled off a 13-point comeback against UNLV but ultimately fell, 67-64. It was San José State’s first — and last — series at home in the Provident Credit Union Event Center, and they continued to show heart despite a tumultuous season.
Next Up: at Wyoming (Thu/Sat)
8. FRESNO STATE (9-9, 7-9 MW; 68 points) ↓
The Bulldogs are the first team to move in this week’s rankings, and they are trending in the wrong direction. To be fair to Fresno State, they did have to take on a San Diego State team that looks nigh unstoppable these days. But the larger point is this: the Bulldogs don’t have any wins against teams with winning records in conference play, so this feels like the perfect spot for them.
Next Up: at UNLV (Wed/Fri)
7. WYOMING (12-9, 6-8 MW; 74 points) ↑
The Cowboys have a great chance to enter the Mountain West Tournament with a .500 record in league play, as they host a struggling San José State club this week. The continued development of Graham Ike alongside fellow frosh Marcus Williams is reason for added excitement in Laramie. The big man provides size on the interior that this Wyoming team has desperately needed, and if he can improve his efficiency, he has a chance to become one of the league’s better post players.
Next Up: vs. San José State (Thu/Sat)
6. UNLV (10-11, 7-7 MW; 78 POINTS) ↔
As mentioned above, the Rebels managed to grab two road wins against San José State last week, improving their mark in league play to .500 on the year. It has certainly not always been positive this season, but over the past few games, players such as Moses Wood and Devin Tillis have stepped up in big moments. This season may be something of a wash at this point, but there is still reason for (tempered) optimism regarding the future of Runnin’ Rebel basketball. Closing out games continues to be an issue, though, and one that needs to be a primary focus in the offseason if this team wants to be a Mountain West contender going forward.
Next Up: vs. Fresno State (Wed/Fri)
5. NEVADA (14-7, 9-5 MW; 107 POINTS) ↔
Last week was supposed to provide us with a true test of just how good this Wolf Pack team is, but their series against Colorado State was ultimately postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Whether or not that series will be made up is still undetermined as of this writing; regardless, the team must shift its focus to a Utah State team that is not at full strength and could be on the ropes after being swept. In fact, if Nevada were to sweep the Aggies as well, they would (at least temporarily) overtake Utah State in conference winning percentage. Steve Alford won’t win MW Coach of the Year, but no matter how things go from here, he has done a remarkable job this season.
Next Up: at Utah State (Fri/Sun)
4. UTAH STATE (14-7, 11-4 MW; 121 points) ↓↓↓
After rising to first place in these rankings last week, the Aggies are in something of a free-fall — within the top four, anyway. Their series on the road against Boise State was the perfect opportunity to show the Selection Committee that this team has put their early losses behind them and are deserving of an at-large bid. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get a win in either matchup — and to make matters worse, starting guard Rollie Worster missed both games and was wearing a boot on one foot while dressing in street clothes. Worster has been a massive injection of grit and personality for this Aggie team, so it would be sad to see his freshman season end due to injury. It remains to be seen if he will suit up this week.
Next Up: vs. Nevada (Fri/Sun)
3. COLORADO STATE (14-4, 11-3 MW; 135 points) ↓
When the Rams finally take the court on Saturday against Air Force (fingers crossed), it will have been fully three weeks since their last game. Thanks to consecutive postponements in their series against New Mexico and Nevada, Colorado State has been sitting around waiting for the greenlight to play a game — even though this de facto pause is not due to any issues in their own camp. In case you’ve forgotten, the Rams swept Wyoming in their most recent series and earned splits against Boise State and Utah State just before that. They are still the only team to sport wins against all of their opponents in the top four; however, they are also the only team to have avoided Nevada to this point. We’ll see if the league puts that series back on the docket for next week, though. For now, all CSU can do is focus on shaking off the rust and taking care of business against the Falcons.
Next Up: vs. Air Force (Sat/Mon)
2. SAN DIEGO STATE (17-4, 11-3 MW; 153 points) ↑
What more do the Aztecs need to do to earn a little respect around here?! One possible answer to that question, I suppose, would be to play a team from the top half of the Mountain West standings. While the Aztecs have been on a momentous tear since being swept by Utah State, all of those wins have come against relatively weak competition. But if that’s you’re reasoning for writing off San Diego State, then you may have another thing coming when they host first-place Boise State this week. This team is no paper tiger, and it’s why San Diego State — not Boise State — is ranked in the national polls this week.
Next Up: vs. Boise State (Thu/Sat)
1. BOISE STATE (18-4, 14-3 MW; 157 POINTS) ↑↑↑
We just can’t make up our minds, I guess! Last week, we had the Broncos and Aggies flipped — but after watching Boise State hold court at ExtraMile Arena, it was clear(ish) to our staff that this team deserves to be in the No. 1 spot. It is entirely possible that they do deserve the honor, because when this team is clicking, they are a force to be reckoned with. Let’s be real, though: this ranking is just a placeholder until we see Boise State and San Diego State do battle in Viejas. So, rather than waste my breath and incur further carpal tunnel injuries convincing you why the Broncos should occupy this place of honor, I’ll just report the ranking and let the teams settle it out on the floor.
Next Up: at San Diego State (Thu/Sat)
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.