2023 Mountain West Conference Tournament Preview
Who will win it all?
MWMadness starts on Wednesday
As promised, the Mountain West regular season was filled with chaos, and it’s not going to stop soon. Last season, on the way to the conference’s triumphant return to the ranks of four-bid leagues, the tournament was everything it purported to be. This year, after another successful campaign, the tournament, once again, promises madness.
Of course, in the wild west, the madness doesn’t wait until March to commence. Only one team, San Diego State, the preseason favorite, ended up where they were predicted to be. Wyoming, picked as the runner-up, finished last, down nine spots. Utah State, Nevada, and San Jose State were all up five spots from where they were predicted to finish, and Colorado State was down four spots.
The mayhem that is Mountain West Basketball, as usual, sculpted an interesting landscape in the west.
Wyoming seems least equipped to make a tournament run. The Cowboys were harassed by injuries all season and after winning only four conference games, the off-season might come as a welcome reprieve. Luckily it’s probably just a game away.
Give us your Mountain West title game and winner for men's #MWMadness
— Mountain West Wire (@MWCwire) March 7, 2023
Air Force managed only five wins against conference opponents and is currently on a three-game losing streak. Although Air Force improved this season and had its best record since 2014-15, the Falcons also appear to be a game away from the off-season.
After going undefeated in non-conference play, and becoming the final unbeaten team in the nation, New Mexico fell to a sixth-place finish. For the Lobos, it was a painful reminder of how difficult the gauntlet of league play can be in the Mountain West. For everyone else, it was an exciting reminder of how fun and unpredictable the gauntlet of league plan can be in the Mountain West.
The much-improved Spartans have a three-game winning streak coming into the tournament. San Jose State has notched wins against Boise State and Utah State with a sweep against UNLV on the way to their first overall winning record since 2010-11 and their first winning conference record since 1995-96. San Jose State also posted the best overall record since 1976-77
While San Jose State is heating up, Nevada might be running out of gas. The Wolf Pack is certainly showing signs of slowing down. Despite an unexpectedly explosive season, Nevada has a two-game losing streak and has lost three of the final five games.
After starting the season with nine wins in a row, Utah State is on a roll again. With five straight wins, including wins against Nevada, at UNLV, and against Boise, the Aggies are the hottest team in the league coming into the tournament.
After dropping a game at Boise State, San Diego State bounced back to beat Wyoming to close out the season. Before that loss, the Aztecs had a six-game win streak that lasted nearly the entire month of February and included wins against Boise State, Utah State, UNLV, and New Mexico.
With that unique background, the 11 Mountain West meet in the desert to find their path to the championship game.
Where some conferences meticulously design their tournaments to protect their flagship programs, the Mountain West is different. The Mountain West bracket might not be intentionally engineered to maximize entertainment value, but that may as well be. The bracket features two guaranteed matchups between consecutive seeds, the first-round game between the 8 and 9-seeds and the quarterfinal game between the 4 and 5.
The top three teams, San Diego State, Boise State, and Utah State all await their opponents. The top seed, San Diego State is the clear favorite, but the Aztecs need to be careful not to count their chips while they’re sitting at the table.
Because of the way the bracket is formatted, the most formidable adversaries are lurking on the other side of the bracket. San Diego State wouldn’t face Boise State, one of the only teams to beat the Aztecs this year, or Utah State, the analytics darling, until the final game.
But even with the second and third-place teams on the other side of the bracket, the Aztecs could encounter a dangerous rival before the championship game. In the first round, Colorado State and Fresno State will battle for the chance to play San Diego State in the quarterfinals. The 8 and 9-seed respectively, have an identical 6-12 record in Mountain West play, while overall, the 14-17 record for the Rams, has a slight edge on the 11-19 record for the Bulldogs. In reality, both teams have talent and are much better than their records would indicate, but both are lacking the weapons needed to down the Aztecs. While San Diego State’s first matchup is favorable, their second matchup could be sneakily tough.
2023 Mountain West Basketball Tournament: Bracket Set, TV Schedule, Live Stream
In the semifinals, the Aztecs would be forced to play a team with a winning record. In the Mountain West, seeding can be deceiving. Both the 4 and the 5-seed have winning records in conference play and overall. Both teams have also proven that they can beat anybody in the conference. The Mountain West is a lawless den of anarchy, after all.