After SDSU lost to BYU, our staff went with the Rams at No. 1
It’s officially overreaction season here at Mountain West Wire!
Well, folks, it is officially overreaction season here at Mountain West Wire. After a week of action, our team came together to update our Mountain West basketball power rankings for the first time this season. The result was a list that looks almost entirely different than our preseason poll:
- Colorado State (Last week: 2)
- San Diego State (LW: 1)
- Fresno State (LW: T-6)
- UNLV (LW: T-6)
- Wyoming (LW: 9)
- Nevada (LW: 3)
- Boise State (LW: 4)
- Utah State (LW: 5)
- New Mexico (LW: 8)
- San Jose State (LW: 10)
- Air Force (LW: 11)
Let’s dive into the rankings and examine why each team may have risen and fallen in our team’s eyes.
1. Colorado State – 97 points (7 FIRst-place votes) ↑
- 2021-22 Record: 3-0
- Last week: vs. Oral Roberts, W 109-80; vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff, W 91-71, vs. Peru State (NAIA), W 88-62
- Next week: vs. Bradley, Friday, Nov. 19 (Paradise Jam); vs. Creighton/Brown (Paradise Jam)
Yeah, yeah. We picked the Aztecs to win the league and they took an L in the first week. That is not the only reason Colorado State jumps up, though. The Rams looked absolutely destructive in their opener against Oral Roberts, and two more tuneups went exactly as planned. Going into Tuesday’s games, Colorado State had the fourth-highest effective field goal rate in the country, per KenPom. Equally impressive — and quite surprising — is the Rams’ No. 4 ranking in defensive block rate. Roddy has always been a pest, but Dischon Thomas has showed some big time development down low. It also helps that guards Isaiah Stevens and Jalen Lake are pitching in on the block party.
The Rams are gearing up for the Paradise Jam next week in the Virgin Islands. Colorado State opens with Bradley, and they will face either Creighton or Brown in the second round. Colorado, Duquesne, Northeastern and Southern Illinois are also in the bracket.
2. San Diego State — 86 points (2 first place votes) ↓
- 2021-22 Record: 1-1
- Last week: vs. UC Riverside, W 66-53; vs. BYU, L 66-60
- Next week: vs. Arizona State, Thursday, Nov. 18; vs. UT Arlington, Saturday, Nov. 20
SDSU drops down a spot in these rankings after making the first misstep in the season-long race with Colorado State for MW supremacy. Their loss to BYU was not a blowout by any means, but it did reveal some weaknesses on the Aztec roster — namely, shooting. The headline news, rightfully, will be their 15.2 percent clip from beyond the arc. That mark ranks No. 350 in the country. However, the team is also shooting 56.2 percent from the free throw line through two games. It’s early, of course, but these numbers are concerning to say the least. Matt Bradley and Nathan Mensah have been great, though!
The Aztecs are back in Viejas for two games next week. First, they take on an Arizona State squad that lost to the same UC Riverside team that SDSU already beat by double digits. Then, San Diego State takes on UT Arlington in what should be a very winnable ballgame.
3. Fresno State — 65 points ↑↑↑
- 2021-22 Record: 3-0
- Last week: vs. Fresno Pacific (D-II), W 74-54; vs. LIU, W 84-60; vs. Idaho, W 69-62
- Next up: vs. Pepperdine, Monday, Nov. 22
Could the Mountain West run through the San Joaquin Valley? It seems unlikely, but the early results have certainly been promising for Fresno State. After blowing past municipal rival Fresno Pacific in a warmup, the Bulldogs won comfortably against Long Island and finished their job against Idaho. Orlando Robinson is busy doing his Orlando Robinson things, which include being used at around a 30 percent clip and logging a top-15 offensive rebound rate. When Jemarl Baker eventually finds his deep shot — he is just 1-for-11 through three games — this team could be a very dangerous one.
Don’t be surprised to see Fresno State move to 4-0 when they face Pepperdine next Monday. The Waves have been struggling out of the gates, and the game is being played at a neutral site.
4. UNLV — 64 points ↑↑
- 2021-22 Record: 3-0
- Last week: vs. Gardner-Webb, W 64-58; vs. California, W 55-52; vs. North Dakota State, W 64-62
- Next up: vs. Michigan, Friday, Nov. 19 (Roman Main Event); vs. Arizona/Wichita State, Sunday, Nov. 21
The Rebels are undefeated after three nail-biters against mostly forgettable opponents. Don’t get me wrong, North Dakota State and Gardner-Webb have been to the tournament out of their respective conferences recently, and Cal is technically a Pac-12 team. At the end of the day, though, the new regime will take any win they can get right now — and they’re getting them all. Bryce Hamilton is handling the bulk of the shooting duties, ranking third in the country in shot rate.
The undefeated season is likely to come crashing to a halt when UNLV meets up with Michigan at the end of this week. A potential matchup with Wichita State on Sunday presents the best chance for a win at the Roman Main Event. One potential edge? The MTE is being played at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas.
5. Wyoming — 55 points ↑↑↑↑
- 2021-22 Record: 2-0
- Last week: vs. Detroit Mercy, W 85-47; vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff, W 85-45
- Next up: @ Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18
Our highest risers in Week 1 were the Cowboys, who jumped four spots from No. 9 to No. 5. Wyoming’s stock is skyrocketing after the team beat the brakes off Detroit and Pine Bluff at home. There were a lot of concerns about the departure of point guard Marcus Williams heading into the season, but Hunter Maldonado has stepped back into his role as the primary creator and playmaker in the offense. Great interior play from Graham Ike and Jeremiah Oden has helped, and so too have the long-range efforts of guys like Xavier DuSell and Drake Jeffries.
The question now is whether Wyoming can maintain this level of play. Washington has not exactly been great in the early going, though, so the Cowboys could realistically jump out to 3-0 with a high-major win on their resumes within the first ten days of the season.