We looked at 15 polls. We were (basically) right all along.
The college basketball landscape looked at the Mountain West, and most everyone saw the same thing. Sort of.
While we would love to think that our staff has all the answers, it is sometimes wise to step outside the bubble to hear the larger conversation. The 2021-22 college basketball season is just over a week away, and we are nearly finished with seven months of forecasting and daydreaming.
We released our own staff poll last week, and the official Mountain West preseason media poll was also announced. (We liked ours better.) Nevertheless, at the risk of being myopic, we decided to gather up a handful of polls from our most trusted resources around college hoops. And a few others, to be safe.
Below is a composite view of 15 different human and computer preseason rankings for the Mountain West. If we didn’t include your poll, please find forgiveness in your heart. Also, maybe make your poll easier to find.
Here is the breakdown of how the composite rankings came out:
- San Diego State — 159 points (10 first-place votes)
- Colorado State — 151 points (4 first-place votes)
- Nevada — 137 points (1 first-place vote)
- Boise State — 114 points
- Utah State — 106 points
- Fresno State — 86 points
- UNLV — 84 points
- Wyoming — 55 points
- New Mexico — 54 points
- San Jose State — 25 points
- Air Force — 20 points
The major takeaway here is that, while the official media poll may have tabbed Colorado State as the preseason favorite, more prognosticators went with the Aztecs. For the moment, SDSU appears to be King of the Mountain West, and it will take some convincing for pollsters to knock them off that throne. The Rams are right there, though, and it would not be surprising in the least to see CSU win the league outright.
Nevada’s consistently high polling indicates that they are seen by many to be on the same tier as San Diego State and Colorado State. Notably, there is less distance between No. 1 and No. 3 in these composite rankings than there is between No. 3 and No. 4. (Then again, we gave them their own paragraph, so take that as you will.)
Boise State and Utah State slide in at the next tier, with folks somewhat unsure where else to place them. The Broncos may have some feeling snakebit after falling short of lofty expectations last year, while the Aggies are in a major state of flux after a head coaching shakeup.
Fresno State and UNLV, meanwhile, come in a near-deadlock for sixth and seventh place. These are two of the harder teams to peg in the league, as both have dark horse potential — which could, of course, blow up in their faces. Both teams were picked as high as fourth, and Bart Torvik’s computer ranking put UNLV at No. 8. As the composite ranking suggests, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
The next pairing to walk down the aisle, Wyoming and New Mexico, mainly swapped the 8/9 spots in the preseason polls. The Cowboys scored a No. 6 ranking from one of the computers to edge out the Lobos for eighth place. Both squads have relatively low ceilings, but the floors do feel like they are just above the cellar.
Down in the basement, forced to listen to the pitter-patter of optimism above them, are San Jose State and Air Force. There was a distinct human/computer split in the rankings for these two outfits. Obviously, the addition of Tim Miles (aka Tim Lasso) is pulling at the heartstrings — and perhaps clouding everybody’s collective vision. Only Matt Norlander was able to resist the charm and peg the Spartans last. The computers, meanwhile, have not yet forgotten the painstaking last few years under Jean Prioleau. To a motherboard, each of the metrics picked Air Force to finish ahead of SJSU in the league.
The composite poll largely meshes with what we put out in these pages just last week. The consensus is perhaps slightly higher on Wyoming than we were — personally, so am I — but otherwise, it’s safe to say that we nailed it. It’s probably even safer to say that we’re all going to be wrong when all is said and done.
Remember, folks, always take preseason polls with a grain of salt. The real thing is just a few days away anyway, so these will all be in the trashcan soon enough.
Andy Dieckhoff is a USBWA member writing about sports for a number of outlets, including Mountain West Wire. Andy also covers Oregon State athletics and prep sports for the Pamplin Media Group. Andy serves as editor and lead analytics writer at Heat Check CBB and The DPI Gradebook.