A person (or team) who aspires to a title or position
San Diego State Aztecs; Wyoming Cowboys
The Aztecs and Cowboys are the only two teams in the conference returning a player from the 2021-22 All-Mountain West First Team. Matt Bradley, who was also the Conference Newcomer of the Year, is back for San Diego State and Hunter Maldonado is back for Wyoming. Also returning to Wyoming is Graham Ike, from the All-Mountain West Second Team. San Diego State and Wyoming were also picked first and second in the Mountain West Preseason Poll.
In the Mountain West, the Aztecs are true nobility and no stranger to the throne. San Diego State is undeniably a basketball powerhouse and one of the top programs in the conference, and even in the country.
It’s difficult to truly dominate the Mountain West Conference for an extended period of time, but the Aztecs have historically been the most successful team. Even if maintaining an unfettered grip on the Mountain West is impossible, San Diego State has won six championships and eight regular-season titles.
While six championships is enough to lead the conference, almost more impressive is the 14 championship game appearances, proving that San Diego State is almost always relevant in Mountain West basketball and is often in the highly competitive race to the top.
San Diego State will launch this year’s crusade ranked at 19 in the nation.
The Cowboys, with only one conference championship, are far less acquainted with the top of the Mountain West than the Aztecs, but this year, Wyoming is shaping up to be no less formidable than San Diego State.
Jeff Linder is beginning his third season coaching the Cowboys. Although it’s a small sample size, his two-year tenure has been everything Wyoming hoped for. Linder inherited a last-place team with only two conference wins and a 9-24 overall record. Under his command, the Cowboys haven’t had a losing record and have gone 39-20 overall and 20-14 in conference.
Returning two centerpieces to the Wyoming offense, Maldonado and Ike, will bolster Linder’s upcoming campaign. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Ike, who was named this year’s Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year, suffered a leg injury in the final days of the offseason. Ike will miss the start of the season, but without any complications, will likely return for the bulk of conference play and be available to help the Cowboys close out the season and, possibly make a tournament run.